I was 12 years old when the first Songs From the Penalty Box compilation was released by Tooth and Nail Records. One year later SolidState Records released This is Solid State (not called ‘volume 1’ yet) which was the heaviest collection of music to have blasted by little ears at the time. It would be several years before I really appreciated that one. I was 14 years old when Screaming Giant Records put out their Pizza Compilation. None of those received nearly as much time under the Compact Disc laser as Cheapskates: The Harder Side, released in 2000 which filled my ears every day in my high school typing class, on my bike on the way to my summer job, in the back of the church van as we traveled to and fro for conferences and bowling parties. These were the years of rapid music discovery for me, and when I dug these old discs out of a box from my parents house last weekend I was surprised at the flood of nostalgia that hit me. I hope that something in that list brought a smile to your face as well.
I’ve been so frustrated with myself recently at my overwhelming desire to listen exclusively to early 2000’s Norma Jean records, despite the massive accessibility to wonderful music being created and distributed currently. The new Full of Hell record is great… but what about MXPX - Let it Happen; I know ALL the words. New Pelican rips I hear… but La Dispute’s Somewhere at the Bottom just fits the mood right now. I feel like my dad when one of my friends tries to sell a new band to me. Have you ever tried to get your parents to listen to a new band?
So much has changed since the roll-over of the millennium and it’s difficult to parse if my approach to new music has changed primarily because of changes within myself or changes to the world of music. The way that music is produced, distributed, and consumed has changed entirely in the past 2 decades, dare I say at a faster pace than ever before. But as music has changed, we humans have stayed relatively static. A study conducted by French streaming service Deezer caused a flurry of articles in 2018 reporting that we stop listening to new music at the age of 30 and a half. The study showed a variety of reasons for this such as people getting busy with their jobs and kids as well as being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that we have access to. What stands out to me is that people don’t identify a lack of interest as a reason they stop discovering new music. Through our formative years we become hardwired to feel good when we hear the music that we absorbed during that time. We built chemical pathways in our bodies that make us want to listen to those good old songs that helped us navigate our wildly emotional developmental years.
There are studies that also suggest it is good for our brains to continue to explore new music, it just takes some intentionality to overcome our programming. In addition to health benefits, working to bridge walls between generations by eliminating the trope of ‘music these days is just noise’ is also good for our communities. I feel like the old guy in the room when I ask some of the younger folks in our local scene what they’re listening to and who they want to see come through our area, but they appreciate the questions and effort to keep the whole DIY machine moving forward with the times rather than becoming stagnant with the bands that me and my friends have been booking and listening to for the past 10 years. Working to stay culturally aware and relevant isn’t as lame as it may initially feel.
Compilation CDs and burned mix CDs have been largely replaced by non-physical format playlists. Finding new music was more difficult ‘back in the day’, access is no longer a barrier. The burden of effort has shifted from finding music to sifting through the deluge of music we have access to in order to find what we really enjoy and identify with. There are good folks out there who are passionate about curating playlists. These are great people to get your eyes on and allow to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Sometimes it’s easier to engage with an artist that you have some personal relationship with. Another effective method is to use those personal connection artists as seeds and explore their influences and artists they share the stage with. In fact, let us help you:
Go forth and explore!