In the last 2 years, mp3 players have become the must have gadget and every self-respecting teenager or fashion-concious adult owns one. This is, of course, mostly down to Apple’s iPods being the latest big trend, but this has had a massive effect on the music industry.
Most obviously, it has changed the way people listen to music. There is less emphasis on albums and more on individual tracks, as one of the benefits of downloading is that you can buy any single track by an artist, whether it has been released or not, without having to fork out for the whole album if you don’t want to. MP3 players also allow people to share their new musical discoveries by playing them to their friends, who then may become fans of the song or artist, reinstating the once old-fashioned idea of acts becoming popular through word of mouth.
The increasing popularity of mp3s has also changed the buying patterns of music. As I mentioned, people are buying more single songs and not just the released singles, which could lead to yet another change in the compilation of the UK charts, if they in future decide to allow any track released to download into the charts. Already we’ve seen many artists releasing singles to download before the CD release, which shows the importance of the download market and the increasing irrelevance of CD singles. It seems that CDs may soon be outdated, which is a shame since it wasn’t that long ago when cassettes were the format to buy music in, but this is a new generation of music fans and if we don’t let these changes happen we’ll soon be the moaning old fogeys we once laughed at!
I had my first mp3 player for my 15th birthday. It was 64mb with a 128mb memory card added, yet still it only held 40 songs. Even then it didn’t seem a lot, but the idea of carrying songs around with me wherever I went, yet not needing to carry the bulky walkman or discman and several cassettes or CDs, seemed too good to be true! I could even go for a run without it skipping, although it would probably be more likely for a pig to fly past my window than for me to run anywhere voluntarily. Just over a year later, I remember hearing more and more about this new gadget called an iPod. Thinking it would be the same as what I already had, yet far more expensive, I took little notice at first, until I found out that one 20gb iPod could hold several thousand songs, and suddenly I was wishing that my next birthday would bloody hurry up so I could get one!
I never did get an iPod, but when I survived my GCSEs my parents bought me a very similar invention called an iAudio. It does all the same things and despite lacking a few good features and not being quite so pretty, it does have some big advantages over the iPod, most notably the not needing to convert songs to any file other than mp3 to listen to them, as the iPod requires. There is also no need for iTunes – you can simply copy and paste songs from your hard drive directly onto the mp3 player when it’s connected to your computer. It’s so simple and it’s nice not to be a slave to Apple, yet I do sometimes feel sad at my mp3 player’s lack of pinkness.
The best thing about mp3 players for me is the amazing possibility of being able, without much effort at all, to listen to any song from your collection at any time. I can be at college, or out shopping, or on a bus, and suddenly I’ll have a desperate craving to hear a certain old Eurovision song or the new one by Darren Hayes, and within seconds I can be listening to it! It never fails to impress me and I hope it stays that way because it makes every day just that little bit more poptastic.