Music and how it’s listened to have both steadily morphed over the years. This sample essay discusses digital music, listening to music, and exactly how college students are enjoying their music these days and is available as part of the custom writing services offered by Ultius.
College students and music
College students have all kinds of options for listening to music these days:
- Streaming services on the Internet
- Designer playlists created from their own musical libraries, digital downloads or based on music they have listened to before
- Curated playlists picked by people who work at Amazon Music or another online music streaming service
- The radio (including live streaming radio stations which are much more prolific than they used to be)
- Purchased music on vinyl or CD from actual record stores
- Whatever they find lying around their parents’ houses or computers
- Live music at a venue
That said, PCMag noted that streaming services are by far the top-rated music listening method by college students and other adults – it called the current surge of vinyl sales “a drop in the bucket,” and noted that CD sales “are on the decline” (Wilson). Let’s take a look at the various methods of music-listening popular today and compare them!
Music streaming subscription internet services
Free Services: Spotify and SlackerRadio
There are many popular streaming music subscription services, and some of them are free – at least until you think of that one song that you absolutely must add to a friend’s playlist right now and it’s not available unless you pay for the upgrade.
- Spotify–According to Pocket-lint.com, Spotify is fantastic because you can play any previously created playlist or artist’s catalog and create your own playlists for free on your mobile phone. On a desktop or tablet, you can also play any song on-demand – so when you just have to hear it, you can (Pocket-lint). But you can’t download it and listen to it offline unless you buy Spotify Premium, which also filters out the ads and gives you higher quality audio (Pocket-lint). Also, provided in premium subscription level is the ability to share music and playlists and listen to the handpicked radio feature songs (Pocket-lint). Subscriptions to Spotify will run you $9.99 per month, and it also features collaborative playlists (make playlists with your friends for that party on Saturday); cross-fading for slicker-sounding music tracks, and millions of songs to choose from (Wilson). Some drawbacks to Spotify are that high-profile musicians like Taylor Swift and Adele are not on it due to the service’s refusal to pay high streaming royalties (Wilson) and that the site has been susceptible to hackers in the past.
- Slacker Radio–is also a free service, and a subscription is only $3.99 per month (Wilson). This service won the PCMag Editor’s Choice award, and began as a “human-curated” alternative to services like Pandora, which take the music you listen to and suggest different songs according to what it perceives as your taste in tunes (Wilson). Slacker Radio also includes newscasts, weather updates, live ESPN channels, and themed stations.
Subscription Services: Tidal, Amazon, and SiriusXM.
Subscription services offer great variety and accessibility to music at a reasonable price. These services have done much to curb the rampant digital piracy that was so prevalent in the early 2000s.
- Tidal will have Taylor Swift songs, if that’s what you’re into – and Adele. Tidal is $19.99 per month, and if you can take a lot of overblown Jay-Z commentary, it may be the service for you (Wilson). Tidal’s drawbacks include the inability to play some tracks on-demand – they may only be available on a themed channel, for instance (kind of like Amazon’s new media blitz of subscription movies and TV shows – you can only watch them if you pay for the individual channel subscription) (Wilson). Tidal’s setup isn’t all that intuitive – it can take some doing to find out where the music you want to hear is on the service, according to Wilson. (Tidal does have the most exclusive music releases, however.)
- Amazon Music has the advantage of a vast library of music, curated and music-choice-based playlists, and out-the-gate brand recognition. For people who don’t have the time to sit around making stellar playlists all day, Amazon is a good option. It has a seemingly bottomless list of possible radio stations, and can also put together an automatic list based on your owned music library or the music you’ve recently downloaded. This last option is fantastic, because it keeps the new playlist from including that track you listened to with your ex-boyfriend all the time before you broke up.
- Sirius XM was once two separate Internet radio subscription services that were installed in new cars for a while (ask your parents about this one – they might remember that); in order to avoid all-out war, Sirius and XM merged (Wilson). At $14.99 a month, it won’t break the bank and it has fantastic talk comedy, news, and music channels that a subscriber can listen to without ads – it’s almost like YouTube channels, because much of the content is live (Wilson).
