How we listen: An overview of how we listen to music in the modern age

In October 2001 the world changed forever. This change may not have been widely noticed, but it has dramatically changed the way we interact with the world of audio and music.

The way we listen changed with the release of the first generation iPod.

The radio, the Walkman, and now a device that allowed its user to take it anywhere invited the listener to a world of possibility.

No other music player had ever boasted the mantra, “1,000 songs in your pocket”.

But this small product, released by Apple, was only the first wave in the dramatic storm that was getting ready to smash the recording industry, and music consumers alike.

According to Apple’s press info, in April 2003, iTunes went live and sold one million songs within their first week.

According to Apple, by 2006, iTunes sold its billionth song, proving that iPod had revolutionized the listening experience, and created a consumer demand like no other product before it.

The iPhone arrived in 2007 and offered the capabilities of an iPod, phone and computer in one devise.

As the iPhone gained popularity, and with the release of Spotify in 2011, the waves of change continue as products became cheaper and more diverse.

With a unique canvas and opportunities, the music industry continues to grow — as does a unique story.

This is the first installment of “How we listen”, a series that will endeavor to uncover the complexity of modern music and how consumers play into the equation.

This brief timeline is only a glimpse at the story of a generation that came to age inundated with music mobility.

Music is often seen as a business in America. However, the growing impact of a personable approach, where the artist adds more to the artistic process, adds a dimension of complexity.

In contrast to the dominating figures in the music producing industry stand individual musicians who are making a name for themselves, both locally, and nationally.

Even the local music presence is thriving more than ever — artists from anywhere can reach a crowd thanks to music sharing sites like Youtube. The world is becoming smaller and artists are more approachable due to social media.

The way we listen to music is evolving rapidly, and in hopes to discover that process,  “How we listen” will break down and analyze the different aspects of the listening experience.

Music shapes a culture and the way we consume that music is vital to translating culture.

Damon of Athens, understood the impact of music on a culture. According to, Carnes Lord’s, On Damon and Music Education, Damon was a musicologist during the time of Plato, and Plato borrowed some of his ideas in his book, Republic.

“Give me the songs of a nation, and it does not matter who writes its laws,” he said. This has been quoted by many throughout history because it illustrates a strong truth.

Damon was not demeaning the importance of laws or government, rather he was highlighting the importance that music plays in a society.

Yes, laws govern the land but what truly reflects the ideas of generation is the music they listen to and the lyrics they write.

Over the semester, “How we listen” will uncover this very idea. Topics for “How we listen” will include national trends, local music culture, consumerism, the effects of streaming, ethics, history, experience and digital transformation in music.

Examining these topics will hopefully illustrate the aspects of music that frame our everyday lives.

What is more relatable than music?

It’s not just the type of music we listen to. It’s how we listen.