The digital age is rapidly phasing out treasured modes of listening to music. The easy and instant access to music without having to expend energy and resources to acquire it has become more about consumption than enjoyment. The music scene is packed with ever changing trends and there is a seemingly endless, easily accessible database on the Internet. And while some sites have a paywall system making it mandatory for you to subscribe, other sites just take you to a treasure trove in an instant.
“I listen to songs in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Arabic and Japanese. I download them for free, in the mp3 format from YouTube to a mp3 converter and download from sites like beemp3, torrents and a few random sites,” Siddharth Ganesh, a student of St Joseph’s college, said.
Technology has changed the way music is made, consumed and dispersed and companies have shifted from old prototypes to make room for compact, fast and mobile successors. Consumers also prefer this new shift although record labels and artistes might not feel the same looking at the revenue decrease.
Consumers drive not just musical trends but the availability of music. A large number of consumers purchase music from sites like iTunes or Amazon but others opt for free downloads from sites like mp3skull.com, Beemp3.com, Downloads.nl.com,etc.
“I still buy music CDs whenever I get the chance. Because the feeling of buying a cassette or CD is different from just getting it off the Internet. Especially, collectors editions cannot be ignored, no matter how fast you could get it off the Internet. It feels nicer to have one on your shelf,” said Joseph K A, a middle-aged music lover.
Many consumers have preserved their cassette collections. “I still use my old Sony cassette player.I have two boxes full of cassettes. But I am not tech savvy. So I have to rely on my children to get music on my phone,” explained Saraswathi Ram, mother of two and an employee of BSNL.
The cassette and VCR segment however has dulled down to a large extent with the technology behind them turning obsolete. The Walkman has survived but its universality and utility is no longer a given. Life span of analogous music is much less compared to its life on the Internet. Which also brings about an element of priceless antiquity to these physical records of preserved music. “Music business is almost dead and we have decent business on new releases but even those sell for about a week or 10 days and then sales die”, said Yajuvendra Singh, operational retail head of Temptation M.
Music stores are now making room for products other than music. “When we started in 1999 we sold 80 per cent audio cassettes and 20 per cent CDs. Slowly the cassettes were phased out and only audio CDs were sold. Then we introduced home video with DVDs and VCDs and later Blu-rays. Recently, LPs (Long Playing records) have made a comeback”, explained Vikas M Chawla, managing partner of Calypso.
Bluetooth and cost-effective duplicating of music is also a reason why people don’t really have to frequent music stores. “I normally borrow music from friends and family because I like listening to different genres. But, if I had to get music on my own, I’d just go hunt on Google,” said Nayana Rachel Roy, a student.
The Internet may be eating into the business of well-known artists and their music companies but the lesser known bands whose music is not easily found or shared often use virtual media to get more validation and some of them even earn some revenue in the process. “You can usually listen to local artists’ music online, but you might have to pay to download them, maybe from sites like Bandcamp.com or Reverbnation.com. My own band had to go and personally sell the album we produced because piracy would have ruined our sales,” said Abhinav Swamy, lead guitarist of The Morph Code.
In a way, technology has released music from the marketing and profit making machinations but it has also reduced the value of what music once was. A collector’s delight and a creator’s labour of love that you searched for in store after store till you had the pleasure of owning it.