Somewhere along the dusty yellow brick road of Grammys and platinum record disks, did the music experience stumble and fall forward onto the jagged lance of global commercialisation? Has the character of your favourite songs been stripped away to the exposed bone? The raw nerves of music dulled to throbbing echoes of what they once were. The eradication of art from the body of music began with digital distribution.
Culprits such as Steve Jobs and Sean Parker pioneered the purge. Once music was able to be digitally formatted into mp3 the scale of illicit music copying became unparalleled, no longer were people shoplifting CDs and records from their local music shop. They simply copied and pasted songs to download them onto their computers and mp3 players. The craftsmanship and elegance behind music had disintegrated away to a collection of pixels.
Of course, then came music subscription-based platforms that allowed artists to continue making money after a near decade-long anti-piracy crusade, making sure artists still had an income. Without these types of platforms would the music business have been left behind? Who can know? But the access to millions of albums instantaneously anywhere in the world has choked the art out of music.
People talk about the decades when your entire soul was devoted to music, when music wasn’t an accessory to an activity you were doing, an afterthought but rather your obsession; the obsessive nature of learning every word of the lyrics, and saving up loose change for weeks to proudly walk to the record shop and finally buy your favourite artist’s newest album. Walking home high off the anticipation to hear the first harmonies and determine which song is going to dominate your life for the next few months. Music was not as accessible as it is now, which is exactly what made it so special, repeatedly listening to the album ritually every day after work or school. Basing what you wear off what your friends who love that type of music wear, music and subculture warmly embracing.
Physical copies of music were so important that they became iconic, cementing certain albums by musicians into pop culture’s repertoire.
Pink Floyd’s “Dark side of the moon”, The Beatle’s “Sgt Pepper’s lonely hearts club band”, Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane”, The Clash’s “London Calling” and The Velvet Underground’s “Andy Warhol” to name a few.
Even if you are not into music these album covers are images that you will have seen before, and if you are a lover of music, have been seared onto your retinas. Once you associate the artwork with a song you love from that album it becomes an unforgettable image, a memory that will last your lifetime.
Everything that makes music, music, and so much more, has been forgotten. We do not love music anymore or appreciate it in its fullest art form, we simply like it or listen to it if we have a long car journey, getting groceries or perhaps hear a nice tune in a movie trailer. The soundtracks to our lives are getting quieter, shouted down by the noise of social media, and instant access to streaming or YouTube.
Which makes it all the more important to take time out and spend an hour or so with your favourite CD, record or cassette, playing music through your sound system and let art consume you.
“If music be the food of love play on” -Shakespeare