Matching with my mixed feelings about digital media, I found this BBC article to be fairly interesting: The Golden Age of Infinite Music. The subtitle really says it all: “Not long ago, if you wanted music, you had to save up your pocket money, take a trip to the local record shop and lovingly leaf through its racks. Now, it’s almost all free, instant and infinite. And our relationship with music has changed forever.“
As someone who has been somewhat of a music fan for 28ish years this is a subject that I have given much though to over the last year or two. My music fandom dates, I suppose, to somewhere between October 1981 when I bought the Dev-o Live cassette at Fred Meyer (and saw them at the Paramount theater for the New Traditionalists tour) and April 14th 1982, the first time that I ever went to a record store specifically to buy a record on the day it was released (Van Halen’s Diver Down was the record and the store was Music Millennium when it was on the corner of NW 21st and Irving (recently mentioned here as the 9th best record store in the country)).
But since that point, I have rarely had many people around who have shared my tastes. Though later in the 80’s I did have some people introduce me to some bands that became important to me (Kurt VV for the Butthole Surfers, Scott Fox for Nomeansno and the infamous Dave Murphy Merciful Fate story already detailed here at the big PD), but those were acquaintances rather than friends and I had little musical connection with them aside from these one-off moments (with the big exception of Danielle extending to me Tom Wait’s Stpe Right Up on the basis of my liking of JG Thrillwell and his Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, a strange, yet effective, connection).
Due to this, and to my own slacky personality, there have always been huge gaps in my musical awareness. The biggest example of this would be Judas Priest. One of my favorite bands since 1981-82, I listened heavily to 6 of their album for 25ish years, yet never even gave a thought to hearing any of the previous albums, even though one of my favorite albums since back in the day, their live album Unleashed in the East, is filled with songs from those unheard albums. How I listened to those songs in live versions for 20+ years without ever thinking that I should try out the studio versions is beyond me. And there are similar other stories that I could relate… Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd… bands that I started listening to one point of their musical career and never looked at anything before that.
Of course, all of that has changed now! In the last couple of years I have become quite familiar with these previously ignored pasts, as we have cut to the modern age, the realm of infinite music. Thanks to the internet there are seemingly endless musical resources out there. Information on bands and their discography’s, reviews of everything that they have ever done, and most everything is available from the comfort of your chair without even having to wait for shipping (or even pay for them for those so inclined to ignore copyright threats and easy minded enough to deny artists and labels their little cut)… Virtually everything released in the last 40 years is readily available, including bootlegs, at the click of a mouse. One thing that this also teaches us, is that there is oh so much more out there then one might have imagined. My favorite online music resource Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives has more than 70,000 different metal bands listed within its pages, with discographies, reviews, band history, line-up and more…
Between the easy access of music and information about it I imagine that the world is becoming filled with people who, not only are exposed to a vast variety of music, but who also are accumulate a tremendous storehouse of music knowledge, one that may be well beyond their years and actual experience. I recently had a fellow about 15 years my junior correct me when I referred to Iron Maiden as power metal. Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion here about the history and genres of heavy metal and the level of correctness of what each of us said, but what my point is that I imagine that before this wide wave of knowledge (nay, information) spread out over every willing subject, it is unlikely that you would get schooled about a band that you had been a fan of for longer than the person you were talking to had been alive.