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The Ways We Listen to Music

Welcome to For Your Consideration, I am Nicholas La Torre and I am here to present relevant issues in music that are on my mind. I will present multiple sides of the issue for you to consider and ultimately we will try to gauge your thoughts on the issue. In today's talk, I'm taking a satirical look at the ways we listen to music and how they have changed over my years.

Despite my jokes and references toward my age, I'm not here to talk about my times of listening to music during the golden eras of albums. See, cassette tapes were all the rage when I was a kid, but were nearly on their way out shortly after I started listening. I know some people feel nostalgic remembering how they had to fast forward the other side of a tape to rewind the other side, or how they used a pencil to rewind when they were having issues, but cassette tapes were pretty much the most boring way to listen to music. With that being said, I'm going to talk about the timeline of music technology from my experience.

Cassette Tapes

This is where I cut my teeth. My first tape, Bon Jovi's Crossroads, was basically my main push into rock and roll. My older brother had Warren G's Regulate...G Funk Era album, which was the epitome of cool when I was young and has made a nice nostalgic comeback. I love when I hear "Regulate" playing in movies and tv shows these days. But tape just happened to be the way we had these albums. Over time, I realized that cassette tapes were generally a bit lame. Sure, they were cooler than 8 tracks, but vinyl was so much cooler than cassette tapes were. They would sometimes mess up and eat all of its own "tape" from inside and ruin an entire album. Plus, tape players were pretty lame. Unless you had some hi-fi system, they didn't sound particularly good. But one thing they did do is give us the ability to record over them. See, even if you had a tape that was not supposed to be recorded on, you could remove a little piece on the top and boom, recordable tape. That meant I was on the tail end of the mix tape era, pretty much the most defining moment of adolescence. You created mix tapes for your friends, your crushes, and just some for yourself to express the feelings you were afraid to talk about. These mix tapes were like our resumes for our emotions.

We expressed so many things through the different methods of recording our favorite songs to one complete tape. Everything was important. We had to choose the right opening song to really draw the other person in. Then, with the next few songs, we had to impress the other person with our knowledge of good music and our ability to say exactly what we are feeling through someone else's words. The closer had to be so powerful, they cry when they hear it. They must think back on times we had together or to a happy childhood memory.

Compact Discs

Next, came the promise of a better day. A disc, which would allow us to instantly fast forward to any track we wanted to hear. No more fast forwarding through four songs to get to the song we were looking for. All you had to do was hit the pretty little skip button. A button which was appropriately named after what would be the biggest issue to plague listening to CDs. The damn skipping. My first CD player was an RCA personal CD player that my brother and I got from Odd Lots in Logan, OH. I believe they were about $75-$80 back then. Despite being an early model, this thing sounded better than anything I had heard before. The only problem was the damn skipping.

On the school bus, I would have to hold my arm into some weird levitation scenario where any bump would be absorbed by the give in my elbow and lower body. I had to absorb any of the hits the bus had to offer, which was pretty hard considering many were made of gravel and had tree roots running through them. I was really into rap music at the time and everyone around me could hear it so any skip would have me feeling super embarrassed .This was before Sony released the Walkman (CD version) with that hardcore anti-skip setting. That thing could practically be thrown upside down and would still play. Being the cheapo I am, I would sometimes leave that setting off due to the decreased battery life. I couldn't go without my music on the bus.


Later came one of the better ways to listen to music. Of course, I had to go through all phases of the development of these, where you had tons of audio loss through compression or you downloaded garbage tracks. Sometimes they would have some idiot screaming at the beginning. Also, using the programs to get the music was like giving your computer the biggest sexually-transmitted infection every single time you dowloaded another song. I got in some trouble at my undergrad university for this and had to delete all my music. I'm not sure if they were really going to come after me, but they did some of my classmates. That was a weird time to be a fan of music. My favorite band was going after big proprietors in the business of taking music for nothing, but at the time, I felt like I was sticking it to the man.

After a while, things got a lot better. I could finally afford an iPod, which was amazing, but would annoy me incredibly today. I would load up my most recent batch of music every time I left so I could either jam out on the way to class or hook it up to my car. I always made sure I had a way to plug it into my car. Technology rocks!

Streaming Services

That brings us to the most recent way to listen to music. Apple Music and Spotify offer some pretty great deals on their services, which give you access to almost every song you can think of that you do not even have to download. It's great in the connected world we live in today, but would have been impossible growing up.

I love being able to search for a song on the go and can play it whenever I want without even having to take up my iCloud or phone storage. I know these services have hurt bands and I really dislike that issue. I will stand with the bands 1000% when it comes to helping anyway I can. I at least pay for the services, which I know at least some of it has to make it to the bands.


Even though I wasn't around for the original vinyl fever, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy them in their resurgence. I know some people cannot appreciate it and call it dinosaur technology, but I really do hear music differently when I am listening on vinyl. It's not that is sounds better in terms of frequencies or anything like that. I just feel like I can pull in the entire experience. My favorite album of all time is up for heavy debate, but one of the most enjoyable records for me to listen to is Neil Young's Harvest album. I didn't even really like Neil Young!

The music just seems smoother and less produced. You can hear the different tactics artists used to make sounds for when they did not have a large budget, but had really creative plans. Also, albums were made to be feature-length experiences. In order to make these individual tracks on other forms of media (CDs, MP3s) they have to remove some of the sounds artists used to segue into their next tracks. This was the result of a push from record companies to promote singles rather than a full album. They could maximize profits for each individual song rather than having to give it all away at once. Some artists scoffed at this (see Led Zeppelin), but others had to follow along. In the end, this changed the entire way we listen to music.

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