PoPINIONS : MUSIC APPRECIATION IN THE NEW MEDIA AGE

My actual first encounter with music is probably lost to me in the hidden recesses of memory. However, I do recall discovering pop music via The Chipmunks! It was a 1964 LP called The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits, which my late father had bought for me. I was about 3 or 4 years old maybe?

However, the very first time I truly felt the pull of music was the 1971 puppy love movie, S.W.A.L.K. which featured the Bee Gees on its soundtrack. Songs like “Melody Fair,” “First of May,” “To Love Somebody,” “Morning of My Life” et al would be indelibly stamped on my psyche.

In the 1960s and 1970s, there were only a couple of ways one could listen to music. On the radio, on TV and of course, on vinyl record, cassettes and 8-track! My late Dad had an 8-track machine in the car and back then in Singapore, pirated music was rife. The back seat of that car was my gateway to 70s music e.g. Bread, Santana, Bowie, T. Rex, Wings and of course, the Bee Gees.

But back to the Beatles… and my first vinyl purchase was Abbey Road when I was about 12. It was not till maybe five years later, when my allowance was enough to afford a bit more in terms of music purchases. When you consider music product cost a pretty penny, one had to be very certain about the quality of an album before shelling out money.

The only way to make any decision was based mainly on music magazines. Reviews and features – descriptions of music by music writers became vital to determine what bands and artists I would invest in, in my pursuit of music appreciation. Thus, I began to build up a serious collection of magazines including Melody Maker, NME, Rolling Stone, Record Mirror etc etc etc.

My interest in music writing led me ultimately to become a music writer as well, writing for BigO magazine in the early 90s. A gig that did not pay but at least I was able to keep the CDs I reviewed (well, most of the time, anyways) and that was good enough when you consider that music was not free.

However, the way I appreciated music would all change from 2000s with Napster and file sharing. Within a few years, the music landscape had irreversibly changed, music was now FREE. The music industry, especially the record labels, failed to respond properly and by 2010, record sales had dropped significantly and music piracy was rampant. Youtube and Spotify had appeared on the scene by then, and it was now fair game – digital music is here to stay.

For millennial and post-millennial generations, who have never known existence without the internet and/or social media, online music has always been free. Despite this, the unfettered access to music has NOT resulted in a greater appreciation of music, in fact, the opposite is true. The way online algorithms work is to present choices to us, within our comfort zones, within our own echo chambers which has resulted in narrower perspectives in most everything, including music.

But of course, for a true music obsessive like myself, such unlimited music access is a boon. I am no able to explore music that hitherto I had no access to – due to lack of information or financial resources. For example, classic hip-hop, which I was not too keen on in the 80s/90s, is now freely available to me. Similarly, 80s Adult Oriented Rock, which I looked down upon in the days of post-punk/new wave have gained significance to me now.

Thus, music has no time stamp anymore. All music of all genres and eras can be appreciated at the same time. There is no old or new music, as far as I am concerned now. Also, the concept of an album is similarly irrelevant. There is only music.

In addition, thanks to the accessibility of music – as I have said countless times before by now – there is no point in describing music or reviewing music as anyone can hear the music for themselves with a click. Thus, the role of a music writer is as a tastemaker – simply making recommendations. But even that is pointless, as the algorithms can do the same thing!

Also, there is no sense in complaining about how music was ‘better’ in the good old days. That may well be ‘true’ – depending on your point of view. It is what it is. Make the most of it and move on. I certainly am.

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