More or Less

Too Much Information

It goes horzontal, it doesn’t go deep. When you have 10,000 songs on your iPod, do you have one that really sticks in your heart for longer than two weeks? How about two years?” — Meryl Streep

This statement is worth thinking about for an afternoon. I don’t want to belabor the already overexposed point that the internet has led many to suffer from ‘information paralysis.’–All the information in the world at our fingertips, yet no one can focus on just one bit for more than a few seconds. Nothing gets done, but everything gets looked at.

On the one hand, all this technology creates a bloated excess of consumption. This fact is especially obvious in mp3s and the sheer amount that people own and download. But at the same time, this digital revolution offers the unique opportunity for music fans to streamline. To Simplify. To narrow Focus.

Look: you no longer have to own 9 shitty tracks for 1 good one. Buy the good, leave the rest. There’s no point in owning shit, or even mediocrity. Not anymore! This is something LPs, or even CDs, couldn’t offer. This ability to download only the good stuff should encourage artists to think long and hard about the albums they choose to release. The Art of the Album–track listings, liner notes, cover art–will shapeshift and writhe in the coming years, but it will be preserved so long as artists spend time making sure they don’t release crap.

You could get away with being a lazy band in the past–after all, a few hit singles were reason enough to shell out 15 bucks (at least!) for the whole album. The rest of the tracks didn’t need to be great, as many album-owners came to realize. Artists cannot hide behind the jewel case anymore.  Shite will float to the top and be skimmed by these newfound consumers and the iTunes 30-second preview.

This is another way that the digital revolution, and the downfall of traditional labels, has fueled artistry–it now behooves you to create amazing music, lest your album be pilfered through and left for dead while you wonder where your next meal comes from. Greatness will be rewarded now more than ever as the white-noise of MySpace collects the amateurs. After all, superficiality, by definition, stretches thin.

It goes horizontal, it doesn’t go deep. Don’t be horizontal, and for God’s sake don’t buy it.

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