Does a podcast in of itself count as a portion of the Internet? I decided recently that I’m only going to go online during the morning before I go to work (at least as far as weekdays are concerned). I came to terms with the fact that I could have been getting addicted to surfing the net when I should have been trying to live something of a life—or at least get something productive done. I was spending too many hours after work watching videos online of other people playing video games or reviewing action figures from the eighties and none enough getting caught up on my reading, writing or actually getting outside. So came the decision to limit my Internet time to the hour or so I’m getting ready for work in the morning.
Then there’s things that I use the Internet to download. I’m still trying to catch up on back issues of magazine subscriptions. But I don’t tend to think of reading those as reading the Internet, regardless of whether or not my Kindle is online. Those magazines are getting written anyway for both print and electronic versions. The Internet is simply the tool I use to obtain the latter.
So why raise the question about podcasts? Isn’t it the same principle? When I think it through, yes. If I allow for one then there’s no reason I shouldn’t allow for the other. But as I was trying to play catch up on my podcasts yesterday (I’ve gotten behind on those as well) the thought crossed my mind that this might be cheating, listening to podcasts that I downloaded later. It still feels like I’m online. Podcasts could be thought of as the successors to radio. But they’re made for Internet users. Except for radio shows that were recorded and released online after they’ve aired, podcasts are made with digital distribution in mind. I don’t know how much this might affect the content—that would be the subject of a study bigger than my ranty little blog posts. It reminds me of David Byrne’s How Music Works. I suppose the same idea would apply.
By the way, I should point out that I’m not listening to podcasts on my phone like so many people do nowadays. I find it’s much easier to do it via an older method of downloading podcast episodes and then transferring them to my iPod, which is an older model that doesn’t have any Internet connection on its own.
Whatever I decide as to how I feel about the issue, it’s not going to affect my listening habits. If anything, I would come to the conclusion that my podcast addiction is separate from my YouTube addiction. But so far listening to podcasts on my way to and from work is a less obstructive habit than wasting time in front of a computer screen when I have too much real life to do.
While I was working on my novel earlier I threw on some music for background noise. Normally when I have music on when writing I try to choose something that will fit the mood of what I’m writing. The novel is a depressing sort of haunted-house story that’s taking a turn towards a psychological thriller so I would usually play some dark, depressing ambient or doom metal piece to write by. But for some reason tonight I wanted to jam out to classic rock. I picked Cheap Trick at first but it was too distracting. I ended up with the Queen album Sheer Heart Attack instead. I don’t know how that isn’t any more distracting but I was able to write with it. Still, a few thoughts occurred to me when listening to it.
The album has its share of hit singles that have appeared on countless “best of” compilations, such as “Stone Cold Crazy” and “Killer Queen.” But what struck me was how well they fit into the album that they were written for. As usual with Queen albums I like the non-single songs as much as I do the singles. But I found that when listening to the album all the way through I like the singles even more. They fit into place and I can appreciate them better when listening to the songs before and afterwards. Queen was especially good throughout the seventies with making entire albums that flowed seamlessly (unless the seam was something that the listener can tell was intentionally disrupted, such as “In the Lap of the Gods” leading to “Stone Cold Crazy”).
It has always been true that musicians have sometimes record songs intended to be hit singles with the rest of their albums having “fillers.” Yet with the digital age songs are specifically written for singles that are meant to be downloaded individually. This could lead to albums full of hit singles, sure, but with that the concept of those singles making up an “album” is vague at best. In some cases artists are releasing songs without making albums around them. I’m fine with songs that are recorded in this manner. They serve a purpose and it doesn’t make them any worse. But is the art of album-making going by the wayside as a result?
I seriously doubt that artists will forget that it is possible to create full artistic statements with collections of songs that flow together. Whether or not these will be released as “albums” or “EP’s” remains uncertain. If anything, in this already fragmented scene of niche markets a further division will appear between those that record collections of songs and those that don’t. People will be able to express themselves more freely without having to worry about what their record company tells them what an “album” is. Likewise, people will be able to sell pop songs at a faster rate without having to worry about the overhead and time spent on making full albums to sell to the kids. For listeners, it may be an interesting way to predict somebody’s personality when it comes to their music collection. Is somebody a music snob if their collection is mostly the more “artistic” collection of songs while somebody else is a sellout if their iPod is full of the hit singles?
This isn’t far into the future. I already see it starting to happen. But it’s not quite formulated yet. I predict that by the end of the next decade (if we don’t run out of electricity or bomb ourselves to oblivion by then) the market for CDs will be dominated by blanc discs that people will use to back-up their downloads. I love my local music store and they seem to be doing quite well but I see places like them gearing more towards used merchandise which will hopefully keep them going.