So, what’s the value of music to you?
Has music been irrevocably devalued now that it is so cheaply accessible? I would buy CDs and listen to these albums constantly for months, if not years; now I can barely make it to the end of a song on Spotify. Let’s discuss — via the medium of my questionable tweenage music taste.
Every so often, I take a trip down memory lane. Musical Memory Lane, that is — I mean, you can’t beat it, if you’re doing it properly.
Lately, I’ve regressed to the nostalgia of my teenage years (that’s right folks, despite how deceiving this baby face may be, I’ve actually been out of that arena for a while). It may have been Suicide Squad that set the wheels in motion; all of that Jared Leto can spark memories of questionable hair and eyeliner and screeching ‘The Kill’ down the street with your emo-homies circa 2005 (yeah, we had a habit of doing that). We were obsessed, with that song, with Jared Leto, and we all had an artful interpretation of how eyeliner should be worn. Mine only came out on special occasions. Probably for the best.
At that age, music was my life, and just like every kid at that age, that statement was not an exaggeration.
It all began when I was eleven. It was definitely before I started secondary school (or middle school for the American amongst thee); at times when I would find myself in my home on my own, I would immidiately punch in the number of the rock channels like it was some illicit activity and flick back and forth between Scuzz, Kerrang! and MTV 2 (yes, pre-MTV Rocks. Rip, 2. How we miss you). Like many, Linkin Park was the gateway, though my thirst was solidified thanks to Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’. I wished I could sing like Amy Lee, I tried to sing like Amy Lee, I failed to sing like Amy Lee, but I still went and bought Fallen and listened to it religiously twice in the morning before school (I did this for at least half a year). I’m not joking when I say that this was a serious endeavour, but as an eleven year old rock and metal fan, I felt like an island.
There were two other girls who were into the same thing; one was a Good Charlotte fanatic, a band that I got bored of relatively quickly, whilst the other was a Mormon girl who was forbidden from listening to rock music. Naturally, I turned dealer; she was thirsty and I had the goods. I would tape my CDs and smuggle them to her in the playground when her elder brother wasn’t looking. He eventually found her Evanescence tape and smashed it up, so as any good friend (and dealer) would I had another one ready to go the morning after. In hindsight, this could have been a legitimate business venture, but at the time we both just needed someone who understood our hunger for a new kind of obsession.
Even though we parted ways when it was time to head to high school, that was when my obsession really took hold. FFAF, MCR, FOB, PATD! (notice that exclamation point?), BFMV, SOAD, AOF — treat it like a quiz and list them down in the comments plz! (I never really got the whole fascination with BMTH, aka. Bring Me The Horizon, so that they’ve now transcended to Wembley Arena levels is still a bit quizzical to me, but fair play.) When I arrived, there totally wasn’t an ‘emo’ crowd, so I slowly tainted my friends with the more accessible stuff — like Paramore — ‘til they converted.
Come aged 14 and we had a nice little group of misfits going on. Sure, people threw their sandwiches at us — or stones — but we had each other! (I had a brief relapse aged 15, when I decided I was “too mature” for rawk, but we won’t talk about that. We also won’t talk about the first gig that I went to, aged 16, other than that at the time, it was the best day of my life; I sang my lungs out, went in the mosh and got so sweaty that my hair went curly.)
What I’m trying to convey is that, when you are a teenager with — by the large — next to no responsibilities and whose primary desire is to belong, music can quickly become your everything. I would save my pocket money (or allowance) so I could buy that new album when it came out, or if there wasn’t a specific one that week, I would rummage through the shelves in HMV ’til I found some cool album art that didn’t involve an undead skeleton (though I do love me some ‘Maiden) and take a punt on that instead. In the manner that I devoured Fallen, I would listen to these albums constantly for months, if not years; during breakfast, on the way to school, on car journeys, in bed. I knew every nuance of Watch Out! and every lyric to From Under The Cork Tree. It was first love, but I was a kid whose allowance didn’t stretch to all the ten albums that got between 4 and 5 Ks in Kerrang! that week.
Finding music by any means became commonplace for my generation. Be it Pirate Bay, Limewire, Frost-something-or-other or youtube-to-mp3, suddenly everything and anything was accessible, and any young music lover was in heaven. You could find a band (or, as I did, trawl through the cool kids Quizilla profiles looking for interesting band names. This is legit how I found Panic At The Disco! when they had something daft like four songs. I never claimed to be respectable.) and try them out without enduring the pain of knowing you may have wasted your money.
And if you didn’t like it? DELETE! TO THE TRASH! WHAT BLISS! P2P was a gold mine. Trawl long enough and you could come across your favourite band’s demos of their demos in mono .wav, but who cares about audio quality, for you’re a beggar, not a chooser! YouTube was — and still is — a streaming fairground.
I just Googled when Spotify landed in the UK — it was 2009. Which, when you think about it, is not that long ago. That means there were at least ten unbridled years between Napster and Spotify, illegal and legal; what a breeding ground for sharks, and that we were, munching our way through anything and everything simply because we could.
Come the present day, and has much changed? If we pause to think about it, not really, except where before we knew proxy URLs like the back of our hand, we no longer need to, because legal. And with Spotify, the whole process is so much simpler; there’s a thorough library search system, recommended artists and playlists. If you opt for premium then you can even download it onto your phone/iPod/listening device. It’s plugged into social media. If only there were a Top 8! Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer — the list goes on!
There has been many a time where, because there’s so much choice at the touch of my fingertips, I don’t even get to the end of a song. I might give it 30 seconds tops before hitting fast-forward on my control bar and moving onto the next, before I realise that — hey, that’s harsh! — and scroll back to give that track — and that artist — more of my attention.
Is this what we’ve become, a swathe of low-attention-spanned, consumerist drones? A try-before-you-buy generation? Isn’t it sad!? Eleven year old me would be horribly disappointed, that even though I actively recognise that I listen to far better and artistically more interesting music today than I ever could have stomached back then, I still struggle to pause and switch off the part of my brain which is roaming for the next track that sticks, and give the thing that I was originally listening to the time that it deserves.
For it is art after all, no matter the guise it comes in, and everyone has a different peach. It exists to tell a story, to entertain, to connect — and we are not connecting, not in that way that I did as a t(w)een and I needed to love or at least know every lyric, riff, drumbeat or subtelty of a song. I miss the way I used to connect, but as the monetary value of music has decreased, perhaps so has its sentiment in our hearts.
Do you think that we value music less now that it is so accessible? Do you choose to buy things physically just to feel more connected to it? Do you think you love music now, just as much as you did as a kid? Let me know below.