Alright, I want everyone to close their eyes, and hone in on a memory real quick. You may have to brush through a few cobwebs to get there… but somewhere deep in your prefrontal cortex lies a distant memory of a poisonous software we lovingly referred to as Limewire.
It’s coming back to you now, right? The lime slice logo? You probably used it to download “Crank Dat” while you sent your crush messages via AIM.
Do you remember iTunes? No not Apple Music, but iTunes. Let’s go back to the days of downloading songs for 99 cents, straight to your iPod touch. In a snap the whole world transitioned from going to Best Buy or Target to buy an entire album, to instant purchasing. Even more specifically the ability to purchase just one song. All without realizing this was the beginning of what was going to be the future of music accessibility.
When you could only purchase an entire body of music you had to listen to the entire body of music, the focus was the album and the sequence of the songs, how it all flowed, you would come to pick your favorite after a few whole listens, insert iTunes.
At the time the idea of a 30 second preview was phenomenal, iTunes had changed the game forever. You could get a sample of the song and immediately judge if you would like it or not. It gave consumers the ability to cycle through the music quicker and figure out what they enjoyed. The idea of consuming went from an album as the unit of measurement to the song, you no longer needed the album to sell well because artist were selling every song as a single.
As the decade continued we saw the layout of albums change. Labels learned they could sell more songs for the same profit, and we saw the output of albums increase. The cycle changed from every 2 to 3 years to yearly or less. We still have a few Kendrick Lamar’s out there but for every Kendrick there are 10 Migos. QC has been pumping out albums like hotcakes with more songs on each album than the last (I’m looking at you Culture 2 and Control the Streets). Even Ariana Grande pumped out two albums in 6 months this past year.
Artist have caught on to the trend, the biggest buzz maker right now is the snippet and Instagram video. The first real snippet that was bigger than the song was the video of Bobby Shmurda dancing to what would end up being ‘Bobby Bitch’, with Bobby jumping, being pulled, and the whole crew in the studio, it made you need the song. The hype around a minute long video with low quality sound blew up like it was the album of the year. The song it’s self couldn’t even live up to the hype it had created, and the snippet is reborn.
Artist now are all in a constant cycle of creating the next hit. We are seeing a total culture change from the quality of music to what entertains us.
Is that bad?
I’m not sure. As a consumer I would say the quality of music has dropped, while quantity is on the up and up. Songs have gotten shorter and easier to consume, but the depth is lacking to me.
Streaming is the future, it’s iTunes on crack. Even I can’t remember the last time I bought album online or in hand,we don’t need to. I can pay $10 a month and have it all in front of me, all thanks to Limewire. The decade is closing and decade end lists will keep coming and hot takes will fly. I think the biggest thing this decade will be remembered for is how we changed the way we consumed music. We went from albums to streams, from streams to snippets, and I’d bet there’s another step that we haven’t seen yet.