Music identity in the digital era

I loved the discussions about bands as a kid. Everyone in school seemed to know a lot about their favorite music. The year such album was out, the lineup changes from the last release, they would know all the best and the worst songs, the conflicts between band members, etc. And I was fascinated by how people were interested in these subjects. Some days, it was hours of talk about the same band because everyone at least knew these bands. You might not like Metallica, but you certainly know them. Maybe can even sing along a couple songs.

Music was social. You’d listen to the radio like everyone else. Perhaps pop a disc into your player for a reflective moment, a disc you bought in a record store. Either because someone recommended it to you or because you got interested by checking in on their limited catalog. Nowadays, name one single friend who shares an interest with you in the latest five artists you listened to.

I have friends who love Thrash Metal as much as I do, and we share records all the time. But we’re never really synced with each other on what we’re listening to. If it were a couple decades ago, we’d be listening to the exact same albums from the exact same bands. Now, when we’re together talking about music, we end up picking the same old bands we all know about.

The digital era made music signature more personal than ever. You may still define yourself by a style of music, but hardly someone with a similar taste will have the same signature as you. It’s fantastic in a way, it means a lot more artists have a chance to be heard, but it may mean the end of big legendary music stars. Is it a problem that we have fewer big stars? In my opinion, no. But I sometimes feel that it’s challenging to connect to people in that sense. In some get-togethers we throw at our place, there’s always a struggle to pick the music. Suppose we choose Stoner Metal, one of our favorite styles. In that case, not everyone will enjoy it because there are very few famous bands, so we end up picking old pop/rock music: it’s guaranteed that everyone knows and, to some extent, like some of it.

Music is now more individual and less social than it has ever been. Fewer and fewer people will match your music style. Conversations are going to be more generic. But digging for good albums is more and more fun every day.

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