This weekend, I picked up a couple of other CDs from my prime musical era: the 80’s. It would probably be interesting to poll people and find out what they consider the best music of their life. Based on anecdotal evidence I’ve seen, it would be the era in which a person became an adult, about when they were 18-21. But that’s not really the point of this post.
The thing I have discovered is that although we have all these eras of music: 50’s/oldies, 60’s/hippy, 70’s/classic rock, 80’s/glam/pop, 90’s/depression, and onward, each era has so much more than those generalizations I just assigned to them. And even when you explore those other genres, they are still consistent with other genres of that era and also different than the same genre in other eras. For example, Jazz in the 70’s sounds different than Jazz in the 80’s. But Jazz in the 80’s still has that production sound of pop music the 80’s. So the point I’m trying to make is that you can explore many genres within your prime musical era. The amount of music just within your preferred era is staggering. Believe me, I’ve been getting more and more daring and buying artists I only had a faint memory of. The best way to describe the result of that effort is like filling in a puzzle of the entire musical landscape of the 80’s. You see (hear) each album all in context and relation to the others and the era as a whole becomes more defined. But that’s not really the point of this post, either.
I had to put those thoughts out first because I am curious abut the future (and a little about the past). The 80’s could be the premier music moment in recorded music history, all due to the creation of the CD. Because of the mad rush to upgrade past recordings to CD, then because of the eventual low cost of CD production, there is an overwhelming amount of music physically available on CD, both past and present (present meaning 80’s).
However, as we know, streaming is becoming the new standard. Proponents of this format claim that it will encompass everything, where any music ever made will be available at a moment’s notice. But will it? It’s been shown many times over that an artist can simply refuse their catalog to be offered on a streaming service. Not only an artist, but maybe an entire label. If a label goes bankrupt, where do the rights go? The music is only available when everything is working perfectly – and I wasn’t even meaning the technical bits working perfectly.
With our massively analytical society and our ROI-driven corporate environment, what are the odds that a streaming service would look at some particular music and see it isn’t being accessed enough or isn’t generating enough revenue, so it is just removed from the service. It’s no longer available. It’s not lost, just unavailable, which is pretty much the same thing to an end user. I have seen news that some albums are no longer being released on a physical medium, therefore there is no way to own a copy of the music. If this pattern accelerates, then there will come a time in the future where music can be lost.
Of course, none of this matters to me, because I’m still filling in the gaps of my era, but future generations will end up having a very spotty image of what music was like in their prime. That would be a shame.