Is the iPod ruining music?

music trends

The Ipod has completely changed the way that people listen to music.?Now people can quickly and easily carry thousands of songs in their pocket. Is this a good thing for artists, listeners, or labels?

music trends

Just a week ago, I was headed up to a concert with some friends of mine. We sort of consider these concerts to be miniature road trips. In the past, we’d pop in a CD, crank it up for a while, and then we hop into a discussion about chicks, politics, curry, etc. The music being played kind of took a back seat until we ran out of things to talk about.

Well, this trip was a little different. The difference was no one brought any CDs. Instead two of the group brought iPods which played through the radio with an FM modulator. In the past, we’d flip through CD case after CD case looking for that one certain CD, but once we had found that one CD we were committed to it. On long trips, it was rare to take a CD out without listening all the way through it.

Well, enter the age of the iPod. The iPod has done to music what cable has done to television. You now have the magical curse called “choice”. Of course, all choice does is lead to indecision. I’m not sure if watching another person flip through 60 channels on TV drives you crazy, but it certainly does me. For two hours, I watched two people do nothing but flip through song after song. It was VERY rare if we made it through one minute of a song. In fact, I doubt if we made it through an entire song at all.

While it does seem great being able to carry 41 days of constant music in your pocket, I have to say that the average iPod user may be missing out. There was something to listening to an entire CD on a trip that helped define the great albums. We all have those 5 or so records that we’ll never get bored with that we can always listen to all the way through. How would you know what a great record was if you had never had to listen to it all the way through? Sure, sometimes it seemed like a curse having to listen through a crappy song, but CD took care of that pretty easily. You just hit the “skip” button.

The real tragedy is there really wasn’t that much music listening going on. It seams that a device that is designed to make it easier to listen to more music has a drastic downside. If people do little more than flip through song after song with their iPod, then the iPod is taking away from people’s musical experience.

Yet, people still try to buy bigger and bigger iPods. I remember thinking that 10GB of Mp3s was an enormous amount of music. Now 60GB versions are very common. I couldn’t imagine who really needs 41 continuous days of music without repeating a single song. If you turn the iPod off for sleeping, you are sitting at right about 60 days of music without repeating a single song.

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Where are these songs all coming from?

How are people filling up their iPods? Are they buying songs at $1 per song from iTunes? I’ve got a gut feeling that most of them are not. Assuming a one minute MP3 uses 1 MB and the average song is 4 minutes long, it would cost $15,000 to fill up a 60GB iPod. Ouch! I don’t know too many people who have spent $15,000 on purchasing music. I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS SPENT $15,000 ON MUSIC!!

It seams pretty clear that if the average person was paying $1 per song, they would probably wouldn’t need an iPod much larger than 1 or 2GB. Yes, I’m aware that you can store other data on an iPod, but I don’t know too many people who plan to haul around RAW video data on their iPods.

So Who Is Getting Paid?

The labels still seam to be afloat even if they are signing a smaller >> << quantity of artists. They certainly don’t seam to be as excited about their profits as they may have been ten years ago. It’s no secret that if the labels aren’t getting paid, the artists definitely aren’t getting paid either.

Music Is Expendable!

I remember just a little over 10 years ago. My family was low on cash. I decided that I wanted a rare Nirvana import called Outcesticide 3. The CD cost $30 and had to be ordered from Japan. I decided that the only way to buy the CD was to not each lunch at school for a month. (I was too young to get a job). So, I did without a meal each day for an entire month so that I could save $1 per day and order my Nirvana import. You could imagine how I felt the day the CD finally came in. I had put myself through torture for an entire month to get that CD.

I was at an uncle’s house recently. My cousin was on his computer. He decided he wanted to listen to some rare Nirvana songs. He opened up his favourite peer to peer download software and typed in Nirvana or whatever. In about 10 minutes, he had almost the entire CD that I had starved for a month for.

While it is exciting that technology exists that makes it faster to download a song than it is to take the CD out of it’s case and place it in the player, it seems that this somehow makes the music worth less to the individual. When a listener has to sacrifice for an album, the album is a little more memorable.

I mean I can remember the exact day I purchased many of my favourite CD. For example, I remember being 16 and buying Goo Goo Dolls, “A Boy Named Goo”. Me and my buddy were driving 140 kph on the way home like a bunch of immature idiots. It turned out that we had passed my mom without realising it. When I got home, I was doomed. (That one didn’t end on a happy note).

Uhh, good luck having any stories about how fast you downloaded an mp3. Good luck even remembering the day you downloaded a given mp3.

So who is winning with the iPod?

Is the music listener winning? They now have a portable music machine that can hold 2 million zillion songs. Of course, the mp3 player costs about 3 times as much as a portable CD player did 10 years ago. With the luxury of having so many musical options, some people spend a lot more time flipping through songs than they used to. iPods can hold an enormous amount of data, but this just leads to people blindly downloading every song under the planet. It’s cool being able to hear a song, but having a free library of every song under the sun can make music expendable. Of course, the labels and artists don’t seam to be winning.

In fact, I can only think of one guy who has really won from the iPod… Steve Jobs, founder of Macintosh.


– Brandon Drury runs an active music forum on his site at www.recordingreview.com which covers everything from songwriting to recording to cd replication to music marketing.