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The Internet is Changing the Way Our Kids Access Music

By Martin Aungle - 21st May 2013

When I was about my eldest son’s age, I remember saving up for months for the $50 I needed to buy the double CD, Alchemy - Dire Straits Live. (Please don’t judge me – it was 1985 and I was 15 at the time.) When I did finally buy it from a little record store in Beecroft, Alchemy became the third album I owned on CD, and was in regular rotation on the home stereo.

Now, if my 15-year-old wants to listen to Dire Straits (morbid curiosity perhaps!), he could dust off my 20-year-old CDs. More than likely, he’d type 'Dire Straits Live' into the search bar on Spotify and play the album online.

To quickly explain Spotify – it’s an online streaming music service that launched in Australia this time last year (see Adam Turner’s review on smh.com.au for some background on the service). Essentially, it gives you legitimate access to millions of music tracks and albums ranging from 1920's recordings to Daft Punk’s high-profile new release, Random Access Memories. You can sign up for free (and put up with advertisements between tracks) or pay on a monthly basis for two different subscription levels.

Online streaming music services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and Google Play Music All Access are fundamentally changing the way that our children’s musical tastes and musical influences are being shaped, which in turn will also have a profound effect on future music trends.

As our kids get older and start to dictate the sort of music they want to hear, the bands they want to see, or the music they want to play themselves, I think we are going to see some radically different musical directions being taken in the future.

Growing up, my exposure to music was limited to what I heard on the radio (usually TripleJ and 2MBS FM), the soundtracks to movies I watched, the records and CDs that my friends and I bought, and my parent’s record collection from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Now, my 15-year-old doesn’t really listen to the radio, or buy CDs. His ‘record’ collection is an ever-increasing playlist on Spotify: Liam’s Smooth Grooves. You would struggle to find any of the artists on that playlist in a local record store and most of the tracks would never have been played on Australian radio.

It’s true that his tastes aren’t mainstream – he’s into jazz and funk – but I’m not sure that he would have developed his taste in music to such an extent with the narrower set of influences that I had 20 years ago.

While there is some debate over the long-term viability of online streaming music services in their current form, particularly in terms of the amount of money that ends up in the hands of the artists themselves (see for example, Does Spotify Have A Future? in Lifehacker Australia last year), I’m glad my kids have a legitimate service they can use to listen to music and share it with their friends.

Whatever happens, I just hope that the vast and exciting world of music that has opened up for our kids through services like Spotify doesn’t disappear.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

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