Listening habits

Pre-seminar thoughts:

I found it really interesting to think about how music can bring people together in a shared experience (as in the Gilroy article) while at other times shut out the rest of the world and grant privacy (as in Bull). The emotional experiences that music creates or elevates for the people in these articles reminded me of another article I stumbled across a couple days before doing the readings about the benefits of listening to sad music when you’re sad.

I also ended up thinking about how various technological developments since the articles were written would fit into their argument. One obvious change is how common smartphones have become, to the point that most people already have a music-playing device with them wherever they go without the need for an iPod… and smartphones even seem to create an additional level of the “private world” that Bull mentions for their users, since they can create a visual as well as listening experience.

Another shift that seems to be happening is the rise of music subscription services like Spotify or Apple Music, where people pay a monthly fee to listen to all the music they want but don’t really own any of it. Michael Bull mentions dreaming of a machine that can play “any song there is” and says that the iPod comes close to that, but with subscription services that stream music on-demand we get even closer.

This shift to subscription services also seems to have huge implications for Sterne’s article on the mp3 format, since with this system users are no longer collecting music in the same way – their collection is nearly unlimited, but they can only listen to their “collection” for as long as they continue paying a monthly fee. I’m guessing the shift had a lot to do with the way piracy created an expectation for music to be widely and conveniently available.

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Listening habits

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