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Music is too smooth and painless in the streaming age

Music is too smooth and painless in the streaming age

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“Everything is too easy,” Dylan said of streaming music. “Just a touch of the ring finger, the middle finger, a little click, that’s all it takes.” Image: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

Music industry legend Bob Dylan has some opinions on the boom in streaming services over the last few years. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the singer-songwriter shared his belief that the industry’s move toward streaming has left music “toothless.”

dylan said:

Everything is too easy. Just a swipe with your ring finger, middle finger, a little click, that’s all it takes. We threw the coin straight into the slot. We’re pill crackers, dice heads and day trippers, hanging out, hanging out, devouring blue devils, black mollies, anything we can get our hands on. Not to mention the nose candies and the ganges grass. It’s all too easy, too democratic. You need a solar X-ray detector just to find someone’s heart, to see if they still have one.

wait what

It seems that Dylan’s problems are twofold: consumers are finding it too easy with time-wasting music, and the music itself is becoming less emotional. Dylan himself identifies as a streamer early in the interview, explaining that he listens to music primarily through streaming services, satellite radio, and (gasp) CDs.

Unfortunately for Dylan, the streaming era is well underway, although vinyl appears to be making a comeback as the format of choice among Gen Z and Millennials. According to Statista, streaming was by far the most lucrative way to consume music in 2021, with its popularity starting around 2014 to overtake more traditional formats like CDs and digital downloads. The Recording Industry Association of America says streaming accounted for 83%. of music industry revenue in 2020. Streaming is also the cheapest way to consume music today as Spotify and Apple Music, two of the world’s most popular streaming services, cost $9.99 per month and $10.99 per month, respectively month cost. To put it bluntly, more people are listening to music than ever before, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

Whether or not music becomes less sad or, as Dylan puts it, “toothless” in the streaming age is entirely subjective. There’s something to be said for the way streaming is forcing music labels and artists alike to play it safe, rather than pushing the envelope, as outside influences like virality on TikTok and post-release edits change the way shape how art is created. This hyper-production of music and the pursuit of a hit that pleases the palates of the general public is in and of itself a toothless approach.

But Dylan’s argument about making music painless may not be entirely true. Music may have only gotten sadder in the thirty years from 1985 to 2015, according to a 2018 study reported by music news agency Pitchfork. BBC reported similar results in 2019 and Aeon reported similar results in 2020. Anecdotally, take a look at Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License”. The absolutely heartbreaking ballad about a love gone awry was arguably one of the biggest songs of 2021 and a juggernaut in the streaming era, having racked up 1.6 billion streams since then (remember this is the debut single of a relatively unknown was an actress). became a singer-songwriter).

Maybe some music is toothless, some isn’t. Maybe some music is painful and some is painless. It might sound smooth on a computer, and it might sound grittier on vinyl. Whether these things are true depends on the listener and does not entirely depend on how the music industry reacts to technological advances.

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