Or, the joys of being a music fan in the modern era.
Truth be told, there just isn’t a better time in the history of the world to be a music fan. Really, we live in a golden age of music.
At least in my opinion.
I know that there are those who would claim that the advent of digital downloads, file sharing (Napster anyone?), and even music streaming services have been a huge detriment to music. And I can see where those people are coming from. Sort of. Yes, I understand that the value of music has significantly diminished in the eyes of the masses. People simply aren’t going to the store to by CDs anymore. Especially not for the prices we used to pay. $18.99 for a disc at Sam Goody, anyone?
And terrestrial radio is becoming less and less important for artists. It certainly still has its place, but nothing like it used to. No one is tuning into ABC, CBS, or NBC at 8:00 pm to catch the newest Madonna or Michael Jackson video (that used to be a thing, I swear!). Fewer and fewer people are buying true stereo systems anymore. Gone are the days of the big speakers with a turntable, dual cassette decks, tuner and 10 band equalizer (but I can still see the one we had growing up).
The music superstar is becoming a thing of the past. There are still huge hits, and artists that can sell out and pack stadiums.
But gone are the days when everyone knew the biggest artists, regardless of your musical preferences. I mean, I tend to be pretty broad in my musical knowledge, but just take a gander at who are winning “awards” these days and you’ll see what I mean. Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X are all winning Apple Music Awards (for whatever that may be worth), and while I recognize the names of all of them, I couldn’t recognize a single song from any one of them if my life depended on it.
So, yes, music has changed. The majority of people get their music through some streaming service, that perhaps they pay for, and in many cases they don’t (whether it is ad supported or they are sharing logins). I get it. It’s different and that box has been opened and can never be closed.
So, for those pining for the old days of music when you either had to listen to the radio, buy it on vinyl, cassette or CD (or go through the hassle of recording it off the radio or from someone else, because piracy has always been a thing), I will say just this:
Seriously, times have changed, technology is amazing, and find a way to embrace this new era of music.
The internet has allowed for an amazing disintermediation of music. It allows direct connections between artists and fans in a way never before seen. In some cases, it has actually allowed us to go back, in essence, to the patronage model of music. Yes, there are bands I support on Patreon, paying them a certain fee monthly to help support them. In exchange, they share videos, do Q&As, share insights into their touring, songwriting, and other practices. We get a direct look behind the curtain and get to be part of the creative endeavor.
Some do it better than others, but those who realize that this direct connection is really going to be what matters, seem to really be more successful. It doesn’t take much. I purchase a fair bit of physical media directly from bands. Maybe merch, maybe the occasional CD, and most often some vinyl. And frequently there is a little slip of paper in the package. A handwritten “Thank You” for supporting the band. And you know what? I keep those. I appreciate them, and I am now that much more invested in the band, and will be right there next time there is something I can do to support them.
Of course, I’m in a weird minority here. Few people are quite as hardcore when it comes to music as I am. But there are enough of us crazies out there to make it worth it. And the artists who embrace this direct connection are cultivating long lasting relationships with their fans in a way never before possible. I mean, look at that postcard I received today. A simple gesture from someone in the band Witherfall, to send me a Christmas/Holiday postcard because I have supported them buy purchasing some of their merchandise in the past.
Because of that simple, human gesture, I’m now that much more of a fan.
And that is how it can be. It enhances the listening experience, because we have that personal connection with the artist. It makes a difference, and makes me that much more excited to be a music fan in this day and age.