The Experience: Browsing and Consuming Music Today

The music experience has changed.  I was grocery shopping this past weekend, and while going up and down the aisles I had a weird flash back to the idea of ‘shopping for music.’  I’ve consumed music in so many ways:

  • Traditional Music Store: heading to an HMV, Tower Records, Sam the Record Man, or whatever…all new CDs, a wall with the latest new releases organized by chart position, genres galore (the most popular currently with a big section, plus a massive rock/pop area)…
  • Traditional Used CD Store: you never know what you’ll get, if you’re lucky organized by genre but sometimes in a ‘SURPRISE’ bin where awesome discoveries are made
  • Record Store: Flippin’ through vinyl, often decisions are made by how cool the cover art is or by the uniqueness of the name
  • Online Digital Downloads: from iTunes to Bandcamp, flip through artists over the net, sample the album, and grab for free or for a price
  • Radio: Flip through stations, hear classic hits and new tunes
  • YouTube: I mostly discover remixes or clever covers this way, or (as I do with this blog) it’s a way to introduce someone to a new artist or song without having to own the mp3
  • Stage Side: Grab the CD at a show…I did this with pre-Dogs Eye View Peter Stewart at a Tori Amos show, or more recently with Donovan Woods opening for Tunng in Toronto
  • Television and Movies: Watched Grey’s Anatomy? Scott Pilgrim vs The World?  There’s a whole new way of discovering awesome music.

Gradually, the traditional shopping and consuming experiences are disappearing, replaced by digital download cards, The Pirate Bay, placement in commercials, or nothing.

What is the future of music consumption?  So much is dependent on friend suggestions, on word of mouth, on random discovery.  How many new artists have you discovered through radio?  Or does radio seem to be playing catchup with the buzz bands we’ve already been listening to for years?  Have you visited a record store recently, or caught a random show by a random band?

How do you experience ‘music browsing’ nowadays?  …I’m asking!  I’d actually be interested in your comments, starting with telling me how you used to consume and shop, and how you do it now.  I have friends who joined the CD revolution as it was dying off and only really know music as a free online download…others started with vinyl and wish it never changed.

Please let me know!  I’d like to do a full report sometime soon so we can see how things used to be, how things are now, and hopefully…predict how we’ll browse and consume music in the next few years!

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3 Responses to “The Experience: Browsing and Consuming Music Today”

  1. MRW Says:

    My music shopping experiences started in the 1980s at the music store at the mall, in the days of cassettes. Vinyl records were still around, but mostly as 45s. CDs came along and the records and tapes disappeared. Browsing in the store didn’t usually work for me, because I’m eclecticly picky in my musical tastes, and so I had to hear something first before buying it. Mostly I listened to the radio and found new music this way.

    In the 1990s I was in college where I didn’t have time to listen to the radio, and there wasn’t a good radio station there, anyway. The campus radio station spent too much time trying to be “avant garde” as college-aged kids are wont to do, and so they played nothing but noisy crap that nobody had heard of, and for good reason. Not a lot of good music came out of the 1990s anyway, and I tuned out. And then I was just poor after college.

    When I got my first laptop in 2003, I discovered iTunes. About this time all the record stores in the malls started closing. I also started shopping through on-line retailers, like Amazon. I picked up a bunch of new music this way, stuff that I knew existed but had never been able to find in a store. Unfortunately, I don’t listen to the radio anymore because the speakers are shorted out in my car, so I’m not exposed to much new music, which had been my primary exposure in my youth. Not that it matters since in the last 15 years radio stations have been commercially amalgamated and automated, so in most markets one company may own all of the radio stations, and they all play the same 20 crappy pop songs over and over and over, ad nauseum.

    iTunes is great because you can at least sample songs, but it’s like the Google of music: more is not always better. I don’t need 15,687,423 results from a Google search… maybe 10 or fewer. I also don’t need to have 7,862 different bands to choose from when browsing iTunes. Frankly, who has that kind of time? And iTunes has been straying further and further from tunes into TV and movies… it’s more iMedia now than iTunes. I did, however, quite fortuitously and unintentionally stumble upon Scissor Sisters on iTunes, and now I’m a big fan.

    So, mostly nowadays I rely on word-of-mouth. I have discovered new music through blogs and Facebook posts (usually YouTube links), actually… e.g. CSS, Goldfrapp, Johnny X… and even rediscovered old bands from long ago that I didn’t listen to back in the day, like Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk.

    The changes in ways to discover and buy music don’t really bother me, because the end result is the same: audio caffeine in my ears. People don’t travel by ship or horse-and-buggy anymore, we used planes and cars, but we still get where we’re going.

  2. Roo Says:

    Interesting…it sounds like you’re sharing a common experience. For most people, their ‘music’ stops somewhere in high school or college and from then on the music of the next gen isn’t as good, or doesn’t appeal to them 😉 I find your 80s/90s comparison interesting…I was more music-aware in the 90s, and find the music of the 90s to be pretty damned amazing, though I still love the 80s…and the 00s…and so far the 10s is pretty good too.

    They call people like me ‘Active Listeners’ because we remain active after the normal cut off of our late teens, early 20s. Interesting.

  3. Sol Says:

    Well one thing is for sure, radio is always playing catch up with whats hot. I mean the best example i can think of is britney spears’ new song “hold it against me”. She brought on Rusko, a dubstep artist, dubstep being a genre that has been in the underground since ’06 and has been exploding in popularity for the last year, rusko being at the top of this genre along with skrillex and nero. I was actually surprised that popular music caught on as fast as it did, usually a genre has been popular on the streets for several years before it becomes incorporated and bastardized into pop music. As far as my music searching, I spend an enormous amount of time looking for whats new and hot, and i find the best place to be other DJs, blogs and music sites like Beatport.com, though blogs by far being ahead of the curve on the other two options.

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