Obsolete Services: Last.fm and Pandora. According to Wilson of PCMag, these two services are irrelevant now because they don’t offer the much more dynamic music-listening abilities of today’s streaming subscription services. Although the music genome project did start with these two services, like all good things they must come to an end as technology and new ideas light the way for more efficient and lucrative music streaming platforms.
Actual radio (FM radio) and internet radio stations
Listen to them or not, there are still actual radio stations, that aren’t satellite or internet based, that you can listen to without plugging your iPhone or android into that convenient little jack on your console – most of them have a sickening amount of ads per hour, and sometimes it seems like they are all owned by Clear Channel, iHeartMedia, or GoodRadio – thus the repetitive playlists and lack of new music or musical diversity on most of them. Pirate radio stations are popping up more frequently, though, so make sure you flip through your radio stations on that next road trip through a different state – in Arizona and New Mexico you can pick up American Indian stations with haunting and powerful music. Internet radio stations are one of the easiest things to create these days, and there are stations curated by humans everywhere on the Internet – spanning every type of musical category conceivable.
One of the oldest is SomaFM out of San Francisco – the radio station started as an EDM streaming music website and has evolved over the years to include good sh!t-kickin’ country music, a silence station, indie-pop, underground 80’s, 70’s California music, Desi-influenced Asian world beats, a modern and back-in-the-day folk music station, one of the best “alternative” radio stations ever created, a vinyl-based soul station, a metal station, and a station just for covers. SomaFM is supported by listeners and has always been since its 2000 inception – a monthly subscription is $4.20, but the service is completely free (SomaFM).
The great thing about Internet radio stations is that they don’t have to be local – college students can listen to radio stations from any part of the world at any time. According to The Telegraph UK, some of the best are:
- CKUT–A Montreal-based station which founded the WeFunk radio show, dedicated to soul, funk, and hip-hop – the show is broadcast live every Friday and has a dedicated station: www.wefunkradio.com. The station also includes off-the-grid jazz, ska, punk, folk, and metal which can be streamed from their website.
- Kool 97 FM–A broadcast from Kingston, Jamaica and features Lee Scratch Perry, Peter Tosh, Chronixx, and Protoje – at least half of the music it plays is promised to be reggae (Telegraph UK).
- TRP–A Toronto-based independent station that won Best Online Station in the U.S. and Canada at the International Radio Festival in 2015 (Telegraph UK). The show allows DJs “complete creative control” and its website allows streaming of recent episodes – a highlight is Amen Brother’s Afrobeats (Telegraph UK).
- Radio DePaul–Out of Chicago’s university of the same name has Skaficionados on Saturdays and the Cabochon Jazz Radio on Sundays (Telegraph UK).
- XRAY.fm–An Oregon-based station started by Kickstarter that is growing rapidly in popularity due to its diverse programming and easy-to-navigate website.
- Berlin Community Radio— Berlin’s Community Radio has a “strict no-playlisting policy” means that the same song is rarely played twice and 100+ different shows from old school house to English literature readings (Telegraph UK).
- MixRadio–MixRadio is just that – a good mix that you can get going with a single click (Telegraph UK).
In the states, stations like WWOZ out of New Orleans, Austin’s KUTX, and L.A.’s Dublab are excellent choices, as well. Abroad, London’s Resonance FM, Sydney’s Bondi Beach Radio, India’s Planet Radio City; Zug’s Otto’s Opera House, and France’s Pedro Basement Broadcast are all available for a little trip around the world.
Currently millennials are creating an appreciation for “found music”. Found music can mean music found:
- On an old iPod, an old laptop or smartphone
- In your parents’ and relatives’ basements and storage units
- A garage sales or used record stores (do those still exist?)
