When I was a teenager I spent hundreds of hours in record stores, hearing new stuff and trying to decide on something to buy. Many times I wasn’t even purchasing anything, just listening, learning and absorbing stuff. I knew all the employees and regular customers. I’d flirt with girls that I would otherwise be too shy to talk to, except there I had music on my side. It didn’t matter how shitty life got, music always filled a void in me. I’d put on headphones and things were just a little bit brighter. It’s the reason I became a musician, with the hope that I, too, could eventually have that effect on someone.
Fifteen years later, I find myself looking at that time not only with nostalgia, but also a little bit of envy. It occurred to me that I no longer seek music in the same way, and hardly anyone I know does. Buying a record was a sacred thing at some point. It was the highlight of a month, and what I’d spend all my money on. I’d walk out with a brand new album and couldn’t wait to get home and listen to it, repeatedly. I’d wear it out, learn every possible thing about every song. I was proud of owning this. In a way, it represented who I was at the time. I don’t have that sense of ownership on music I listen to anymore, but I wonder if the magic is gone forever; if I’ll ever feel that passionate about an album again in a time where anything I could possibly want can be downloaded or streamed immediately.
During my 20s, as I was able to afford more things, I became kind of a record collector. I gave up CDs and was mainly into vinyl, because it was “the real thing.” I literally spent thousands of dollars on records. First pressings, Japanese editions… All kinds of weird, annoying shit only music snobs do. As I got a little older, though, I ended up selling all that stuff (as only broke music snobs reluctantly do.) I suddenly had adult things to deal with, and buying records became less important than, say, rent or food. But I’m not so certain adulthood and its evil fun-fighting ways were responsible for this.
I just don’t think we have that level of joy anymore. Even if it’s an album we love and we’re paying for it, the fact that it’s so accessible makes it less fun. Before file-sharing became a thing, you had to get the album, there was no other way. You had to truly look for something, it wouldn’t just fall into your hands, you were spending countless hours of your time trying to find new things; there was a real motivation, and when you did find some obscure shit you loved, there was no better feeling in the world. You had earned that album.
I’m not driven to find music anymore. I still listen to a lot of stuff, I download more than I can handle, and yet, I don’t have the same happy feeling about one thing. The availability and the practical side of a virtual album just simplified everything, but also cheapened something that was vital for me years ago. Music does not fill the void anymore.
And sure, I have other things in life to occupy that empty space nowadays. I’m a man in his 30s, and I’m aware there are more important things in life, and I don’t need a magic solution to cheer myself up when I can’t handle hard times. I just need to be in the present, and in the present, I got several pints of ice cream to push it all down.