Music in the age of the Internet

Molly Schreiber

Gone are the days when the radio was the only way for penniless music fanatics to hear their favorite songs and when record stores were the best places to discover new artists. While not quite obsolete, these resources are arguably endangered in the wake of online track streams, music blogs and, of course, iTunes. 

Of course, these changes are not entirely negative. The explosion of resources has made information infinitely more accessible, providing music fans with various insights and opinions.

 Blogs like Pitchfork and Aquarium Drunkard work to educate their readers in all things music, both new and old. Through this reverence to the influence of past musicians, even the youngest set of readers can glean insight initially reserved for the most focused students of music. 

There is a chance, however, that these blogs will replace the forum of the already struggling record store industry. 

In addition to the blogosphere, podcasts like NPR’s All Songs Considered and Chicago Public Radio’s Sound Opinions offer listeners sort of tailored radio programs, complete with record reviews, new releases and witty banter. 

These programs act as alternatives to the traditional radio broadcasts, allowing listeners to pause, rewind, fast forward and replay with a click of a mouse or the scroll of an iPod. 

These new sources of information are not restricted to independent music; the options for new pop and hip-hop tracks have also skyrocketed. 

Resources like Pandora, Hype Machine and Frat Music make finding and listening to new remixes and pop tracks simple. 

Even the iTunes Genius tool and music clouds give listeners suggestions for new artists whose sound complements their current music libraries. These suggestions, generated in mere seconds, take the legwork out of weeding though new music and discovering something exciting. 

They also hinder the chances that the listener will broaden his or her musical horizons, restricting them to a pre-screened comfort zone. 

While change often carries elements of both good and bad, I’m not sure I can definitively say whether one prevails over the other in this case. On the one hand, I feel a mournful sense of nostalgia when I realize that I own no tangible evidence of my new favorite music.

 On the other hand, however, I maintain a sense of hopeful excitement every time I visit my favorite blogs and download a new track. I also adore my podcasts, my iTunes and Hype Machine. 

So, as is often the case, the evolution of music requires a sort of give and take. 

While I will forever long for an endless record collection, I will settle for my expansive iTunes library, and while I will continue to visit record stores, I will also continue to read music blogs.

 As the change continues to evolve and the age of radio gives way to the age of the Internet, I will remind myself that all that really matters is the music itself. 

No matter how drastic the difference between vinyl and mp3, the substance will take precedence over the presentation.