Finding New Music Is Easy; Listening To It Is Hard.
I'll bet when you read that headline you thought, "Here we go again . . . Some old dude is going to bash on today's music."
In my 48 years, I've never said "There's no good new music these days." In fact, after 26 years in the music biz, I think I'm qualified to say that is an absurd and false statement (insomuch as one can quantify a relevant concept).
My point is that it isn't easy to keep finding great new music, especially as you get older.
It takes work.
What's It Like in the Real World?
This whole topic has been on my mind quite a bit during the past year. You see, it's the first year in my 26 in the Valley that I haven't been working in a brick-and-mortar record store. (I'm an online guy these days.)
In other words, my daily job description no longer includes playing new music for customers. Nowadays, I'm the only one in my work zone (which is basically anywhere). There's no obligation to play anything for anyone, including myself.
I'm like a music civilian now.
So not only do I suddenly have the option of making an entertainment choice other than music while I'm working . When I do listen to it, my choice of music is only to serve me. So the following question looms even larger:
Do I try something new or pull out something proven from my collection? Another way to put that might be: Should I push my boundaries or take the easy route?
They Just Like That Old-Time Rock 'n' Roll
It seems like a worthy question for everyone, although I suspect most people don't give it much thought.
For better or worse, most people have a very small window of discovery when it comes to music.
By "discovery," I don't mean songs -- people can find new songs accidentally through various social vehicles (radio, commercials, events, etc.) -- I mean artists, or albums, that will become part of your personal collection (traditional or digital).
By "window," I refer to both width and length. Most people's musical discovery window consists of their tween, teen, and young adult years, and it doesn't really let in a lot of music. This is especially true in the past, when there weren't as many ways to find it.
Then it seems that for most of us, regardless of the size of our window, it starts to shrink. Whatever music made it through is there forever, and whatever didn't, or hasn't yet, probably won't.
That's when "there's no good music these days" usually finds its way into their vocabulary.
Can I Get a Prescription for Low Musical Energy?
Why do you think this is, Record Store Geek?
My contention is that a good deal of it is due to musical laziness. It takes a lot of work and time to find great new music.
A guy might be a music nut and have a big ol' collection, like I do, or he may be Johnny Casual and own 20 albums. But at some point -- I'm gonna say for most people it's in their 30s -- we all confront ourselves with the question of whether or not we really need any more new stuff. Like I've done over the past year.
Most people, when they reach that point, answer, "Yeah, I'm good." The albums I own, and the songs that I already know, are good enough to get me to the finish line. They're familiar. I'm comfortable with them. They remind me of good times and good friends.
And instead of putting on something new and challenging their own status quo, they opt for the safety and nostalgia of the old stuff.
They take the easy route. They shut that window.
Side note: While discovery these days is a lot easier than it was before the Internet, (see: Kids Are Musically Spoiled Rotten), it's my prediction that they'll have the same middle-aged window-closing phase, digital or analog.
Welcome to My Brain, New Friends.
That's okay for them. Shut 'er down. We all have a right to whatever makes us musically happy.
But not for me.
I'm willing to do the work, because for me, finding a great new album (or artist) is still like finding a new friend. When an album crosses that line between "something I might like" to "that's a great album," I feel as if I've expanded my own personal creative world a little.
But just like in real life, only a small percentage of acquaintances actually become good friends. And you never know how long you have to hang out with them before you realize that you love their true nature. You have to spend the time to get to know them.
Ya might say you have to work at it.
It Seems I Can Never Retire From This Job
And like I said, that ain't always easy as you get older.
Just like it's tougher to get off the couch to meet new actual friends, you're going to have to work harder to put on or dial up or click on music that's out of your comfort zone.
But it's worth it, in my book. Every new album adds another worthwhile quality to your collection -- a quirky and unique personality in your stable of aural friends.
So just like I'll never stop accepting and cultivating new friendships, it seems that whether I'm in a record store or not, whatever decade of my life I'm in, there's always going to be an endless amount of room in my brain for new music.
You could say I need new music.
So I guess I'll just keep working on it.
Seven Albums I'm Currently "Working" On.
Jason Isbell - Southeastern Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God Son Volt - Honky Tonk Flaming Lips - The Terror Junip - Junip James Hunter Six - Minute by Minute Iron and Wine - Ghost on Ghost
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.