Digital Audio Insider -- the economics of music and other digital content

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Digital Audio Insider is David Harrell's blog about the economics of music and other digital content. I write from the perspective of a musican who has self-released four albums with the indie rock band the Layaways.

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June 24, 2008

How We Listen
by David Harrell
Nick Carr's recent Atlantic article on how technology has changed the way readers read (and writers write) got me thinking again about how digital music and portable devices have altered music listening habits. Then I stumbled across this great post on the eMusic blog about the ups and downs of the National. While the post is more about the idea of artist longevity and the time it takes to develop an audience, the reader comments include some excellent thoughts on how digital music (and the ever-expanding amount of available content) is affecting their listening habits:
I've been wondering if the digital download model isn't killing music in a much different way than what RIAA is worried about. There's still plenty of money to be made, especially in selling concert tickets and merchandise, but people just have so many options of music to listen to. This is one of the things I love about emusic but at the same time it can be occasionally frustrating; there's just so much music! (Particularly relevant to me tonight because I've been backing up some things to clear a little space on my hard drive.) And I don’t even do any of the file sharing stuff; I get almost all my music from emusic. But If I think back to the time when I was getting really hooked on certain bands, I was purchasing probably 1-2 albums a month; where now I get 10-15 albums, plus all the free stuff...and don't get me wrong it's great, but sometimes I feel I lack the time to really get to know a particular piece.


I definitely spend less time with each album than I used to. It's not even that I get bored with albums, it's that I have 75 downloads per month, plus a few subscriptions to Song of the Day podcasts, plus music my friends give me...the end result being I can love a band one month and get so distracted the next that I forget about it.

It's a trade-off of the Internet age -- more bands to listen to, and less time to spend with each one.


It's funny -- I end up getting affected by the "too much music" phenomenon in a different way: because I'm so old-school in my music listening habits, I'll get stuck on one record for a few weeks at a time. As a consequence, I start getting anxiety about all the really great stuff that's passing me by just because I can't seem to stop listening to, say, J-Live or Shearwater. There are so many records that I keep "meaning" to get to -- so many records that I know I'd probably love -- and I'm afraid I'm just going to end up missing them.
It's partially my age -- I have less time these days to stay on top of everything, but even if I could devote all of my waking hours to music consumption, my guess is that I'd still feel like I was drowning.

Is there an official name for this sort of feeling? If not, I'm proposing "content fatigue." Or maybe Richard Saul Wurman already covered it with "Information Anxiety." A suggestion to Mr. Wurman: if you ever update the book, add a chapter about digital music.


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    Out Now -- "Maybe Next Year" -- The New Holiday Album:

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