Much has been made over the last few year about the phenomenon of “binge watching” television shows through online streaming services. Personally, I never would have appreciated the brilliance of “The Shield” or “Damages” without my daily commute and easy access to the source material. Binge watching has been widely embraced throughout our culture, and aside from lack of sleep or temporary obsessions with Omar Little, there’s really no downside to binge watching.
It also appears that binge watching may have a positive effect on the viewership of current programs. “Breaking Bad” grew exponentially over the years precisely because people could catch-up between seasons after hearing the positive buzz.
Why can’t we do the same thing with music?
One of the challenges of the current music scene is that we’ve become a society of shallow listeners who consume singles instead of albums; music is everywhere so we take it for granted. Sales and charts don’t matter anymore, so only a few songs breakthrough the clutter and enter the collective consciousness. Record companies don’t support acts so they have no time to develop as artists. All in all, the cultural relevancy and importance of music has greatly receded in the digital age.
As an obsessive music fan it saddens me to see that music – outside of niche fan communities – doesn’t really seem to matter anymore. It’s a commodity, a disposable product to be consumed and forgotten.
But I think the answer is right on our beloved screens.
Even since signing up for the premium Spotify service I’ve found myself delving deep in the catalog of certain artists. Now, this started because I’m a little OCD and I like to do things in the proper order. But it turns out that binge listening has been eye (ear) opening experience.
Sure, I own all of the early Genesis LPs, but my collection is spread across CDs, cassettes and vinyl. What a revelation it is to listen through their whole discography, in order, and to hear the development of the band (well, “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” is missing for some reason.) To really listen to what Steve Hackett added or to appreciate how Phil Collins stepped up, or to realize how much more logical and gradual their transition from prog-rock to pop-rock was in the grand scheme of things.
Same thing happened to me with the mid-period Pink Floyd albums. As a kid I kind of started with “Meddle” and went from there. I never bothered with the post-Syd, pre-classic era for some reason. But there’s some great stuff there!
Obviously this idea could work with more than progressive rock. In fact, I think the idea applies to every genre, for both classic and current artists. Think of how fun it would be to listen to Taylor Swift evolve from an acoustic country singer-songwriter to a full-on pop star.
Music lovers, let’s make this happen. Let’s make “binge listening” a real thing in our culture. Let’s write articles that critique an artist’s entire career. Let’s pick an artist and binge-listen to their whole discography together over the course of a week and vote for our favorite albums and get into fights on message boards. Let’s make podcasts that discuss the entire scope of someone’s artistry.
Look, crazier fads have taken place in society. Let’s make a concerted effort to get people to think differently about music. Let’s inspire them to engage deeper. Let’s get artists a few more pennies through the streaming services. And maybe, just maybe, we can restore music’s importance in our lives.
Are you with me?