Posted by: martinworster | August 18, 2011

124. DATABASE SOUL

The cloud has descended – music is in the heavens…

 

So finally Spotify launched in the US which is excellent news. Or is it? It’s an amazing piece of software and I am a Premium subscriber – so I don’t really need to buy CDs anymore. I don’t even need to buy MP3s. There’s no need to own any music now, physical or otherwise. The music’s now all up there in the cloud. The clouds have descended. Alongside YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud and the rest, I’ve basically got any piece of music recorded – millions and millions of songs – right at my finger tips via my iPhone. 

 

It kind of blows your head off a bit. In one sense it’s liberating, a democracy of endless musical choice, excellent value for money, convenient, easy – yes – mind blowing in a technological nirvana kind of way. But it’s also a bit depressing – devaluing to music and creativity, too good to be true even-though-it-is-true. Everything’s just too easy and it takes the excitement out of things. There’s no thrill of the chase in that part sleuth part archaeologist old skool hunt for music involved when digging for vinyl. With MP3 it’s all there in one micro click. You take music for granted ignoring the creative toil and angst that went into it’s creation. I’m glad I still buy vinyl – you can’t beat those grooves, a record cover, something physical to hold and the superior quality of sound.

 

I’ve definitely noticed how my listening habits have changed in the wake of the advent of digital music and it’s delivery. Gone are the days of buying a few CDs a month and really getting into the album, listening to it over and over, developing a relationship with the sounds and artists. Now I listen to MP3s and skip through to the good bits, impatient, not giving things a chance just because of the sheer bulk of music out there and all instantly accessible. It’s rare I listen to albums more than once. It’s also a symptom of the short attention span heavy internet use engenders – always looking for the next databyte, stream, poke, news byte, fix, ‘like’, friend, email. It’s entirely like rocks to a crack head. Breeding an interminable impatience, the distracting drip drop of the constantly leaking data pipe.

 

Spotify has an excellent ‘Queue’ system where you can stockpile all your future listening – except I never get round to listening to it as there is so many weeks worth of listening crammed in there I find it a bit daunting. This is where the addictive side of me has reared it’s pockmarked head. It’s also a bit obsessive I suppose – the ex-music journalist in me still has that urge for geekish, trainspotter familiarity with great swathes of contemporary (and old) music. An intimacy with the musical canon. A futile, distracting and frankly exhausting attempt to create a mental database of everything ever released accessible for future cross referencing. I could spend hours trawling through YouTube searching for early 90s UK hardcore (no, not of the pornographic kind) and the amazing tangents and random vistas it shoots me off on. Only listening to a few bars, skipping to the breakdown and then clicking on the ‘Suggestions’ link to the right for the next dose. Oops, suddenly 40 minutes have passed and I am studying sweaty gurning ravers in some early 90s long forgotten subterranean E den. Get on one matey! Or in my case, get off it son.

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