David Bowie said it best. As the 21 Century began, Bowie famously stated that music would eventually become a mere commodity in people’s lives, much like Electricity and Water. His (always) keen sense of observation was a reflection on how sterile and stayed popular music was becoming. Originality was, by then, lacking and consumer music appreciation habits & industry tactics were changing so rapidly that music was becoming de-valued. Now almost 15 years later, with the onslaught of streaming services being introduced and offered, thereby dominating the news in the music industry, the de-valuation of music continues on its rapid descent. Like flicking a switch or turning a faucet on & off, with a ‘click’ of a keypad button, music has become that expected commodity that Bowie alluded to.
The current generation of music consumers, seem to be looking for nothing more than mere ease at acquiring music, whether downloading (pirating) or listening to it at their convenience and when they do, their attention span for listening is marginal and, so it seems, is their appreciation of music. I see it every time I teach a class. Fewer and fewer young people have that same driving, fiery passion for music that my peers and myself had at their age. Most, it appears, lack that same passion when talking about music, which I usually attribute to their internal lack of understanding of music history or the great art of discovering music for oneself.
Now, without sounding like some old codger, which I don’t believe I am (music keeps me thinking, feeling and acting young), most kids today have lost that passion primarily because technology (and the industry itself) has nurtured them this way. The millennial generation has grown up knowing nothing but the (supposed) ease and convenience the Internet and digital technology offers them. They/we have become so reliant on this technology that most have forgotten the abilities of self-reliance, observational skills, imagination and multi-tasking. Sadly, they keep moving forward, blindly adopting each new wave of digital technology with a expectancy of having it all done for them without having to do much, if anything at all, for themselves. I know this may sound harsh and jaded, but I write this as someone who makes every effort possible to stay outside the box, so that my view inside gains a better perspective. I know I am not the only one out there who believes that we, as a society, should be wary of technology and how it is utilized, especially in the hap hazardous way that we do for our own personal entertainment and utilitarian ways (Smart phones do not make most people smarter, just dumber).
Now, back to the subject of music as a commodity in our lives. Sadly, I have to agree with what David Bowie once said. Unlike its role in the 20th century, if we do not wake up NOW, music will continue to lose its appeal as a great motivator for people. It will continue to decline as a voice of the people. It will, one day, become nothing more than mere background streaming audio, while our attention is diverted to the next celebrity verbal faux pas on Twitter or stupid pet trick on YouTube.
“The function of music is to release us from tyranny of conscious thought.”
Finally, before I am the one being judged, let me say this. Thanks to music, my passion for it and the world around me has NEVER diminished. I am still waiting for the next GREAT musical movement or artist to capture EVERYONE’S attention. I still listen to music for hours on end, from the moment I awake to when I close my eyes at the days end. The only way I could compare music to electricity or water, is as something I could not do without for survival. Never take music for granted.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”