The digitalization of music has impacted the world in so many ways. Oluchukwu Nwaibuikwu narrates his personal experience with this innovation and its influence on his life.
Last year, I held a vinyl record for the first time. I have held cassettes and used CDs at various times, but the only time I had seen vinyl till then was on TV.
I grew up in a household that loved music, and there were always sounds around during my childhood. The only problem was that there was no variety. It was the 2000s, and my parents were pastors. So, while I had a steady supply of Donnie McClurkin, Don Moen, and Kirk Franklin, I missed out on all the 50 Cent, Usher, and Lil Wayne. This continued to my adolescence, and the only time I heard “secular music” was when I overheard these songs on the radio or when those roadside music shops blasted them. I never experienced holding Wizkid’s ‘Superstar’ album or M.I’s ’Talk About It’. My real music journey started in 2015: my last year of secondary school and my first year of University. I had the internet and slowly caught up with music through illegal downloading sites and then streaming sites like Spotify and Soundcloud.
This article is about the digitalization of music. More importantly, it is an article in support of music digitalization. Why? Because it saved my life.
The number one advantage of digital music is the portability. Our generation is obsessed with reducing everything into the smallest possible form; for ease of movement and aesthetics, and of course, music is part of it. No one needs to carry a boombox on their shoulders anymore; our music is on our phones, iPads, laptops, etc. It is available anywhere, anytime. And in a world filled with so much stress and disappointment, it is essential that we are close to the sounds we hold dear; the artistes singing the things we want to say but cannot find the words to do so.
The next best thing about digital music is the variety; for fans and artistes. Musicians like Santi, Odunsi, and, more recently, Lil Nas X have all been able to spread their music far and wide via the internet. The advent of streaming websites and applications like Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, etc., has pushed new artistes to audiences they would have never dreamed of getting. Due to various periodical playlists, we can find new artistes and discover tastes in music that we never thought was possible to have. For example, I did not know I could ever like Russian rap, but as I write this, Pasha Flesh and Mc Nefa are blasting through my earphones. There is a whole world out there with beautiful, fun tunes waiting for you in Spotify playlists, waiting for you to discover them and be amazed.
I guess digital music does have its bad sides, like piracy, for example. At one point or the other, we have all been guilty of illegal downloads and ripping off our favorite musicians. But then again, CDs were pirated. Heck, even books are pirated. While it is a problem that should be dealt with, it is general and not particular to music. Another downside is that artistes are paid less for streams than physical copies. Artistes like Taylor Swift have publicly condemned streaming sites because of what they consider an undervaluation of their art. Lower royalties are probably due to the fact that not all sites have a direct per song payout. Spotify, for example, allows users who are not subscribers to listen to an album for free with little interruption from ads. With no actual cash being paid by such users, the company cannot afford to pay artistes as much as they should.
Finally, and maybe more important to most of you reading this, data is expensive, and with a large appetite for music, a large amount of data is consumed. In a country like Nigeria, where almost everyone is trying to save a little money, it is a huge drawback.
But really, these disadvantages do not hold much weight as the benefits and possibilities are far too great to be stopped by piracy and data. Music is almost as important as air; we will find a way.
Last year, I held a vinyl record for the first time. I have held cassettes and used CDs at various times, but the only time I had seen vinyl was on TV. And although I understood and appreciated the feel of history in my hand, what struck me the most was the realization that it just was not important anymore. A collector’s item, sure. But its relevance has constantly been reduced by the latest innovations and additions in digital music. The digitalization of music is not a phase; it is here to stay.