Perspective is an interesting ‘commodity’ in today’s world. The flood of information that continues to drown everything that has gone before it in its own wake is a variegated beast. For most youth, this is simply the world around them; they know nothing else. To the Boomers and beyond, many of whom never really learned to program a VCR, they seem to posses an aloof-like approach to the craziness; sort of happy to go along to a point, but just as happy not to. Then there is the sandwich generation. I think we are called Generation-X. In my opinion, no other group has felt the tidal power of the digital age more than us. We have lived this whole story from its inception, when the projected market for the computer was around six. When the internet was just a glimmer in Al Gore’s retina. When the floppy disk was still, well, floppy. We’ve gone from horse and buggy to being able to make a cake from your iPad.
Why do I rant about this? Because I am a musician who grew up on turntables and cassettes. Music was something tangible yet mysterious. It was valuable. It was an art form that cost you something to possess it. Purchasing a new record was an event full of pomp and circumstance. You had to hoof your arse to the local record store where some living encyclopedia with a beard and birkenstocks enlightened your mind. The music store was almost always a buzz of activity, like an orchestra tuning before a concert. Bottom line, it was just a completely different mindset, and it was fun.
Compare now to today. The contrast is nothing short of an epic paradigm shift. Don’t get me wrong, progress is progress and there are immense benefits and opportunities being enjoyed by this socio-technological shift. However, I believe there is much we should attempt to hold onto from the past. I am not saying that the record store should make a triumphant return. I am just saying that as the thread between real and virtual is threatening tangibility in our lives, maybe we should strive to remember the old and perhaps find ways to venerate some of those traditions into everyday life. When was the last time you just rang a neighbors doorbell just to chat or mailed a good friend a hand written letter? I think what makes those activities special is that it costs us something to do and it places value on the recipient. Bottom line is that it takes some effort and some time; but I think there is a reward in it. Those actions are tangible and real.
How does this all apply to music you might ask? Well, I suggest we find ways to make it special again. First and foremost, when you find an artist or a band that you just love and you intend to add such to your music devices – support the artist! Whether you have a problem with the big music companies or not is irrelevant. By not paying you have chosen to say to the artist that what they have labored intensely over is worth nothing. You are saying to them “its okay that I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, on MP3 players and the like but I should be able to fill them up with your art for nothing.” Nobody buys a new car and expects free gas? The second thing to do once we’ve paid for the music is………listen. “Well duh, I just bought the stupid thing, why wouldn’t I listen to it?” What I mean is really listen to it. Growing up my brother and I used to stay up late listening to my Dad’s old vinyl records. The TV wasn’t on, the lights were off, and we just sat and listened. The smell of the tubes heating up in the amplifier, the lights glowing from the stereo, the crackle of the vinyl etching its way to the start of the record. Bliss. We did this for countless hours and I consider it one of my fonder memories in life.
Friends, enjoy life. Enjoy your technology (I know I do). But set it aside sometimes. LISTEN to your music. Pay for your music. You are only helping artists when you do. Find a chair, turn off the lights and watch the stereo lights glow. Escape into the music and let it feed your soul. And as the great Bruce Cockburn once put into song “slow down fast.”