From a Teen’s Perspective: The music revolution
I listen to a lot of music. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. On the way to school, while I run, as I do homework. There’s rarely a free moment in my day unaccompanied by a soundtrack. And I think that all of our personal soundtracks speak volumes — pardon the pun — about who we are. But how exactly do we construct the playlist for our lives?
Out of curiosity, I recently asked my parents where they got their music as teenagers.
“Radio stations,” they replied. “You would hear the top songs and buy them at the record store.” This hardly piqued my interest, and it seemed only to reveal that my parents were (as expected) dinosaurs from a bigone era. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we’re currently living through a revolution in our discovery of music.
Like almost every other part of our lives, technology has quickly transformed the music industry. Today, hit songs can be produced with just an average computer, you can find rampant autotone and artificial instruments in almost every genre, and our phones have allowed us to access these tunes anytime, anywhere. However, technology has also revolutionized the ways in which we find our music.
Growing platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music have superseded radio stations as the prime listening spots for many audiophiles around the world, particularly those of my generation. According to news site Ben Vaughn, 60% of 16-24 year-olds use music streaming services. The way I see it, this has created an unprecedented opportunity for the emergence of new artists.
In the days of radio, record companies controlled which songs played over and over. Basically, you had to listen to whatever the corporate execs wanted you to buy. Independent artists struggled to break onto the scene without access to a broader public audience.
Music streaming services, however, require very little effort to publish music on. While these platforms do take a cut of the profit, listeners can directly access artists’ songs at any time. I believe this is integral to the growth of the “indie” genre — characterized by lower production value and an emphasis on artistry over mainstream appeal — that we have witnessed in the past five years. Unconventional styles and sounds have emerged from the open space carved out by these new ways to discover music.
Social media also consistently amplifies numerous artists of all types. On TikTok especially, where almost every video is accompanied by a song, we have seen the revival of many classic tracks, from Material Girl by Madonna to Where Is My Mind? by Pixies. I am personally grateful for the introductions to older songs that now speckle my playlists.
Multiple contemporary artists have blown up after advertising their music on social media, as well. Although many may forget, Old Town Road, the iconic song that ended up selling over 14 million copies and is largely regarded as the “biggest” song in history, only gained traction after the singer, Lil Nas X, used it in a short TikTok video. It would be hard to imagine a music industry — and in turn our playlists — without a variety of artists who got their start on social media.
Music has always been an indicator for the human condition. A society’s hit genres and songs often reflect the zeitgeist in a very accurate way. Our playlists demonstrate who we are, or at the very least, what we like and who we are influenced by. As our music becomes increasingly open to past legends, future stars, and a broader variety of musicians everywhere, it only serves to wonder if our civilization is experiencing not only a revolution in our access to music, but in our openness towards growth and the rise of different voices.
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Editor’s footnote: As I emailed Dylan, there are those of us who grew up in Menlo Park when one way to discover new music was in the listening booths at Joe Prein’s record store on Santa Cruz Avenue (pictured, above right). Yep, that sure dates us!
From a Teen Perspective is a weekly column contributed by Menlo-Atherton High School Junior Dylan Lanier, who has lived in Menlo Park since he was two.
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