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March 09, 2011


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Nick Peters

"And do you ever get that feeling when you open Spotify or similar, of 'I can listen to any music I want for free, and yet I don't really want to listen to anything in particular'?"----

Thank you...just how I feel. Thought I was just losing my appetite.

Funny too, even though so much music radio is rubbish, I still get that little jolt when I hear a favourite track, even though I may have it in my own collection. Odd, eh? Maybe it's old habits hard-wired into my system!


i disagree!

I totally disagree that atomic and emotional weight are mutually exclusive. This is utterly bizarre. Think about it this way: do you think the films you've downloaded, or the TV shows you've downloaded, have held less emotional weight to you than the DVDs you own?

Spotify completely suits me. It's the best thing ever for music lovers who never had rich parents/wanted to spend money on other stuff than CDs.

I'm not worrying about 'what implications does it have sociologically if kids aren't all from the 1980s and saving up pennies to buy Tracy Ullman LPs'. Embrace technology! CDs clutter up the place, and full of stuff you don't want to listen to!


Your blog is ace BTW, hope comment didn't come across like a douche, quite passionate about this!

erin newby

i have made this argument at work (and had this conversation over beers) many, many times in the past 5 or so years. music consumption definitely isn't the same any more. it's a fact, psychologically, that the perceived value of something is linked to its scarcity.

but: i do think it's generational, too. the frenzy over, say, justin bieber is equivalent to the beatles or other bands from the pre-digital age. people keep absorbing whatever's thrown out, even if it's pretty much a constant stream. so, the appeal doesn't seem to be reduced for the kids who've known nothing different. just for us. and not only because bieber's shit.

Mike Thorn

Wonderful article in Slate, and wonderful post on it here.

It all reminds me of a discussion I once had with my Mum when I was a poor student. I was (probably typically for the time) rallying against income inequalities and the fact that real wages have not grown in decades. She pointed out that this might be true, but the fact is that I still had much more “stuff” than she did at the same age.

Just after I was born Mum spent a fortune on encyclopedias; we now have Wikipedia. When I was growing up you could only get two types of cheese; chedder and blue vein. In the 1980s Mum and Dad paid NZ$2000 (a fortune at the time) to buy a microwave oven. Food and property prices might have risen at the same (or higher) pace than wages, but almost everything else is much easier to get.

On the subject of music, I think I was finding it harder to form an emotional connection even when I was still buying CDs a couple of years' ago. The difference was that I could buy a CD whenever I wanted to without even thinking about it, whereas when I was 20 they still cost NZ$30 and that was an awful lot of money. Buying music felt like a sacrifice then, and required much thought, research and comparing reviews in Melody Maker. Two years' ago it was something I could do on a whim. And now it is even more so.


Wikipedia is a great example of something that's added value to the lives of a lot of people, but doesn't show up in the economic figures.

To make a distinction: I'm not mourning the death of music in a physical form, CDs etc. That's not my point at all. It's the second-order effects of digitialization I'm talking about. Primary among which is the massive expansion of choice, and ease of access. In the old world you were restricted to what was in the shop. And you had to get to the shop. And cough up cash. Online you can pretty much listen to anything, anytime, for free. There's lots of good things about this - obviously. But there's something lost too.

It's a lot easier to consume music than it used to be. What I'm really getting at, I think, is that there is value in various types of difficulty.


The reason why lots of technology hasn't added very much to growth figures is that lots of people use it to faff around big time thus reducing their productive output. E.g. me reading blogs and posting responses when I should be working!

Jindo Fox

Yes, the way we consume all kinds of media has changed -- there's more quality and quantity no matter how you measure it.

But when you say, "if you were a teenager in 1988" (as I was), it makes me think that the changes in perception are more about YOU than the music or the medium.

When you're 40, you have a very different relationship with culture and music than when you're 18.

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