We are living in revolutionary times. Facebook and Twitter have been in existence barely more than a decade, yet they have become predominant forces in society and politics.
Music has likewise been affected; since the launch of the first compact disc in 1982 (Abba: The Visitors) and MP3s in the following decade, digital technology has evolved to the point where physical media is all but obsolete for most people.
For musicians, one result is obvious: It has become much harder for us to get paid for the art we create. An independent artist used to be able to self-finance a recording with the expectation of recouping the money in a reasonable time span through CD sales.
Those days are over, but hopefully people will come to understand that the continuation of the art form requires a financial commitment from those whose lives are enriched by it.
For music listeners, it’s a golden age. YouTube, launched in 2005, brought forth the reality that almost anything we wanted to hear was available at the click of a button.
Streaming music services have furthered that concept and restored some of the fidelity that was lost to compressed files and Bluetooth speakers. (That’s music to an audiophile’s ears.) I get more than my money’s worth from my monthly subscription, enamored as I am of the opportunity to explore new music every time I listen.
My students take unfettered access to music for granted; I remain in awe of the technology. It partially offsets the fact that I don’t make any money to speak of from having my music available for others to do the same.
Living during a time of rapid innovation is exciting, but it is also unsettling as we come to the dawning realization that no one seems to have a complete grasp on where we are headed or the ramifications that may ensue.
Musicians are at the same time empowered and threatened by technological progress. As a salve for fraught times, it has never been easier to listen to music, and it has never been more important.