There is much I enjoy about the iTunes era of music.
I like that I can take my entire music collection with me when I go for a bike ride. I can find the music that matches my mood and workout pace whether I’m riding on the highways or my trainer.
I like that I can bypass poor playlists broadcast on the radio stations. I find that I enjoy only about one in four songs when I am forced to listen to the radio. That’s a pretty poor ratio and a good indication of why the iPod is popular.
I’m even warming up to the Genius feature on iTunes that creats playlists I would not think of on my own. But I’m still an album guy. I like to listen to a single artist for an hour or two at a time.
I like that you don’t have to haul around a big appliance to listen to music. It’s much easier to keep an iPod charged than it is to keep a stock of D batteries or always have to find an outlet.
I like that it’s easy to let our kids listen to our favorite music. We don’t have the worry of the past – that the kids might scratch our albums. So, it’s easy to share music among the family. Joni’s successfully nurtured a new generation of Beatles fans.
But, I do miss the social experience that listening to music used to be.
I was feeling nostalgic today for the old Sunday ritual of listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. I asked my daughter Emma what the number one song was these days. She has no idea. I asked her what the most popular songs are among her friends. “We all listen to different stuff,” she said.
We listened to music together even when we were sitting in our bedrooms listening alone. American Top 40 was a stable of everyone’s music week. You could count on a conversation about the new number one song on Monday morning by the lockers in school.
We used to cheer for our favorite songs to move up the charts. I can still remember Tim Yount going crazy with excitement when Kool and the Gang topped the charts with Celebration. I couldn’t stand that song. But, that was part of the fun – hoping that your favorite song would beat out the others.
The boombox was a school bus must on field trips and track meets. The “dj” would try to play a mix of music that appealed to the most people (except country music fans). Again, part of the fun was lobbying for your favorite songs to be played and heckling the choices of others.
Music was something that brought teenagers together – back in the day.
Today, I don’t see young people crowded around a turn table or a boom box sorting through albums negotiating which song to play next. When I see kids traveling in groups, each has their own mp3 player. Where there once was lobbying for songs to be played there is now silence a set of earphones dangling from each person’s ears. Perhaps one or two pairs of kids are sharing earbuds. But, for the most part, they listen to their own stuff.
The shared music experience today seems to be limited to a handful of kids playing Rock Band on Wii.
Music today is one more example of how we are able to tailor our experiences to our individual preferences without having to take into account what others may or may not enjoy. There’s no conflict. No reason to negotiate. We can all do what we want to do.
There is a lot to be said for the individual play list. It’s one less thing for kids to fight about in the back seat of the car when going on a long family road trip. Parents worldwide have fewer occasions to say, “Don’t make me pull this car over.”
But, the individual music experience is one more thing that fragments people from one another. It’s one more shared experience we can cross of the list of shared experiences. A list that continues to grow.
I like my iPod. I use it every day. I have no plans to give it up.
But, today, I’m feeling nostalgic for the shared experience of wondering what will be the number one song this week. I’m even feeling nostalgic for Casey’s corny sign-off, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Well, maybe not so nostalgic for that part.
So, to celebrate shared experiences of the past… A tip of my hat to my old friend Tim Yount.
This stinkin’ song’s going to be stuck in my head all day.
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boombox by stereo-240 pictures
Casey Casem from wikidpedia