How can anyone argue the ’60s and ’70s weren’t the best eras for music?
Jimi Hendrix was redefining how every guitarist after him approached the instrument, Black Sabbath was inventing heavy metal, and a certain four blokes from England were getting pretty popular as well.
Obviously, the music died out and today’s soundscape can’t hope to compete with that of past years.
That’s the basis of many of our parents’ arguments when we dismiss their favorite tunes as being for old people. The truth is that music today is better than it has ever been.
People often say they wished they could have grown up in another decade, to have experienced when Bob Dylan was a young songwriter with a nasally voice who liked politics or when the world was shocked by Madonna’s pointy bra. But why would anybody want that?
Here’s the thing about being alive today — we have both today’s music and the stuff that shaped it at our disposal at just about any given time. There has never been a better time to be a music fan than the very second you’re reading this.
The prime decades from long ago are gone, but thanks to the Internet and other technology, we can listen to just about every important piece of music that has ever come out, from Bach to the Beastie Boys.
Without the Internet, you wouldn’t have the same music taste you do now. That may seem obvious, so rather, I should say you wouldn’t have been able to independently form your current opinion on what you like.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the ’30s and ’40s, when vinyl records first achieved commercial success, people used to find out about music via the radio, told what was the best thing they could spend their disposable income on.
Some might call them sheep, but there was no other option. The only way to hear an obscure or un-talked-about release was to actually buy it, which wasn’t financially practical then.
The ’80s had MTV to get the word out about bands, but again came the problem that certain types of bands were underrepresented because record label executives deemed them unmarketable.
With the Internet, music fans have more listening options than ever. If you don’t like whatever the current big thing is, there are plenty of resources for you. There are news sites for fans to hear about what’s going on in a niche genre, and online communities where they can congregate and discuss which guitar lick is the best and other intricacies that their real-life friends wouldn’t tolerate listening to for more than a minute.
As a young music listener, I turned to the “dark side” of online music and spent a lot of bandwidth on Napster and LimeWire, downloading whatever I wanted, all the time. This practice is unacceptable by legal standards, but it allowed me to listen to bands I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
I won’t lie and say I’ve completely abandoned illegally downloading music, but I do buy CDs because I like to support my favorite artists. With Spotify and other streaming services, it’s not even necessary to pirate anymore. Sit through an ad here and there and you can listen to almost anything you want.
We are in the midst of a golden age of music discovery and it is a shame to see these resources go to waste, as they often do. Poppy dance music is absolutely fine — I will admit Katy Perry is a guilty pleasure of mine — but it’s close-minded when people don’t have interest in listening to and exploring other types of music.
When all your finals are finished and you finally have some free time on your hands, challenge yourself: listen to an album you wouldn’t have given a second thought otherwise. If you’ve never actually listened to an entire record front-to-back, do that.
A lot of my music discoveries in the past two years were because I had to find a CD to review for The Maine Campus and there wasn’t anything new by anybody I had heard of.
College is a time for trying new things, so if you’re hesitant to take a big leap — like getting a tattoo or studying abroad — finding new music is a small step that can stick with you for a long time.