Is Radio Dead?
As February grips the country tighter in its cold, wet hands, one’s thoughts might turn to the question of entertainment on these dark winter nights. Certainly, at this time of year everyone wants to feel warm and snug, to feel that satisfying sense of cosiness and homeliness that sheltering from a winter evening might engender. And what with the abundance of media and the internet that makes us feel at home, amongst the copious quantities of TV shows, social media, online digital resources of music and film that exist, what feeling could be easier to procure?
To my ears, there is something oddly hollow about the smooth whisper of a Spotify playlist or the bright, inviting realms of Youtube. When the night draws in, finding solace in the empty, ethereal space of the internet seems almost fake. When combatting something as raw and bitter as a cold unpleasant day, why do we so often gravitate towards a screen? The unkind white light of a laptop or the click of a mouse seems weirdly alien to our innate search for comfort during the winter season.
It seems a shame that the physicality of music has become so antiquated. Aside from the surge of vinyl-playing, indie-kid comebacks, who really experiences music as an actual thing anymore? The modern art of online listening has killed decades-old traditions of playing music. Part of the comfort of music to me is similar to that of cooking a hot meal – the preparation, the routine of it, the knowledge that the end result will be something I really enjoy. So it is with a lovingly acquired record, a CD collection, tuning in to a favoured radio station. We have so much choice at the click of a button, yet at the same time we’ve lost so much. So different was the experience of clustering around the radio, 50s style, to today’s generation of young listeners who each sit in their own sterile world, sharing music only through links to soundcloud or Youtube URLS.
Of course, there are many people who still treasure records, who buy CDs, who enjoy the patter of the radio. But in a world where entire discographies are just a torrent away, I feel like these people are becoming numbered, either pigeonholed as impractical hipsters or dismissed as old-fashioned and obsolete. Even in the car, the infallible nest of radio culture, it is increasingly common to see iPod docks and Bluetooth speakers. It seems to me that the customs of shared listening are gradually dying a death as an increasing hunger for an instantly-gratified, consumer-driven society grows. When you can listen to anything simply by clicking a finger, why would you settle for less? Physical forms of music, CDs and records that can be lent, borrowed, passed around and used, are becoming estranged from the individualistic attitude to music that has pervaded the modern world. The problem isn’t with the music. The problem is we want it all.