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Is the new compact iPod good or bad for music? And Why?
What do you use ipods for? Is it for workout music? Or is just to download good music or my ipod?
Surely everyone has some form of ipod these days. They are essentials tools for commuting, exercising, plugging into the car stereo system, catching up with your favourite radio programme…just about anything these days. The ipod revolution has transformed music so much that the industry is almost unrecognisable from its humble beginnings. But what specifically has it changed and how has it affected the way we buy and consume music.
When the ipod was presented to the world it was almost magical. Some of us will remember having to lug around the old walkman when the tape would play slower and slower as the batteries energy faded. Others may have been lucky enough to have the portable CD player which was cumbersome and would easily skip. Then there was the mp3 player; more compact than either of the aforementioned however limited in how many songs it can hold. Is was not practical to have workout music back in the day. Now could you spend your free time going through your albums and surfing the net for "music for my ipod".
If only there were a device that was easy to use, compact, and with sufficient capacity to keep one amused on a long journey without the songs becoming cliché due to repeats.
then there was the ipod
The ipod moved music from a pastime at home to a must for anyone on the move. Music more than ever is used to perfume the stale journey to work. And due to its capacity the consumer need barely update the contents as it would take hours, if not days to listen to the entire catalogue of songs. Unlike its predecessor we don’t need to make mix tapes every other night or carry a half dozen CDs, or spare batteries, with us. Even when it comes to buying new music one need only click on iTunes to chose our songs and then simply drag then onto the ipod. This was a major positive as it made music more accessible and easily consumable. The ipod/iTunes reinvigorated music at a time when it had no adequate response to the menace of piracy.
But what of the negatives
With the ability to click and purchase individual songs came the need for musicians to change styles and create music that is more immediately palatable. The art of music has suffered as a result. Seldom now will people buy an album and persevere until they get it. Sad that one doesn’t have that moment when that song they thought was poor on the album goes on to become their favourite. These we called growers when I grew up. This same notion may also be the death of the concept album. Many songs written post ipod are overly catchy and kinda disposable. Harshly put they are like long jingles. The ipod and iTunes has influenced the industry to be more focussed on selling singles than albums. There are other factors as well to consider such as the music industries competitiveness.
The music traditionalists lament the ipod generation for the impact on the independent record shops, although the “stack them high” supermarkets are as much to blame as anyone else.
Another interesting attribute of the ipod is the consumer’s choice fatigue. One can flick through for ages trying to find the right tune for the right mood. Is it making us too fussy? Music, literature, film or documentary exist to inform, inspire, beguile and to move and it’s sad if we, as a collective group, can dismiss or curtail that with the flick of the thumb.
The ipod has definitely been a good thing in terms of pragmatism and is positive in terms of attempting to protect intellectual property. That said the impact it has on the art of music is concerning. If you consider how artists such as Bob Dylan, U2, and Neil Young etc…. have used their art to make social statements and raise awareness. The immeasurable good that has resulted may not ever happen again. We may never see the likes again.