Make America Listen to Music Again

Unless you live as a hermit and dismiss technology all together odds are you listen to music every day. It’s 2020. Everyone listens to music in some form or another. In fact, in today’s digital age, it’s damn near impossible to avoid it. According to a Nielson Music study in 2017, nearly 90 percent of Americans listen to music on a daily basis for about 32 hours per week. That’s a lot of our time dedicated to music, and without the advancement of technology, it wouldn’t be possible.

Music and technology go hand in hand. As technology advances to make our lives easier, we end up just adding more and more onto our plate. We are continually striving to be the most efficient we can be. Multi-tasking ultimately becomes our greatest skill as we try to cram as much as we can into 24 hours, and if you don’t, you, unfortunately, will be left in the dust. So how does every American have time to listen to 32 hours of music every week? Do we really listen?

I want you to really think about when you listen to music. You listen when you’re working out, sitting in traffic, writing your email, making dinner, in the shower, or mindlessly scrolling through social media. And how do we listen? Usually with our phones. We listen to music to distract us from what we are doing. We don’t actually listen to music. We treat music as background noise in our lives, so we don’t have to live in the moment.

Don’t get me wrong; music is a great escape. It makes driving and working tolerable. It pushes you to get in that last rep at the gym or run that last lap at the track, but music has more than that to offer. Because of streaming services, music has never been more accessible. Frankly, I couldn’t live without Apple Music, but it does come with a cost. It takes away from the magic of listening to a song the way your favorite artist intended. It went from being something you looked forward to doing everyday to something mundane and just a natural part of life, such as walking or breathing. Streaming apps are not only changing when we listen, but how we listen, and I fear we’re beginning to take music for granted.

Sixty years ago, when the only way to listen to the music of your choice was a vinyl record, the process of listening was a lot more exciting, and some may argue like a ritual. When a new record would drop, you had to go to the store, buy an album, drive home, and pop open the record player all before you could hear just one note. You would sit around the speaker like you would a tv and listen to the full album front to back.

Every song had a purpose and told a unique part of the story the artist was trying to portray. There were no distractions. You weren’t aimlessly scrolling through your phone or focusing on that email to make a sale. You were fully immersed in the sound. It wasn’t just something you did. It was an experience for the body, mind, and soul and the music reflected that. Bands and artists such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, the list can go on and on, would focus on the whole album. The whole experience. Every song meant something, and fans took the time not only to listen but interpret and consume every lyric, emotion, and guitar riff.

Today, at least in the mainstream, we seemed to have lost touch with the art of music. Songs are getting shorter and shorter. Lp’s are turning to Ep’s, and Ep’s are becoming singles. Our attention spans are disappearing, and the music is suffering. When did we choose the 2 min song made in 20 minutes over full-scale albums and seven-minute ballads? It’s not the artist’s fault either. It starts with us, the listener. Artists need to make a living, and if they have to make singles over albums, that’s what they’ll do. If we change our listening habits and fall in love with the art again, the music will follow. I’m not saying stop streaming music. I’m saying take time out of your day and dedicate it to listening to your favorite album—nothing else, just the music.

The good news is it’s not all doom and gloom. As much as things are changing, there is a demand to slow down. We’ve been fed the digital life so much; people are starting to get fed up. There’s a reason the demand for physical vinyl records is skyrocketing. There’s a reason meditation apps are the new big thing. People are starting to wake up and slow down. Sometimes we need a break from all the complex technology running our lives. We need to live in the moment and experience, not just the now but something real and physical. The Glass Animals said it best on the opening song of their new Album Dreamland.

“You’ve had too much of the digital love. You want everything live, you want things you can touch. Make it feel like a movie you saw in your youth. Make it feel like that song that just unopened you”

A revolution in listening to music needs to happen, but we’re on the right track. The more we sit down and listen to music the way it is intended, the more things will change. It won’t only help the artist. It will help the listener have a full experience in body, mind, and spirit. Just listening to your favorite artist with no distractions could be a form of meditation and could not only entertain you but ease your stress, anxiety, and overall well being. So get comfy, grab a drink, spark a joint, close your eyes, and get lost in the music, man.

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