Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Me against the music

I have had an MP3 player of some description for the last six years. I've been through about 3 iPods and am currently on an iPhone. Some of my songs have been on my iPod so long that I only have to hear the first millisecond before I know what it is. Whereas pre-MP3 I wouldn't have dreamed carrying around a 'Discman' or its tape-playing equivalent, the iPod and its fellow MP3 family members have made music accessible and instant and, unfortunately, easier to get sick to death of.

When I was a child, which wasn't that long ago (er, really? - Ed) unless you had a record player you didn't really get to hear the tunes you wanted. Listening to your favourites was restricted to half an hour of Top of the Pops and then snatches of the radio. Radio 1 was a dreadful old MOR bore for most of the early '80s and commercial radio had too many ads. Nevertheless, I could be found once or twice a week with my finger hovering expectantly over the record button, ready to tape Kylie's latest opus or a selection of T'Pau's back catalogue.

Now, of course, there are 17,045 (or something) radio stations and once a punter hears a song they might like, they have to do little more than head to YouTube to stream it, or go on countless music blogs to download it illegally or, if they're a bit boring, go on to music streaming sites like Spotify and hear the song over and over and over again. And they don't even have to rewind the tape, desperately trying to stop it at the right place to avoid hearing Bruno Brookes and his hilarious anecdotes which you'd accidentally recorded. Even children with no internet access can find music via their mobiles, whether it's downloaded or bluetoothed to them by a light-fingered friend.

Much like Heat and Closer and their stablemates giving us access all areas to celebrities has downgraded the value of being famous, so too has the ease of which music can be obtained make it less important. For many in their teens and early twenties, paying for all your music is an alien concept. While iTunes has revolutionised paid music downloads, it's still de rigueur for a large number of music lovers to seek out their favourites for free first. Now that you can get your hands on a track as soon as you've heard it, true 'event' singles and albums are a thing of the past. Who now would queue round the block for Oasis's Be Here Now? Nobody. They'll have all downloaded it from a filesharing site two weeks ago and heard for themselves how dreadful it was, at no cost to themselves save for their bleeding ears.

Attention spans are shrinking to such a degree that a song which would usually be played to death for a good couple of months is old hat after three weeks or so, thanks to permanent rotation on music channels and the repeat button on an iPod. As a result, the majority of my music library has now overstepped the mark and wandered from familiarity into contempt. Songs that were previously milk chocolate to my ears are now stale spotted dick and cold custard.

I love my MP3 player, and I love the fact I can listen to what I want, when I want. But I do desperately miss the feeling you get when you *finally* get to hear your favourite song on the radio. That and the excitement you get as, trembling in case you miss the intro, you gingerly press down the record button on your tape player so that the song is yours to keep for ever. Or at least until you get bored. Or your tape gets chewed. Stupid fucking tapes.