When was the last time you sat down and just… listened? That's the questioned asked by Hypebot contributor Hisham Dahud. The answer for most of us has grave implications for artists and the entire music industry in the streaming era.
By independent music professional, educator and Hypebot contributor Hisham Dahud.
The biggest challenge for music right now isn’t trying to figure out how to pay artists more per stream.
It’s finding new ways to get the public at large to care about music again.
Reducing the time music spends supplementing our lives, and increasing how much time it is a part of it.
Streaming, playlists, social media, mobile technology — all of which have advanced the exposure of more music to more people — have also relegated it to (mostly) background noise in our day-to-day lives.
When was the last time you sat down and just… listened?
Think about it - we the masses no longer utilize devices that specifically deliver us music experiences. As a result, we no longer give music undivided attention.
Now, let me to be clear: having apps like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. is simply awesome. Having this level of accessibility would've appeared like some distant utopian world just a decade or two ago.
But they're just that... apps. One of many on your phone - usually pushed to the background once music is selected, allowing for social media browsing, chatting, or other mobile experiences.
Tape players, CD players, record players... these all did one thing, and one thing only: play music. As a result, we often looked toward the packaging of music to tell the rest of the story.
Our attention was focused. It isn't anymore, and hasn't been for some time.
SIDE NOTE: One exception that comes to mind? YouTube. When we watch a music or music related video, the YouTube player dominates the experience - especially on mobile. But even then, that video is just one of the dozens presented in front of you to continue watching on the platform.
What I'm talking about is simple, dedicated, and focused listening. Nothing else, selecting music with intent and just... listening.
Look, I’m just as guilty as anyone... but this morning, I tried something. I woke up early to specifically to sit down, close my eyes, and listen.
I listened to a piece of music that I’ve heard dozens of times (this beautiful piece from Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds), but I can truthfully say that I heard it in a whole new way.
Sounds I didn’t recognize before, emotions I’d not yet felt - and perhaps most importantly - meaning I was only able to interpret through focused listening of the material and the artist’s message.
When an artist creates, they give their work undivided attention.
It’s amazing what happens when we do the same.
Of course music means different things to different people, but perhaps it’s all in the presentation?
Maybe we the masses could benefit from having music RE-introduced to our lives — this time, let us see the value in dedicated listening, art, interpretation, craft and meaning as opposed to convenience and accessibility.
Maybe then the relationship between artists and the audience can deepen through added and guided context.
Maybe then, casual listeners can turn into dedicated fans once they’ve interpreted something of more inherent value. This naturally leads to increased profits for the artists in all the other usual ways — reliant on streaming services merely as the delivery vehicle of the audio component.
Music discovery is just the first step of a much larger, more involved process known as artist discovery.
**more on that later**
I don’t have the answers on exactly how and what we do (I’m working on it)… but I am starting with why.
Agree? Disagree? Having a different perspective is welcome. Continue the conversation in the comments, or on Twitter: @HishamDahud
Hisham Dahud is an independent music professional and educator based in Los Angeles.