Life: iPod

Some observations on why we listen to the music we listen to today*

The advent of digital music in the late 90s changed not only how we obtained our music or how we listened to our music, but it also changed why we choose the music we listen to today. It's not just the ability to pick singles from an album at your choosing, singles were available on 45s and cassettes long before the digital age, but it is what inspires us to pick those songs that has changed the distribution of music forever.

Movie soundtracks (not scores) don't just consist of songs that were used in the movie these days, but also songs "inspired" by the movie. 1995's Batman Forever soundtrack is a prime example as one of the pioneers of this form of distribution where in only one or two songs were actually used in the film, and one of those was probably played over the closing-credits. Some record companies use movie soundtracks to feature up and coming or little-known artists on their labels. Wind-Up Records' soundtrack album for 2003's Daredevil featured a couple of well-known artists (Moby and Rob Zombie), as well as up-and-comers like Nickelback, Saliva, Seether, Chevelle, and Hoobastank. It also featured Evanescence's breakout hit, "Bring Me to Life" which, like many of the songs on the album, was actually featured in the film. These type of soundtracks are a new way of distributing new music of little-known artists while making a profit at the same time without sending free samplers out to record stores and radio, hoping someone would ask what they were listening to and buy the artist's album.

Television has inspired a lot of my musical choices today. In 2003 the short-lived FOX TV-series, Keen Eddie (which I enjoyed immensily), introduced me to many new British artists (as well as Sienna Miller), so since there was no official soundtrack for the show (and much of the licensed music was replaced for the DVDs) I created my own soundtrack, hunting the internet and iTunes for clues to the songs that were featured during the show's very brief reign. Today, thanks to websites like tvshowmusic.com, I'm able to find music from my favorite shows, like CSI, Smallville, and Chuck, and add them to my playlists or create my own soundtracks without needing to wait for anything official to be released from the networks that air those programs. And, as much as I hate to admit it, MTV is still a music television station, using "Now Playing" features during many of their "reality" and scripted shows. I've added one or two songs to my own collection thanks to this feature. Amerian Idol is not only a platform for new artists, but also "older" artists. It just may be the new American Bandstand for music on television.

Being a guy, I'm a sucker for a pretty face prancing around in her underwear or a bikini. But Esquire.com's videos featuring Megan Fox (promoting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at the time) and Beau Garrett (promoting Tron: Legacy) weren't just a feast for the eyes, but the ears as well, introducing me to Chris Cornell's "Climbing Up the Walls" and "What Can I Do?" by The Black Belles. And, believe it or not, there have been times where I've listen to these songs and not thought of the ladies featured in the videos once!

Commercials have changed how we choose our music, too; they're not just for jingles anymore. Some ads, mainly for a network's own program, will feature a pop-up display in the corner of your screen that will display the name of the track and artist featured over the "inspiring" commerical. I think I picked up Nickelback's "Savin' Me" thanks to a Battlestar Gallactica commercial in this way. The Glitch Mob's "Animus Vox" is featured in this commerical for a digital camera:



I was actually introduced to The Glitch Mob thanks to a Tron: Legacy-related fan-vid, but I knew I had heard them somewhere before.

That's one of the new ways of sharing music on the internet; it's not just "Here's the latest Metallica album" anymore. Fan-Vids and FanMixes are brand new ways of not only distributing, but also of introducing listeners to new music. I was introduced to "Breathe Me" by Sia and Mirah's "Engine Heart" on one fan's Mass Effect inspired mix, which, it turns out, was also featured in the motion picture Love and Other Drugs. Heck, I've even purchased video game soundtracks, something I never thought I'd do five years ago! One other fan also found The Civil Wars' "Poison & Wine" a perfect match to go along with Jacob and Miranda's relationship in Mass Effect 2.



They also do a killer cover of "Billie Jean!" Check it out if you haven't already.

While broadcast radio's influence may seem to be less and less day by day, there are programs and sites like Pandora that help the listener listen to a select genre of their choosing, even daring to include the name of songs and artists! Satallite radio is good at that, too. The more choices, the less you have to change the channel.

Friends, radio, music, television... it's all changed in this burgeoning Digital Age and just may never be the same again.

How do YOU choose what you listen to?

*(Hopefully it might make sense.)
Things have really changed since the days when I found out about music through college radio and whatever was being covered in imported copies of NME or similar British music mags.

I noticed that over the past 10 years, television has been very influential in selling music. If it's not on a show, it's on a commercial. Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am" became a hit after it was in an Old Navy ad. I've bought a couple of songs myself after hearing them in ads. All you have to do is run a search on "Cadillac commercial song" or whatever and you'll find out what it is.

Another way I'm able to find music is to just scan what people are buying on iTunes.

I can't stand movie soundtracks packed with music "inspired" by the film, meaning they're just pop tracks slapped on there to help sales. I remember when I bought "Songs In The Key Of X" several years ago, I was really ticked that hardly any of the songs were actually on the show. At least I got Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" out of the bargain but otherwise it just seemed to me an opportunity to beg off some B-sides. Enya's "May It Be" from FOTR even got an Oscar nomination even though it was only heard during the credits, a time when I'm either in the ladies' room or in the parking lot. Either it figures in the movie or it's not part of it as far as I'm concerned.
Ahh! The Civil Wars! Joy Williams, who is the female singer in that, is one of my favorites! She used to be a Christian music artist, now she does her own independent stuff. I love her!