Video didn’t kill the radio star
Willoughby Thom | Thursday, October 29, 2020
The way in which we listen to music has changed dramatically. It has developed from a physical, tangible experience into one based on accessibility and convenience.
With the streaming revolution, people have ignored the act of listening to music and focused on music’s accessibility. We have become so accustomed to pushing a button and letting an algorithm choose the music; we have succumbed to modern mindlessness through the act of clicking a virtual button and listening without deep consideration of who or what we want to listen to. This accessibility has proven our disconnection with not only music but also with our present, yet we still strive to reclaim what we once had in the past.
Spotify, one of the most popular streaming services, is an influential platform. It suggests new bands for you based on your listening history, promotes top artists who you may be interested in and creates playlists that are only made of popular songs. Indeed, Spotify makes listening to music easier, but the push of a digital button is an example of the lack of intentionality with music today. The physical flipping of the record to the next side or rolling back the tape creates a physical connection with something that is intangible. Streaming is simply enhancing the unreal.
However, even with our habitual use of music streaming services, society still wants to hold onto the past. People have been collecting records, tapes and CDs with passion, and they take pride in their collections — I am one of those people. Records, preferably, force listeners to experience music. I believe records are the only way music should be listened to, other than live music, because it unifies the mind and body. Vinyl makes the listener experience the album in its entirety and in the order it was intended to be listened to, and it requires individuals to consciously flip to the next side. The act of hearing each song (even if you don’t like each song) and physically interacting with music creates an emotional and spiritual attachment, which is lost through streaming. It also provides a tangible, visual experience by providing record holders with pieces of art: the cover, the sleeve and the record itself.
Despite letting the algorithm take hold of our subconscious, society has somehow preserved radio. I would consider radio broadcasting a somewhat archaic form of media considering it’s not personalized or directly tailored to one’s likes and dislikes, leaving the choices up to the person behind the microphone. Yet, even with humanity’s fleeting attention and constant desire to be removed from the present, we have been able to preserve live radio broadcasting.
With all these considerations, sophomore Owen Gannon and I try to promote these ideas in our radio show MAX & NIGEL on Notre Dame’s premier student radio station WVFI. My co-host and I strive to preserve and foster the spirit of old-school radio while using modern-day technology to share our passion for music with our listeners. Our goal is to pay homage to our favorite DJs of the past and create a new appreciation for music through broadcasting music solely from vinyl.
Instead of sitting in the studio on our computers with a curated Spotify playlist, our show is spontaneous and purely authentic. It’s a challenge — we can see why humanity would want music to be more readily accessibly — but this challenge of dropping the needle in the right location, timing transitions between turntables and making sure we have enough songs to fill an hour has forced us to be intentional with the music in which we play.
Most importantly, our constant interaction with the records has sparked a deeper appreciation for the music we love and has developed a unique experience that allows us to be fully present in the moment with not only each other but also with the music we love. We hope through MAX & NIGEL we can inspire people to develop a deeper connection to music, promote a greater experience with music, encourage listeners to not be afraid to mix genres and to reach beyond the mainstream music that controls the air-waves today.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.