Digitalized music weakens bond between sounds, listeners

Francie Johnson

As technology advances and music becomes increasingly digitalized, the bond between music and listener grows weaker and weaker.

Once upon a time, people used to listen to music. By listen, I mean really listen. They would gather around a record player and listen to a whole vinyl (yes, vinyl) record from start to finish.

Today, we still listen to music, but not in the same way. The emergence of iPods and MP3s has knocked the world of music completely off its axis. Suddenly, it is no longer necessary to buy albums at record stores.

In fact, it is no longer necessary to buy albums at all. Through programs like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and even YouTube, millions of songs are instantly available to be streamed or purchased. With a few clicks of a button, we can pull an album apart, picking and choosing the songs that appeal to us while ignoring the rest.

We even have the power to create our own albums, a power that used to be reserved for the artists themselves, simply by dragging and dropping tracks onto a playlist. Not only that, but we can then transfer these customized, highly selective collections of music onto tiny portable devices that we take with us everywhere. Music is no longer an event in and of itself; it is simply in the background.

People today have much more power than ever before in controlling what we listen to and how we listen to it. But this power, while in many ways a positive thing, has unintended consequences. The plethora of music available to us, combined with the factors of instantaneous access and the ability to customize, has caused us to become detached from our music and the artists who create it.

When was the last time you listened to an album in its entirety, without any distractions and without pausing, rewinding or skipping songs? Old classic rock albums, like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” or The Clash’s “London Calling” command respect. They are more than just collections of randomized songs – they are works of art.

The cover art, the inside slipcover, the physical record itself, the song order and transitions all add up to create an entire listening experience, one that simply doesn’t exist in the world of iTunes and Spotify. The songs may be the same, but something is missing. With so much music instantly available and begging to be listened to, it’s almost impossible to give any one album the full appreciation it deserves.

The evolution of the music industry is natural, inevitable and an overall positive thing. Being able to listen to music from around the world at any given time is nothing short of amazing, and I’m an avid user of both iTunes and Spotify. Anyone who claims that there’s no good music anymore is wrong. There still is good music being created every day; we just have to remember to appreciate it.

Music is a force that transcends the boundaries of time and space and blurs the lines between fiction and reality. It can be the blanket under which we hide from the world or the magnifying glass through which we examine it. It can change us if we let it, because sometimes all we need is something that can breathe a new life into us.