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Something that’s common to each generation is the reluctance of previous generations to praise or sometimes even accept the music of current generations, “they don’t make them like they used to” they say as they struggle to comprehend whatever the kids are listening to. The fact that people can be so opinionated and feel so attached to the music they feel represents them is amazing and of course, musical tastes and trends will evolve as the years go by. However, I believe that the technological world of social media we live in today is altering the way we perceive music altogether.
Social Media has led to every single day being a whirlpool of topics to discuss, tik tok trends, influencers, YouTube content, scandals, creating brands and making connections that we can’t escape it even if we wanted to. You might even go as far as to say that scrolling through social media can be exhausting, where it used to be a relaxing experience of looking at pictures of your friends in cool places or searching for funny videos. We’re so busy being fixated on everything bursting out of our screens at us that we don’t even have time to stop and consider if it’s really any good. Unfortunately, I think this is impacting the way we consume music.
Social Media’s content-conveyer belt nature has delivered a hammer blow to our attention spans. According to a study by Microsoft, the average human being now has an attention span of eight seconds. This is a sharp decrease from the average attention span of twelve seconds in the year 2000. We always want the next thing, regardless of what it is. Herein lies the problem, has the line between quality and quantity become blurred? These days a new track or album can come along and blow up social media feeds around the world, but just as quick as it comes in, it fades away.
Think for a second, if you were asked to think of one of the biggest names over the last few years, who comes to mind? You would have to look at someone like Drake. Since 2013 he’s been Spotify’s most streamed artist a record three times. Can you imagine how pissed off Drake is that he didn’t release “Hotline Bling” this year? That video was a big enough hit at the time, all the memes, jokes, discussion, it took social media by storm. Can you imagine if that video hit today’s world of tik tok? Everyone and their mother would be hopping on the trend, and that’s the thing, Drake is aware of that. He makes moves which he knows will grab the attention of millions and make the most noise, it’s not necessarily about the quality of the music.
Now this doesn’t mean I’m complaining about him, that’s the way the market is and he knows what to do to make it to the top, he’s incredibly smart and also an extremely talented producer. The man can make a hit. No doubt about it. However, as I said, if it comes in fast it’ll go out fast. Think of Drake’s biggest tracks, funny how they might not come to you straight away. For such a huge star the names of his hits should be flooding in instantly, even as I type this, I ask my roommate, “What are Drake’s biggest songs?” he replies with a long “ehhhh…” before eventually throwing out two. Think of his biggest hits. When was the last time you actually heard them ring out somewhere? Whether that’s at home, on the radio, in a shop, anywhere. Social media has encouraged the exchange of making a classic album for a quick track that will get tik tok users dancing and Instagram feeds buzzing.
Compare this to artists from the 90s like Biggie Smalls. These guys existed in a world before social media, Spotify, apple music and YouTube. If you wanted to listen to their music you had to walk into a shop and buy their album, and if you want to convince someone to buy your album it has to be good. In 1994 Biggie released Ready to Die. It’s crazy how much of an impact he’s had on the whole genre. It makes sense however, when you hear a track like “Juicy” that will simply never get old. Biggie put his heart and soul into a track that he knew would strike a chord with so many people, and you can tell. This is why it still hits so hard over a quarter of a century later, in contrast, can you see young people driving around listening to “Hotline Bling” or “One Dance” in the year 2040? I don’t think so.
Now it’s not all bad. There are artists out there today putting out incredible music and will always work hard to continue to do so. The second most streamed artist on Spotify at the moment is none other than Harry Styles, who I’m only more than happy for after his incredible album last year. Looking like he has well and truly broken free of the smiley faced boyband member persona into a style all of his own, Fine line is beautiful listen that’s happy, sad and has a weird touch of 70’s California stoner culture somewhere in the middle. However, there’s no doubt that the instant gratification world of social media has morphed our perception of music. Some artists are starting to recognize this, instead of making music out of a love for their craft, it’s just as a means to stay relevant.