Another thoughtful, insightful article by Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin on whether an overload of musical choice has actually diminished the agency (and real choice) of music consumers. This time posted on Music Think Tank (now managed by Hypebot). Read and ponder:
By Kyle Bylin
At first glance, it appears as though the benefits of a culture abundant with music outweigh the drawbacks tenfold—a rich culture has the potential to whet a fan’s appetite for even more, and may further encourage them to become, themselves, creators of culture. More choice is always a good thing, even if in the end, it adds to the frustration and confusion faced by individual fans. But is that true? So far, we have only investigated choice overload in culture through the narrow lens of a record store and have yet to explore the digital sphere. While there are many reasons to believe that the web has created a “paradise of music” for fans, as we’ll soon see, that may not necessarily be the case. It is worth noting that many of the paradoxes of choice overload that I elaborated on in my previous essay were found to be most prevalent in the material domain. And, while psychologist Barry Schwartz suspected that the paradoxes we experience in culture are quite different, he asserted that the end result might be the same. That, much like in the material domain, a culture plentiful with music has the potential to lessen the amount of satisfaction that fans get from their choices and increasingly causes them to opt out of the process all together. In a paper titled Can There Ever Be Too Many Flowers Blooming, Swartz outlines three of the paradoxical effects of choice overload in the cultural domain.
First, when fans are overloaded with cultural alternatives, Schwartz says they will, “Opt for the same old thing as a way to avoid facing unlimited options.” Similar to the reaction that a consumer has to abundance in the material domain, fans will opt for the same old music for a number of reasons. For starters, many fans, out of comfort, may not deviate too far from their favorites. That way, they are free from the disappointment they might experience in listening to music that is dissimilar from their established taste. So too, fans tend to have a deep memory of being burned. When purchasing music, they are more prone to remember all the times that the music did not work out as opposed to the times that it did. Also, fans will stick with what they know because there is instant gratification in that music; it never ceases to fit their mood or remind them of when they were growing up. Lastly, fans opt for the familiar because they are genre loyal and often have rigid tastes. In music, this paradox can be readily observed every day. Most passive fans are not interested in the new music, unless it is propped up by (to read more, click here….)
In a thoughtful and thought-provoking follow-up to his article “The Barriers Of Music Consumption” Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin discusses whether the plethora of choices that have occurred with the shift in the music industry from the top-down major label model to the bottom-up “participatory culture of the Internet. Has an overload of choices caused an overload that actually diminishes the agency of music consumers. Read and ponder:
I. New Choices
Often times, in discussions about how our culture has become abundant with music and the potential that it has to cause choice overload in the minds of fans, it does not take long for someone to recall the amazing lecture that psychologist Barry Schwartz gave at TED back in 2005, where he explores the central thesis to his book The Paradox of Choice. Let us use his talk as a starting point for this conversation and try to figure out if the effects of the culture of abundance that he outlines in it also relate with the perils that we suspect fans experience in the digital age. In doing so, we will get a better idea if fans may fare worse and be robbed of satisfaction in a culture abundant with music. (to read the rest click here)
And for more stimulating reading on a related subject, check out the guest post on Hypebot by Robbert van Ooijen on how music collecting has been affected by the advent of the age of streaming music.
The guest essay comes from Robbert van Ooijen, a graduating master student New Media & Digital Culture at the Dutch University of Utrecht. It’s based on a research paper he wrote at the wonderful Dutch start-up Twones and asks what remains of the intimate relationship between collector and collection in the age of streaming music. van Ooijen also blogs @ HaveYouHeard.It.
The world is about to embrace streaming music and and a lot has been written about the technical specifications of several streaming music services already. What is often still underexposed however, is the way this new era of consuming music is affecting the way we listen, organize and collect music. The music lover is standing on the threshold of a collection that consists only of links to streams. In the era of streaming music, what is left of the relationship between the collector and his collection? (to read the rest click here)
“The Barriers Of Music Consumption” by Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin raises some important questions about how the digital age has changed our relationship with music. A must read, Bylin puts forth a provocative examination of how changes in the modalities of music consumption have affected the nature of individuals’ experience of the music they choose to “own” and collect. With the shift from album-based collections of music to downloaded songs, often shared through social networks, individuals’
….emotional experience relates not to being in the presence of unique works of art, but solely of the moment of social connection and identification with the other person. This understated difference — in how works of art are experienced — relates to yet another shift in music culture that separates those who were born digital from those of previous generations.
Read the entire article @ Hypebot — here’s a taste of the section on how the I-Pod has fundamentally changed our relationships with our music collection (and with music):
With the barriers to the act of collecting music set so low, if not nonexistent, another subtle but significant shift occurred: the psychology behind the acquisition of music changed. For those of previous generations, they collected music with the notion of longevity in mind, as it best reflected their taste in music at that moment. In contrast, for those who engaged in the act of acquiring music through other means, like file-sharing, their taste encompassed past, present, and future interests. Their collections reflected not only their inherent taste and disposition towards certain types of music, but that of their peer group and those whom they surrounded themselves with. Thus, distinct differences between the music that they liked and the artists that they didn’t care for at all became increasingly blurred, and so did the contents of their music collections. In a sense, though, the collections of those who were born digital are not complete. They’re fractured, consisting of bits and pieces of everything, of songs divorced from their origins and physical packaging. These songs stand alone — void of everything but the artist’s name, the album’s title, and the digital cover art. Where the jewel case, booklet, and liner notes served to embody culture, to communicate its identity, and to mirror the taste of its owner — the iPod is merely a container for culture. Its contents reveal the personality of the owner, but say little about the soul of the music.