Opinion: Music evolution (featuring Kid Cudi)



Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman is a sophomore English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

We live in an age when music is readily accessible. Not only are people able to download a song at the push of a button, but the artist and fans interact like never before thanks to social media.

Until the late 19th century, the only way to hear music was if it was being performed in front of you. When Thomas Edison perfected the recording and playback process, he opened a new door.

Vinyl records were the main mode of audio production for a while. Records have a romantic quality, with their pops, snaps and fuzziness. They’re also bittersweet because with every listen the quality deteriorates, the trade-off of the analog recording process. But dropping the needle on the record, holding the sleeve and hearing all the imperfections in the recording transports me to the past.

I did make the mistake of purchasing a modern album on vinyl. The quality seemed lacking. It was a greatest-hits album, and I had most of the songs in digital already, so hearing them in a bastardized analog format didn’t gel. They shouldn’t produce music today on vinyl if it was made digitally. It detracts from the way it’s intended to be heard. Records back in the day could only be pressed on vinyl; it was the apex of the recording process at the time. Artists worked with what they had; they never considered that one day their music would be converted into digital. Remastering from analog to digital is fine, as long as it’s done right and the music retains its integrity. It’s not as pure as the original, but it’s close, and it eliminates the quality deterioration. However, converting digitally produced music into an analog-based format is a crime against humanity.

After vinyl came the eight-track, cassette and compact disc. Cassettes, for the most part, are extinct; eight-tracks assuredly are. Some stores may still sell blank cassettes for those who still want to make reel (that’s a pun) mixtapes, but no one’s distributing new music in this manner. CDs are an endangered species, competing with widespread distribution digitally on the Internet, legally and illegally. Nowadays it seems CDs are produced out of habit. It’s bizarre to think buying a CD is old-fashioned, but it’s true. I’ll buy a CD in support of a band I love and actually want to give my money to, like the Foo Fighters, but otherwise, I download music.

Online distribution made music more accessible. People download as much as their hearts desire without the limitations of their wallets. This allows them to hear great music they otherwise wouldn’t. However, this is illegal and costly if you’re caught and tried in court. Though record companies and artists might not like their music being downloaded for free, it allows for broader exposure and grows their fan base, making it likelier these offenders will see a live show and make a purchase in the future.

While technology may make it easier to break the law, it also permits artists to interact with fans in ways that used to be unimaginable. This past Friday, rapper Kid Cudi released a single via Twitter. Cudi was replying to fans and retweeting them for hours. He thanked them for their love and support and sent some back their way. If someone you admired took the time to read a few sentences you wrote — among the thousands of messages they got — and responded, you’d be excited. You wouldn’t even have expected them to see, let alone respond, and when you got the notification that they mentioned you, you’d be filled with joy. Things like that show Cudi cares about his fans, and that deepens your love for the man. His interaction gives you the sense he’s a person like everyone else — except he also happens to make great music.

It’s astonishing that music from an artist as big as Cudi can be released on the Internet where the world can access it for no cost. Music can be recorded one minute, and the very next it can be uploaded and enjoyed by millions. There are no limits on accessibility. Fans used to wait for months to get news about artists by reading magazines or watching MTV.

Artists would put out a new album every year or two, and you were forced to wait for it without a shred of evidence of its existence, lucky just to know the name of the thing before you held it in your hands. Nowadays, we’re constantly up-to-date.

The Internet changed music forever. It makes it easier for artists to get their name out, for people to discover music they normally wouldn’t have, and it’s the great equalizer: it gives the music back to the people. It’s the reason for Justin Bieber’s success, but we’ll let that slide — just this once.