“Ahhh….it’s time to relax. You know what that means. Glass of wine, your favorite easy chair, and of course, this compact disc playing on your own stereo!” This compact disc playing? I’m afraid not, Offspring. Not these days at least. If you’re lost, I am referring to the opening lines of Offspring’s 1994 release entitled “Smash.”
It is 1996. I remember I was six years old walking with my hip, college aunt into a record store. It was the first music purchase I would ever make. I spent the rest of 96′ listening to Smash daily. I’d carefully study the lyrics as each song played. When the neighborhood kids and I indulged in outdoor afternoon games, “Smash” would play from start to finish from our outdoor boombox. Soon enough they needed to have the record as well. My mother was getting some very angry calls about “encouraging loud, punk blasphemy. It’s not even music and I heard the singer say….(whisper) fucker!” That only made me fall more in love with the album.
Every time I hear that wonderful bass line in “Self Esteem” I can immediately recall so many sweet childhood memories. The song literally takes me back to those times. It’s quite a sensational and peculiar thing. There is scientific reasoning behind this. I will try and avoid going off on a tangent. However, theory has it that unique and specific cues effectively trigger certain memories. Every experience we have can be stored in neuron groupings. These memories are often only retrieved through particular cues. Music turns out to be a fantastic cue, bringing us back to those bittersweet times. This is why listening to “Smash” is still such a powerful and enjoyable experience for me.
I looked through my album collection and concluded that for each year of my life (starting from 1996) there was an album I immediately associated with it. Listening to each album I was able to recall several memories from the past connected with each album. The sad news is that this trend came to a halt in 2005 with Daphne Loves Derby’s “On The Strength of All Convinced.” Oh you just wait! It’s about to get ironic. I discovered this band my Freshman year of high school through a website called Purevolume. Little did I realize we were about to engage in a very unhealthy relationship.
Internet for music is as deceiving as your beautiful high school crush. At the surface it’s appealing, exciting, and rather convenient. In reality, we are hacking away at the roots of what made us all love music to begin with. Not to mention, and not to be cliche, but PEOPLE… we are biting the hand that feeds. We are making it a lot more difficult for true artists to exist and to grow on us. Talking among friends I found out that only a very select few still buy CD’s. In fact, the majority don’t purchase their music, and only get one or two songs off of an album. Today we are so overloaded with information. Think of all the bands that advertise on Myspace, Purevolume, Absolute Punk, etc. You don’t need to be a hard working, touring band. There are millions of hipster boy bands who know how to get tons of web traffic. That’s the name of the game today. This over saturation of shitty music leaves no room for a great band to stand out and grow. This is a tragic thing.
For me, music was, and will always be about passion. There is nothing more moving than a cult of people following and growing with a band through time. With today’s standards, we loose that passion. It is a very intimate thing to go to the store, buy your favorite band’s long awaited release, and listen to it from start to finish. Then you listen again, studying the artwork, knowing that this will be your favorite album for the whole year, and maybe a lifetime. There is nothing intimate about hearing a random song in a group of many under your “purchased songs” play list in iTunes. I have also noticed our attention spans for music becoming shorter. Answer this question for me. How often do you let an ENTIRE album, or even an entire song on your iPod play from start to finish? You probably find yourself fidgeting around, scanning through songs for 2:00 tops. In many ways we are loosing our connection with music.
The other day I was talking to one of the disc jockeys I work with. He has been in the business for over 30 years. Getting back from a gig he seemed unsure of himself for the first time in a while. “James, I just don’t understand these crowds anymore. If you don’t mix in a new song after the first chorus the dance floor clears.” This is clear proof of the damage being done.
On a personal level, I find myself less connected to the songs I listen to. Remember I said that music acts as a great cue for memory? Because I am less connected with the music on my iPod, it doesn’t have the same effect. I don’t find my mind twisting through a roller coaster of memories and sensations. Something is seriously wrong. In this month’s AP Magazine Eron Bucciarelli of Hawthorne Heights says it best. “You’re fighting for listeners attention spans, and they don’t have long ones because there’s so much music competing for their time and money.” Maybe it’s a good time to start a Rancid-esque band and start writing :42 second songs.
