How Tech Has Changed the Way We Listen: Progress

Written by Music, Popdose Roundtable

The digital revolution has been the music equivalent of sequencing the human genome.

“I will take this back to the days when I would sit in front of my boom box, which was loaded up with a blank cassette tape, finger poised on the record button, just waiting for a favorite song to come on the air so I could tape it. I had a ridiculous number of ‘taped from the radio’ mixtapes back in the day (‘the day’ being the mid-to-late ’80s). Having technology that allows me to listen to pretty much anything any time I want now is more convenient, sure, but it really takes the anticipation and excitement out of the listening process, you know? I really wish I had all those old tapes.”

Kelly Stitzel

 

We here at Popdose listen to a lot of music. Like, a lot of music. Pop culture critics have always had vast music menus. But we’re not really alone in that anymore, now are we? We’re living in the days of the mp3 and the Cloud. We make playlists in seconds. We’ve got beats, grooves, wailing licks, long arias, punchy punk tracks, raps, ragas, retro compilations and a million mash-ups. We have an app for that.

Kids these days, man. Shiiitttt, back in the good old days, back when listening to music was a passion, we’d pull our hair out putting together the best, ripped-from-the-radio mix tapes imaginable. It was an art and it drove us crazy and we liked it. Kids these days, man. Kids. They don’t get it. They can download anything and everything, legitimately or no, and just pop it into iTunes or something like it. They can carry thousands and thousands of songs in their pockets. They don’t care. Music used to be treasure, back in those analog days. Now it’s a commodity. Like coffee.

Kids these days.

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“I still make mix discs from time to time, and pore over the segues, especially now that I have MixMeister Express. At the same time I also throw thousands of songs into Spotify and iTunes playlists and hit shuffle, so I’m both old school and somewhat with the times.”

David Medsker

 

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot about home-burned CDs. Man, those were da late-90s bomb, yo! Now that was the way to use mp3s properly. We didn’t just slap a random collection of tracks into a digital playlist and forget about it two weeks later. No, we used our technology to make works of art with the raw materials of our favorite music. We applied transitions, fade-in, fade-out and amplification effects. We made the perfect discs. It was a labor of love, from curating the right tracks to coming up with a cool, meaningful name to squeak onto the CD-R label with a non-corrosive marker. We appreciated all of it with a passion and fervor unparalleled today and…

…hold on, I have to go thumbs-down something on my Pandora station tailored to only play electronic dance music from the late-80s to early-90s.

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“The digital revolution has been the music equivalent of sequencing the human genome. It’s brought about a change that, ironically, those of us most dedicated to music have had the hardest time accepting: that music is, when all is said and done, just another kind of information. You can copy it, shuffle it, swap it, compress it, or give it away at will (or maybe you don’t, but if so, you’re an outlier).”

Dan Wiencek

 

Yeah. Progress is a beautiful, irresistible bitch.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be digging into the way technology has changed the way we listen to music. The entire Popdose staff has been having a long, detailed conversation about the experience, stretching back to the golden-hued days of vinyl collection to the dense, 21st century world of infinite, functionally free digital content. We hope you’ll join us in the discussion and share your own experiences of chasing format changes and championing the old school or preaching the new tech.