Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Evolution of Music Media

My great aunt who lived to be 96 used to talk to me about the myriad of changes that occurred over her lifetime: electricity was invented, air travel, movies, television, space travel, and home computers. One of my favorite movies underscores how much our lives have been affected by technology: Desk Set. In it, the first IBM computer is showcased, taking up an entire room and requiring punch cards (yes, believe it or not I remember those punch cards).

Music media has also changed drastically in my lifetime. My father owned a rather extensive collection of reel to reel tapes with some jazz greats: Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, BB King. He would sit in our den on Saturday night, load them up on the tape player and listen for hours. Then came the phonograph records, or LP's. My parents had an extensive collection of them: Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, The Righteous Brothers and the like. Their stereo equipment would have made any music oficiando from the 60's envious.

The first album I ever purchased was the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. And I was hooked. I became a collector myself: The Music Man, Funny Girl, and finally all, and I mean all of Barbra Streisand's albums. Like any teen, I purchased 45's of the latest singles: I Think I Love You by David Cassidy, I'm Henry the Eighth I Am by Herman's Hermits, She Loves You by the Beatles. During my high school years, 8-track tapes surfaced. Anyone who was anyone had an 8-track tape player in their car. And I was no exception. For Christmas one year, my parents bought me an 8-track stereo system for my room. I was in heaven.

Shortly after graduation, and into early marriage, cassette tapes came along. Cassette tapes were so much more convenient than 8-tracks. You could rewind, fast forward, and they were easier to carry around because of the compact size. The sound quality was improved over the 8-tracks (although I always felt that LP's were still superior in sound quality). Cassette tapes and LP's remained strong until the early 80's when compact discs hit the marketplace.

My first CD was Amy Grant's The Collection. My family purchased it for me for Christmas, along with a portable CD player and headphones. The sound quality absolutely blew me away. You could hear the instruments like you were in the room with them. After my first listen, I was hooked. My collection grew over the years and CD's have remained the dominate form of media in the marketplace.

But...the invention of digital music came along during my kid's generation. Napster hit the scene and teens all over the country began downloading music and sharing music with each other. Of course, it wasn't long before the record companies and artists hit the panic button and put a stop to that almost as quickly as it began. We now have digital downloads, MP3's via ITunes, Yahoo Music, and numerous other music sites online. You can purchase a card with the picture of your favorite musical artist (Barry's Greatest Songs of the Seventies is one of them) at Best Buy now and download an entire album to your computer, transfer it to you MP3 player and carry hundreds of songs with you in the palm of your hand.

Matchbox 20 was the first group to pioneer a USB wristlet with their newest album on it, along with a video of one of their sellout concerts. There are no boundaries in this music evolution. But I'm ready for it. Because it can only improve the quality of the sound and creativity of the artists that record the music.

Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years. ~William F. Buckley, Jr. (or all the Manilow masterpieces),
Texas Fan

1 comment:

Steph said...

Music Media has changed so much over the years. I remember Mom having the 8 track player in the car and listening to Neil Sedaka and the Beatles. The recording industry is now in court trying to say that we, as consumers, do not even have the right to download music from OUR cd's we buy onto our computers for our own use, as tp put on our IPODS. I do not think that will fly. I think they are pushing the cause a bit far now. Just like when VHS players came out and the movie industry went to court in the 80's, it was ruled as long as the consumer was taping for their own use and not recieving any monetary value, than it was lawful. That is when they started scrambling VHS tapes so you could not get a good recording. I don't think they can do that with music, so we will see what evolves from this. I mean, why buy an IPOD if you cannot put your own music on it. I think it would hurt album sales all together.

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