As a musician, I was recently warned about the path I would be pursuing by Jay Marr. He told me that the music industry is the most unpredictable, unfair, and unreliable industry that exists; and that things are worse than ever. So as a musician, or listener what can you do? I don’t have an answer to that and I’m not sure there is one. I plan to purchase physical copies of all my music, and to abandon my iPod for a month (except for while jogging). I will update this site with the albums I listen to, and hopefully fall in love with.
Being a pessimist, I focused on the cons of music and the Internet. While in a discussion with Kelsey about our love of Drive Thru Records, I brought up the idea of writing about today’s music industry. Not being technically savvy, I always turn to Kelsey for online help with anything music related. So I thought it only fair to have her rebuttal my view on the musical world we know.
A few months ago, I received a text from James asking for help with a band-related issue. I am not part of a band; I am not professionally involved in the music industry; I am not an advertizing, marketing, or business major. But he still asked for my assistance, calling me a “social media expert”. I wasn’t able to help him in any way this time, other than by being there to talk things over with, but he did get one thing right; I love the Internet and I know how to use it.
I don’t pretend to be a computer expert, or an anything expert really, because I’m not. But if you want to know anything about Twitter, Facebook, AbsolutePunk, or any of the people who use it, you can ask me and I’ll more than likely know something of use. I use all of these sites and more, although I’m admittedly more of a lurker than a poster on AP. Those in combination with my blog, AIM, gmail/webmail, and any/every associated social media iPhone app, hold my attention for the greater portion of the day. Maybe everyone isn’t connected to the Internet as often as I am, but I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of this generation looks first to the Internet for their music needs.
I wasn’t always this interested in the Internet. I can remember my father teaching me how to do Internet research by typing words directly into the search bar along with the occasional plus, minus, backslash, and question mark. This was well before “Google” became a verb and research meant taking a trip to the library. As I learned these good-enough-for-middle-school research skills, Bruce Springsteen was more than likely playing in the background. My father also taught me everything I knew about music. We had cassette tapes and/or CD’s of each Springsteen release. Aside from beginner piano lesson booklets, the first book of sheet music I owned was for Springsteen’s “Born to Run”. Often against my mother’s wishes, I have gone to at least one show on every Springsteen tour since I was seven. Being away at college would have put an end to this if it weren’t for airplanes and understanding professors.
With my father’s influence formulating my background knowledge and taste in music, I branched out from there. My first musical purchase was Nirvana’s “Nevermind” on CD. Yes, this was before I cared about Backstreet Boys, N’SYNC, and Britney. Aside from music that my father and my friends liked, the only way to come across anything new was by listening to the radio. Radio stations were chosen by whoever’s parent was driving the carpool that day. Basically, we listened to oldies or Kiss 108. All through middle school, I prided myself in memorizing every word to every song on the radio. But still, there was nothing better than discussing Kurt Cobain’s life story with my friend’s father while the entire carpool listened without having any idea who or what we were talking about.
Around the time I entered high school, the iPod was quickly becoming the newest must-have item. I had the 4GB First Generation Mini, in pink, of course. But just having the iPod wasn’t enough; I also had to fill it up. Questions like, “how many songs do you have” brought on the music downloading craze. My preferred illegal downloading aid being Limewire, I quickly filled my 4GBs with songs from the radio, imports of old CD’s, songs I heard on MTV (which I was now allowed to watch), and new downloads from some of my favorite bands at the time, Fall Out Boy, Blink 182, Panic! At the Disco, and Taking Back Sunday. Things progressed quickly from here. Better iPods with more GBs, more music, more concerts. Having new music at the click of a button markedly increased my time spent on the Internet. I wanted to find out as much as possible about the bands I liked. Knowing more about the bands made me feel more connected to the music. Plus it gave me something to discuss with my friends.
