Joe Sparrow : The Kids are all right
Idly spooling through products on Amazon, trying to find something cheap to make my order up to £10 and thus claim free delivery, I felt a weird flashback.
“Ten years ago,” it occurred to me, “I would choose a bunch of CDs online, click ‘order’, and wait four days for them to arrive.”
“How gauche,” I thought.
What was most odd about this recollection was that I didn’t even consider the ten years or so before that, when the act of finding and purchasing music meant that I – a wan teenage schoolboy – would walk to Mike Lloyd’s record shop after school, and physically flick-flack through CDs.
I could afford about one a month. CDs were about 15 quid.
Thus I only very occasionally gambled on an album because of the cover, or an odd band name; on the whole, I went by the reviews in the Melody Maker.
Looking back, I can see that a lot of the emotion I have amassed for LPs released around that time was invested in the subsequent walk-up to the counter.
I’m about to spend all this money on this CD I haven’t heard: what if it’s only a 6/10?
Those days are so far gone, I don’t even reminisce about them any more.
This is what progress really feels like, fifteen years on: nothing at all.
Last year, for a day a week, I taught a hundred-odd 18-year old students on a Music Business course.
The lessons were a two-way street: I revealed how much money they will realistically make in comparison to their feverish rock star/yacht-moored-in-Ibiza dreams, and they opened my eyes to how kids their age regard music.
It was great fun, and extremely bracing work; although sometimes I wondered if we were a mutual focus group established to cause each other occasional twinges of disappointment.
So how do #teens find music now – and what do they use to listen to it?
Well, the latter question was easy: they use Youtube and Spotify, and that’s it.
None – literally none – choose to listen to music radio even once a week, although some admitted that they tell people that they do.
None pay for Spotify. Some pay for bonus editions of LPs they already like.
And how do they find the music in the first place, in an era of ubiquitous, instant album reviews that cost nothing to read and are written for nothing?
Generally, they all mumbled a bit about “Facebook” and “recommendations from friends” but none had a really firm, tried-and-true method.
Some thought they might have used Spotify playlists now and then, but on the whole all of them voiced what felt like a collective shrug – as if even they didn’t know how they discovered music.
Is it possible to enter a post-music-discovery age? Will careful pondering and considered exploration go out with a whimper?
Or are they being induced to listen to new music in a brand new way, so subliminal, so sneaky, so in tune with now that they – and the rest of us – haven’t even noticed what it is yet?
Is this what progress feels like whilst it’s happening: nothing at all?