Musical Privilege

I was paging through the Relay.FM guests the other day and noticed my friend Dave Wiskus and clicked to see what shows he was on. I saw one of them was talking about one of his favorite albums Hot Fuss. I decided to relisten to the episode since I am more familiar with The Killers now than when the show was originally released.

Dave brings up a good point near the end of the show. He mentions that years ago music listeners had to go to the record store and spend money on a full album. These purchases said something about them and defined the kind of music they were into.

Between online music stores and now streaming, that whole model is upended. As Dave points out, you pay Apple Music or Spotify for the ability to stream nearly the world’s catalog of music.

This observation made me reflect on my own musical renaissance. When I first got an iPod, I began to fill it with all different kinds of music. In my youth I would… find a lot of things off the back of a truck. If I liked a song by a band I’d just grab the whole discography. My liberal use of μTorrent allowed me to explore music with zero cost. The result was asking my parents for a lot of CDs and and concert tickets1.

With streaming music services, me and millions of others continue to experience new music in a zero risk environment2. When people ask me what kind of music I am into, I frequently say I like anything where I can appreciate an intentionality in the composition. Some days I am rocking out to prog rock, the label I would have perpetuated in the record era. But today its equally as likely I’m listening to Top 40s, jazz, R&B, you name it.

I’m confident I never would have given this music the time of day if I grew up in a different era. The radio lacks the immediacy of streaming which I think is critical. If someone tells me to check out an album, moments later it is streaming to my ears.

I possess no single music identity and I’m grateful to live in an era of musical privilege.

  1. I didn’t feel as bad since I knew my favorite artists were still getting some money. Nowadays I’ve been going back and buying all my childhood favorites that I didn’t have money for at that time.
  2. Sadly, this also means a lot less investment in album listening.

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