Enjoying Music Essay

                                                           Enjoying Music

             I have been considering trading in my mp3 player for an I-phone. Seems I’ve seen the I-phone advertisement enough times that I’m intrigued by the possibilities. The ad is slick and well-made. I find myself thinking about the potential for portable music. In the ad the I-phone is presented as small enough to fit in your hand, a source of flowing, happy music, of a friendly, guiding voice, and is a source of flowers, children, and joy. Rather than succumb to the  possible alienation from new technology which could, obviously, be portrayed as hostile to nature, dangerous for the environment, and somewhat dehumanizing, the ad’s images and voice-overs give the exact opposite impression, suggesting that one actually stands apart from nature by not availing oneself of its bounties. That is: the I-phone is represented in this ad almost as a natural  force which grew out of productivity and love — and those who have not experienced its capacities are, in fact, living a lesser-life. 1(I-pod AD)

            As a music lover I find it hard to resist the temptation to use whatever audio equipment is the cleanest, most portable, and most economical versions available. I am usually a couple of years late getting to the latest technology when it comes to music players. Eventually, though, everyone migrates to the new technology, which my research leads me to see as a radical evolution of the music industry and the business of the music industry. Research sources indicate that the radical evolution has just begun and will have far-flung consequences that can’t be presently predicted. One authoritative source, “Edgar Bronfman Jr., the head of Universal, the

world’s biggest music company,”2 said the following regarding the future of the entertainment industries:

            “a few clicks of your mouse will make it possible for you to summon every book ever     written in any language, every movie ever made, every television show ever produced,   and every piece of music ever recorded.” In this vast intellectual commons nothing will    ever again be out of print or impossible to find; every scrap of human culture transcribed,     no matter how obscure or commercially unsuccessful, will be available to all.” 3

            Of course to Bronfman and others like him with a vested interest in the consumption of entertainment products, particularly music, the new technologies are viewed as an evil threat. This threat is financial in nature: “the thought of such systems spreading to films, videos, books, and magazines has riveted the attention of artists, writers, and producers” 4 all of whom are, obviously, looking to preserve and extend their lucrative financial holdings into the new age.

            As a consumer I am more interested in how I can exploit current conditions to get the most out of my listening experience. I find that subscribing to Yahoo Jukebox and Music Downloads gives me access to a lot of the music I enjoy. The down-loadable content sounds terrific on my system and I have learned to appreciate vocals and the emotion of the human voice much more through the use of digital music than through listening to tapes or old albums. I think that the remixes of artists’ music poses a controversial problem in the digital age, but I am grateful for many of the official remixes that classic artists have done of their old records which sound better today than when they were originally recorded.

            Reading on the background of non-artist remixes reminded me that the new-wave of technology has not only made it harder for headline artists to ensure that their due royalties are paid to them for their music, but it has made it much more difficult for big-name artists to ensure that anyone is even listening to their music at all. The idea that small-time musicians and even un-signed musicians and bands can attract downloads as well as those acts and bands which are backed by huge corporations is, as I see it, a liberation for everyone concerned, artists and audience. I value a great variety and mix in my listening. I look forward to the vision that Mr. Bronfman feared.

            In many ways, it’s exciting to live in a time when the music industry is undergoing such rapid and unpredictable change. The new environment is a dual “challenge to music industry players[…] First, with so much music available, the greatest threat to big record companies is not that listeners will consume their music illegally but that they will consume, whether legally or illegally, someone else’s music entirely” 5 which may be the most exciting promise of all from a consumer’s perspective.

            I, along with millions of others, opt to freely embrace the ” “cultural mobility” of popular music […] and its convergence with other forms of entertainment and its movement to the center of the corporate economy,”6 and am happy with paying a subscription fee if necessary. In the long run, higher quality, wider availability, and lower retail pricing should be the consequence of the technological evolution of popular music. Right now it is exciting to think of the music industry in flux and in the grip of changes it can’t quite digest: “companies are frantically cutting deals to best exploit the dematerialized economy of digital music. Thus one challenge for record labels in this heady environment has been to get their music out in as many ways as possible to ensure that people not only keep paying but keep listening,”7 which, as a consumer, suits me just fine since it will mean a necessary change in music styles and alternatives.

                                                           Notes

  1. Anonymous. “I-phone advertisement,” archived You-Tube; accessed 11-26-07 ; http://youtube. com/watch?v=FLxB4pHH_GY

2 Mann, Charles C. “Heavenly Jukebox: Rampant Music Piracy May Hurt Musicians Less Than

            They Fear. the Real Threat – to Listeners and, Conceivably, Democracy Itself – Is the

            Music Industry’s Reaction to It”; The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 286, September 2000. p. 39

  1. Mann, Charles C. “Heavenly Jukebox: Rampant Music Piracy May Hurt Musicians Less Than

            They Fear. the Real Threat – to Listeners and, Conceivably, Democracy Itself – Is the

            Music Industry’s Reaction to It”; The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 286, September 2000. p.39

  1. Mann, Charles C. “Heavenly Jukebox: Rampant Music Piracy May Hurt Musicians Less

            Than They Fear. the Real Threat – to Listeners and, Conceivably, Democracy Itself – Is   the Music Industry’s Reaction to It”; The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 286, September 2000. p.    40

  1. Drew, Rob. “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation;” Popular Music and Society, Vol. 28, 2005. p. 533

  1. Drew, Rob. “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation;” Popular Music and Society, Vol. 28, 2005. p. 553

  1. Drew, Rob. “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation;” Popular Music and Society, Vol. 28, 2005. p. 533

                                               Works Cited

Anonymous. “I-phone advertisement,” archived You-Tube; accessed 11-26-07 ; http://youtube.  com/watch?v=FLxB4pHH_GY

Mann, Charles C. “Heavenly Jukebox: Rampant Music Piracy May Hurt Musicians Less Than

            They Fear. the Real Threat – to Listeners and, Conceivably, Democracy Itself – Is the

            Music Industry’s Reaction to It”; The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 286, September 2000. p. 39+

Drew, Rob. “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation;”      Popular Music and Society, Vol. 28, 2005. p. 533+

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