Sunday, April 27, 2014

CDs and iPods and Smartphones - Oh my!

‘I still like buying CDs,’ says Hornby. ‘But there are a lot of people who will never pay for music ever again. Why would you? I was talking to a 17-year-old recently, and he said he didn’t think his little brother had even seen a CD. He didn’t actually know that music came like that.
Nick Hornby, quoted in “The day the music shop died”
John Harris, The Observer
The date on that quote is 2003. Notice that the music vehicle was CDs, not LPs. The CD was commercially made available in 1982, so it celebrated it 21st birthday in 2003. The record industry cooperated by making the CD and standard so it would play on any CD player.  The CD, when introduced, were uncopyable by the average user. You could tape a copy, but tape is a serial copy in that the order that you taped them in was fixed. You couldn’t program them to play the second, third and fourth track one time and the first and 12 track later as you could program CDs. The Album Era was supplanted by the CD Era. What had been introduced to supplant the once all-conquering CD? 
The iPod was introduced in October 23, 2001, about 8½ months after iTunes, Macintosh version, was released. The iTunes Store and a Windows version of iTunes was brought to market in April 2003. The iTunes store software was free, and the price for individual track was 99¢. iTunes has been credited with accelerating shifts within the music industry. The pricing structure of iTunes encouraged the sale of single songs, allowing users to abandon the purchase of more expensive albums. This hastened the end of the Album Era in popular music. The downloadable purchase raised its head. Rip your CDs and add it to your iPods. In April 2007 Apple sold its one-hundred millionth iPod. Yet sales of iPods were actually shrinking by 2009. Why? Apple debuted the iPhone in June 2007. The age of the smartphone was upon us. 
Remember back in the “old days”, when floppy discs ran the computer and you had to “boot it up,” How you scrimped and saved to afford your first hard disk? Ten megabytes, if you were rich. Remember that you thought,“I’ll NEVER fill this up!” Even the hard disk is not able to outpace it. In the intervening six years, smartphones are leading the way in consumer spending. That, accompanied by increasing expansion of the mobile the networks to expand 3G and 4G services and the advances made in high speed mobile broadband made the next logical step - subscription services where you could listen to any music.
Internet radio was the first step. The Internet radio station, an online form of broadcast radio, was the “playlist” played by presenters and featuring news and ads - the standard radio format.  You can have a smartphone app for each individual station assuring branding, advertising streams as well as providing a stream for apps such as TuneIn Radio. Subscription services such as Spotify and were offering free, with advertising, or a per-monthly subscription with more limited advertisements. The computer, not a presenter. was selecting and playing the songs based on an algorithm. Stuart Dredge, reporting summarising the Digital Music Report by IFPI in The Guardian stated, “Overall, physical music sales of CDs and vinyl fell by 11.7% to $7.73bn, while digital revenues rose 4.3% to $5.87bn. Within the latter sector, sales of downloads fell by 2.1% to $3.93bn while subscription streaming income rose 51% to $1.11bn.” What will be next? 
The answers, in the immortal words on Robert Zimmerman, “…are blowin’ in the wind.” I don’t know what Apple, Samsung and ??? are cooking up. What I worry about is this: how will you cope with the staggering amount of music that is available to you and your students?  How do communicate the idea of timeless works of art? How do you teach responsible curation? How can you inspire your students to come together and create music? 
You will find an answer to these and more through experimentation, pedagogy, and philosophy of education. You will find these based on your own formative experiences. You will find out from observing rehearsals at AMIS festivals. You will find out through the dialogues with your students. You will find out from your performance successes and, most importantly, from your performances that are not quite successes. 
We live in a fast-moving world. Three revolutions in the way we access music. I leave you with Wayne Shorter’s words: 
The challenge is to be in the moment and the thought of playing or writing what you wish for. What you wish the world to be like. Or playing what you see. What condition the world is in today. A lot of loose ends. And also playing music that you can’t anticipate. Uncertainty? Play that. We have to learn to deal with uncertainty and dialogue with the unexpected and dialogue with the unknown. Because the unknown can not be rehearsed. How do you rehearse the unknown? It’s something that’s coming out of the human existence that’s making us evolve and grow. On a humanistic level, we’re pulling out of ourselves what we didn’t know was there. That should be telling us a whole lot about eternity. No such thing as beginning or end in life.

Have a restful summer. See you next year!