There is a woman in Virginia who refuses to give up her 8-track player. She doesn’t want to keep buying her favoritemusic in new formats, so she holds on to her bulky tapesand outdated 8-track player and is oblivious to the impacts that technology has on the world around us.
Most of us, however, have succumbed to changes in technology, which have rippled through the music industry and have changed the culture of music itself. In short, the music industry reflects our ever-evolving, technology-focused world, and while music itself is still music, the way it is marketed, how it is sold, and the medium it is listened on,are completely different from previous generations.
While technology may have drawbacks, overall the impact has been one of convenience for those of us willing to adapt. A shortreview of music history shows that technology hashad huge impact on the culture of modern music, including where and how we listen to music, how we purchase it, and most importantly our ability to enjoy it.
Besides the rare, stubborn person, most people gave up 8-track tapes in the 1970s as we transitioned to audio cassette tapes (for those of you old enough, you will remember hitting the “record” button when your favorite songs came on the stereo so you could make a compilation mixtape for a friend).
While neither 8-track or cassette tapes offered the quality of vinyl records, records were not as portable and could be easily scratched or damaged. However, anyone who appreciates music would quickly become frustrated when their favorite music became jammed in their car or home stereo. This led to a whole generation becoming familiar with the delicate surgery of how toextract a tape from a player, and wind the guts of the cassette back into the cartridge.
By the early 1980s, CDs became popular, and many thought those were the next best thing to sliced bread because they had much better sound quality than tapes, and they were just as portable. However, there was the problem of skipping – unless mounted on a firm surface, CD players were prone to skipping like a rock thrown on a lake. Listening to your favorite CD while navigating stop-and-go traffic took on a whole new level of stress and frustration if the songs kept ricocheting.
Technology took another big leap forward in the early 2000s as portable devices like iPods and MP3 devices have made it possible to fit a large amount of music onto a small device you can shove into your pocket or wear on an armband.
Most recently, people also tend to use their smartphones or tablets as a portable music player, so you can listen to your favorite tunes, and take a call with one swipe of your finger.The devices can basically go anywhere, so you never have to give your music up. Unlike CD players, these devices don’t skip, and you don’t even have to go out in public to buy more music. In fact, you can just purchase the individual songs you like.
Just go scrolling through any online music store like iTunes and you can purchase individual tracks, often for around .99 cents a song, and then download it to your portable device. From there you can easily make playlists of your favorite songs – sort of the modern version of the “mixtape” but in a format that won’t skip incessantly, scratch or warp with heat, or need to be rolled back into the cassette using a pen.
One you’ve built your playlist, you can hook up your portable device to a stereo system or a set of speakers, and, voilà, you have great-quality sound without all the fuss of lugging around a boom box.
Technology strives towards efficiency. It revolutionizes the world we live in, some argue for the better or the worse. But the bottom line for music is that technology puts music into our own hands and gives us more control over where we can listen to it, and how easily we can purchase it and enjoy it. Our access to music wherever we go has never been better! Unless, of course, you are hording your 8-track tapes.