- Sounds you use to create new music from nature
- The city sounds outside your window, or any other setting (Specktor)
Some fun sources for found sounds are the Seismofon, which is essentially earthquake sounds from monitors all over the world, including the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, converted to unique, varying sounds or the US-Mexico border fence songs played by Arizona musician Glenn Weyant with various instruments or sticks he finds in the Nogales Desert and recorded through a contact microphone. Downloadable, YouTubed, or recorded sounds are available from resources all over the Internet, and if college students today can’t find music they like, they can download or buy a music production software and make their own (Wilson, Scott.)
Free programs include:
- Live 9 Lite
- Tracktion 4
Paid software that’s worth it includes:
- The ubiquitous Ableton Live (its predecessor was Acid)
- Fruity Loops (Imagine-Line)
- Apple Logic Pro
- Avid Pro Tools
- Reason (Propellerhead)
- Apple Garageband (Wilson, Scott; Sean)
The current ability of nearly any college student to pick and choose endlessly through music streaming services, Internet radio stations, file sharing services and friends’ playlists is superseded only by attending a live show at a venue. Live music still holds a particular charm and resonance, even in this age of digital interaction and non-interaction. If the college students ask their parents, they would most likely say the same thing – live music is what really changed them at some point in their lives. The ability of artists to reach a crowd has changed over the years, as has the availability and creation of digital music, but the live show still reigns supreme for many people, college students included. While the musician and the whole entertainment package comes together to make a show truly spectacular in the case of big musicians and entertainers, the power of small, outdoor, or unique musical experience is still second-to-none – and these can happen at any time. Some of the best college-student-attended venues in the U.S. include:
- Boulder, Colorado’s Fox Theater
- The Agora Theater in Cleveland, Ohio
- The 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia
- Austin’s The Hole in the Wall
- Toad’s Place close to Yale in New Haven, Connecticut
- Lincoln Hall in Chicago
- Berkeley’s UC Greek Theatre
- Varsity Theater in Minneapolis
- Newport Music Hall on Ohio State University’s campus in Columbus, Ohio
- Joe’s Pub in New York (Hoyt)
These are venerable spots that many famous musicians played back in the day, and are still iconic today.
Venues at home and abroad
Worldwide, stunning musical venues exist that college students may travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to visit if the right musician graces their stages. Among them are:
- Denver, Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a natural red stone outdoor concert experience unlike any other in the world
- Theatre Antique d’Orange in Provence, France (originally a Roman theater with ancient stone bas-reliefs carved into it)
- Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (a glass and titanium ovule floating in its own lake with an underwater entrance)
- Sydney, Australia’s world-famous Opera House
- Ibiza (A Mediterranean island famous for days-long EDM and experimental drug experiences)
- the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City
- Great American Music Hall in San Francisco (Hoeller).
With so many musical experiences, creations, playlists, and stations to listen to, it’s unlikely that any college students will even run out of musical options while studying, enjoying time with friends, or just hanging out at home for a BBQ, dinner party, or small get-together. Digital accessibility has made it possible to travel to each and every one of these amazing live music venues from the comfort of our own homes and expensive headphones – there is no excuse for listening to the same music over and over – unless we just want to.
Hoeller, Sophie-Claire. “The 15 Most Beautiful Music Venues in the World.” Thrillist. Thrillist, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Hoyt, Elizabeth. “10 Must-Visit College Town Music Venues.” Fastweb. Fastweb, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Pocket-Lint. “Spotify Free vs Spotify Premium: What’s the Difference?” Pocket-lint. Pocket-lint ltd, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Sean. “Top 10 best Music Production Software – Digital Audio Workstations.” WireRealm. The Wire Realm, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
SomaFM. “Our Stations.” SomaFM. SomaFM.com, LLC, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Specktor, Brandon. “5 Unbelievable Sources of Found Music.” Reader’s Digest. Trusted Media Brands, Inc., 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Telegraph UK. “The Best Internet Radio Stations.” The Telegraph UK. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Wilson, Jeffrey L. “The Best Streaming Music Services.” PCMag. Ziff-Davis, LLC, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016. .
Wilson, Scott. “The Best Free Music Production Software.” FACT. FACT, 2015. Web. 14 May 2016.