I’m in the preparation stage for writing my best albums of the decade post(s). Its quite a daunting task, because there is a LOT of music from the zeros(or whatever we’re calling this decade) in my music collection – more so than any other decade. Part of it is because not every album I’ve owned from previous decades is in a playable format; many of my CDs have been lost or damaged, and I really don’t have many cassette tapes left. Part of it is because I have more disposable income, and thus tend to buy more albums. But part of it is simply there is more accessibility to music this decade than there has been in past decades.
I remember in 2001, as a third year student at PSU, I discovered MP3.com. With a few searches, I was able to find so many artists. These artists did not necessarily have a label, or in some cases, even an album, but they had mp3s up for grabs. I still listen to many of these mp3s today, though I’ve lost a few in the inevitable switching from one computer to another. Adding to the online accessibility equation, there was (and is), of course, the wave of P2P applications that have made it easier to find music; Napster, Kazaa, Soulseek, and Bit torrent clients have all found their ways onto my hard drive over the last ten years. And of course payed services such as Itunes and Emusic have played a part in my musical consumption. Its so much easier to read an album review at midnight in my pajamas, listen to a thirty second snippet of a song, and then download said song – perhaps even the entire album, than it is to read said review and wait till the next day to go to the record store. That is assuming that one remembers to do so.
But websites, P2Ps, and online music stores are not the only thing that’s made music more accessible in the last ten years; podcasts and Internet radio have played a vital role in finding new music as well. No longer are we a slave to whatever crap our local stations insist on playing. If we don’t like what the Portland stations are playing, we can check out what Seattle or New York or Los Angeles or Denver or London or Singapore and etcetera is playing. We can listen to almost any radio station in the world now. And of course, there are podcasts from both professional DJs, and amateur DJs from all over the world. Its fairly common for me to listen to a podcast and end up downloading a quarter of the songs played on said podcast.
While accessibility has played a major part in the music of the last decade, there are simply more bands producing music right now. Any garage band can record their music and upload it to the Internet without having to have a record company. And sure, record companies help, but they’re not necessary. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah produced and distributed their first album without the help of a record company. This could not have happened before this decade. Sure, the early 90s saw a surge of garage bands make it big, and everyone started wondering how to find these garage bands – but that was the problem, no one knew where to look because these garage bands, if they were able to afford to make a recording, could only afford to make a limited number of CDs. Its just easier to market yourself online, then it is to play a dozen or so shows around the city and hope that you develop a following.
It truly has been a noteworthy decade as far as music is concerned. It makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring. Some of my favorite artists did not exist until this decade. Other bands that I’ve loved all through the 90s, and even into the 80s, decided to call it quits in the zeros. What bands will emerge in the teens, and what bands will call it quits? What technologies will emerge? What technologies will become obsolete? In ten years will we mock the Ipod like we mock the cassette tape now? And will my musical tastes be different in 2019? They certainly are not the same as they were in 1999. Only time will tell on any of these questions, but I suspect the teens will show us all a lot of music. Look out for my top albums of the zeros in a week or so, as well as one or two other best of the decade lists.