Going away to college means an increase in independence and free time. With this, for me, my interest in music grew exponentially, as did my time spent on the Internet. Now the tables have turned; I’m the one influencing what my father listens to. I email him songs I think he would like and pass along any music news he might find interesting. He has recently developed an interest in The Gaslight Anthem. YouTube footage of Springsteen performing with them at a music festival acted as a final reassurance that they were worthy of his listening time. Shared interest in music is what has kept us close since I left for school. Music has, in a sense, bridged the generation gap in many ways. That being said, there’s still more work to be done, as just a week ago, my father asked if JamisonParker was one of the Hardy Boys.
Yes, the Internet makes it easy to steal music. But it also works as a marketing tool, to promote bands, music, merchandise, and tours. If I find out about a new band, it was more than likely from the Internet. When’s the last time you’ve seen an advertisement for a band’s CD release that wasn’t online? When’s the last time you’ve bought an album in CD format? If you’re like most people, it probably wasn’t recently. The ability to advertise and to purchase music on the Internet makes it much more easily accessible and vastly increases a band’s potential audience.
Yes, the Internet gives exposure to bands that really don’t deserve it, but no one forces you to pay them any attention. Along with these cookie cutter, in it for the money, designer bands are the genuine, hardworking ones, that care more about the music they produce than how they are dressed while performing it. They too receive a decent amount of attention and create a buzz in online forums and fan sites, and the Internet can act as a tool for them to pass on information to their fans.
The gap between the artist and the listener is narrowing. Artists offer up-to-the minute updates on the writing and recording process and tour progress, as well as their personal lives, via Twitter. Some artists even take the time to answer specific fan generated questions on Twitter or within scheduled chats on sites such as AbsolutePunk.net.
Most importantly, for me at least, the Internet has made listening to music more of a social activity. Sites such as Last.fm exist to track your listening while sharing your taste in music with friends and maybe even meeting some new ones with similar musical interests in the process. Navigating through websites like AbsolutePunk and Twitter has put me in contact with people I otherwise never would have encountered. Thanks to these sites, I have a number of good friends throughout the country that I first met over the Internet. Just over this past year, the Internet has intertwined itself with my “real life” more than I ever thought possible, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
All things considered, the Internet’s effect on the music industry hasn’t been completely favorable, especially for hardworking bands that get their music stolen or have to find ways to deal with added pressure of competition. Being in a band can be a full time job. Artists spend a lot of time and effort producing something they are proud to share with their fans. The fans are what keeps the music industry alive. We find meaning and inspiration in the music and lyrics of albums that can only be produced with our continued monetary support. If music has truly influenced your life as much as it has mine, maybe you can find a way to give something back; buy the vinyl, go to the show, do anything to show your support and enable bands to keep recording music for you to love.
– Kelsey Tuminelli
James’ albums through the years:
Wondering what albums I listened to from 1996-2005: (note: These albums may not have been released the year I have them listed. The year represents when the album was personally influential for me.)
1997- Tool “Aenima”
1998- Green Day “Nimrod”
1999- Blink 182 “Enema of the State”
2000- Flaw “Through the Eyes”
2001- Dr.Dre “2001”
2002- The Used
2003- Saves the Day “Stay What You Are”
2004- Glassjaw “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence” and Fall Out Boy “Take This to Your Grave”
2005- Daphne Loves Derby “On the Strength of All Convinced”
Kelsey’s music selection:
Here are some of my favorites since middle school.
2001 – Blink 182 – “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”
2002 – Taking Back Sunday – “Tell All Your Friends”
2003 – Brand New – “Deja Entendu”, Something Corporate – “North”
2004 – Say Anything – “…Is a Real Boy”
2005 – Motion City Soundtrack – “Commit This to Memory”
2006 – The Format – “Dog Problems”
2007 – The Academy Is… – “Santi”
2008 – The Gaslight Anthem – “The ‘59 Sound”, Lydia – “Illuminate”
2009 – The Dangerous Summer – “Reach for the Sun”