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Friday, June 4, 2010

Kids and Music - Less Social Than We Were?

Boy listening to music with cell phone
Sure they can download tunes, but do today's teens really appreciate the social aspects of listening to music?

I mean, I can remember my friends and I crowded into my bedroom listening to one album after another - Babe Ruth, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, early Bowie - and about 400 other superb pieces of vinyl (which now reside in my basement).

It was a chance for us to talk about school and life, who made the cover of the latest Cream or Circus magazine, and album reviews we'd heard or seen. It was nothing if not intensely social.

Now, I spot kids hiding between their earbuds in just about every imaginable circumstance. One evening I pointed this out to my 18-year-old along with the observation that his generation is more solitary than social when it comes to music consumption.

"I don't know," said my big guy. "We still listen to CD's when we're all in the car together." He then pointed out that if someone is listening to something good, they'll share a pair of earbuds. "We bring our iPods, mp3 players, USB drives - even our hard drives - to our friends' houses to share music," he said. "Plus, we still go to concerts together."

So it made me think.

My generation didn't have the chance to consume our music absolutely anywhere we felt like it. But if it had, would we have been more solitary or more social about music than kids today?


  1. Interesting question, Raman. I think there has always been a time for socialization and a time for being alone with one's thoughts. I have heard someone argue that our new age is decreasing the desire for 'solitariness'(I'll have to find that reference). I think people are inherently social, however, kids share music in different ways - sharing earbuds to listen, doing what we did - going to concerts, discussing the latest releases. Back in my day, I knew many (myself included) who went into the basement and cranked the tunes - a solitary event, only thing is we couldn't carry our record players with us - maybe we would have if we could?

  2. You're right that people are inherently social, Mike. I guess I haven't been noticing enough of that with respect to teens and music.

    When I was young, most of my music was consumed in my room, with my big stereo - often with my friends.

    LPs gave you something tangible to handle. One could argue that CDs do the same thing these days. But they're on their way out. So rummaging through stacks of CDs might not be possible a few years from now.

    And you certainly can't gather a half dozen kids in a room to listen to an mp3 player without it becoming a clumsy exercise. The scale is too small.

    On the other hand, I can see them sitting in a living room or bedroom, passing around - even gathering around - an iPad to create a playlist, then plugging into a sound system to pump out the tunes.

    Maybe the iPad's form factor itself will aid in bringing back the notion of sitting in the same room together to listen to music.