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The Music In Magazines

By - May 07, 2008

Kingston Trio HungryI remember being 10, or thereabouts, sitting in front of my parent’s stereo system, entranced by the albums they had collected in college. The system – tuner, turntable, and speakers – was a Craig, cheap, Korean, and dependable, an early indication of where the consumer electronics business was heading. I’d put on the albums they owned – Rachmanioff #2, Man of La Mancha, a lot of Kingston Trio – and listen, right up next to the speaker. I was entirely engaged – the albums were transits to another world, a world of music, no matter that it was entirely inconsistent with the world of a ten year old boy. I’m pretty sure the only new album my parents bought between 1953 and 1983 was the soundtrack to Cats, around the time I was a junior in high school.

But that stereo system, the turntable in particular, was my introduction to recorded music.

Now that entire world is dead, gone, history. 30 years after I was entranced, it’s been eclipsed by the iPod, the cel phone, the Internet.

Fast forward to now. I look around my house, and I find my son’s analog to my parent’s music system. And what is it? In a word: Magazines.

I’m a magazine guy. My wife loves them too. We still subscribe to about a dozen of them, and they are all over the house. In particular, they dominate the bathrooms. As my son ponders his mortality on the porcelain throne or in idle moments in our living room, I wonder about the “music” those magazines are bringing to him.

And I wonder, how is the web bringing that music into the digital age? Just a thought, a note written down. For one thing I am certain of. In thirty years from now, magazines will be the albums of their time – an anachronism created for effect, but not a dominant medium of distribution for the music they contain.

I love having kids.


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16 thoughts on “The Music In Magazines

  1. Even with the vast popularity of digital music and mp3 players – the complex and subtle sounds produced by a great stereo system is still the best listening experience.

    The ambiance is sometimes subliminal – unless one is a trained listener – but there is a difference.

    Also the music of today lacks the complex orchestration of the music from the vinyl days. So what we are left with is simply technology attempting to stimulate.

    High quality photography from a good Magazine and great layouts can’t be reproduced by a computer viewing experience of today. Also the simple pleasure and ease of a magazine makes it a tremendous asset for those times when one want distraction-free simple pleasures

  2. Have you checked out Paste Magazine? Great monthly music rag, with an eclectic CD of new music in each issue.

  3. nmw says:

    I’ve had an idea for a website where kids could go and submit funny plans for fun businesses — a site where “laughter is our business”… a place to relax and enjoy your dreams and fantasies (and jokes and riddles and games, too! ;), where kids and adults alike can entertain and inspire each other… all I need, I guess, is some web 2.0 whitewash!

    ;D nmw

  4. James Pearce says:

    Desktops.

    As in ‘Dad still uses a desktop to go online!’

    Like music, the web wants to be free, untethered… mobile.

    Obvious.

  5. Jarred says:

    Great post John, linked to it from Tropophilia. As I mentioned there, I suggested a similar destiny for books in the physical form we know them today in one of the comments to a popular discussion we had about Steve Jobs’ comment earlier this year on reading. You and your readers might find it interesting:

    http://tropophilia.com/2008/01/16/steve-jobs-on-reading/

    Jarred
    http://tropophilia.com

  6. JG says:

    Like music, the web wants to be free, untethered… mobile.

    Naw, I think I agree more with the comments of BeatlesBiography above: “the complex and subtle sounds produced by a great stereo system is still the best listening experience.

    What happens, on the other hand, when music goes mobile? The listening experience gets drowned out by the vibrations and rush of the car. Or the subway. Or ambient street noises.

    Naw, mobile music will never compete with the quality and the pleasure of a good stereo system.

    But even with a good stereo system, you still have the problem that much/most of today’s music is being mixed/produced so as to greatly diminish dynamic range. We’re just got getting as good of a sound quality as we used to:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

  7. nmw says:

    Speaking of “obvious” reminded me of a Joe Jackson song — that’s already 17 years old! :O

    Speaking of shitty sound quality reminded me of you tube.

    Put 2+2 together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqdlKgPAJxQ

    :D nmw

  8. konteyner says:

    was entirely engaged – the albums were transits to another world, a world of music, no matter that it was entirely inconsistent with the world of a ten year old boy.

  9. mrg says:

    you’re waxing…i like it. I share a similar experience in that era. Albeit with the older siblings zep and cheap trick.

    but now i read this blog and anything else in google reader. As soon as Fry’s offers some blue-tooth electronic paper device, i will have arrived (tho’ my son will have beat me to it i’m sure).

  10. JG says:

    nmw writes: Put 2+2 together

    I do put ‘em together, nmw. Believe me, I do. And it’s a depressing sum. Sh**tiness trumps quality in the marketplace, over and over and over. People are more willing to pay less money for cheaper crap in the short run.. but then that cheap crap breaks down faster and people have to buy more again.. which costs more in the long run. Or people are happy to buy cheap, heart-disease-laden food.. easy in the short run, but costly in the long run. Or watch poor quality video and listen to poor quality music. Waste of time.

    Or settle for search engines that taunt you by bragging that they have 1.2 million results to your query, but then give you no feasible ways to look through more than one page of results at a time.

    Quantity too often trumps quality, and I think it makes everyone in society poorer for it.

  11. Lorie says:

    Yeah, incidentally, I was just looking at the Kindle earlier and I realized that books.. Are becoming inconvenient.

    I’ve been wanting to read books again for the longest time, but then I wanted the obscure titles or I would want something I got from the Web.

    Printing out is impossible: I have no printer; plus, it’s not practical.

    Reading using my Mac is just plain straining… or an exercise in muscle and eyestrain heheh.

    The Kindle makes reading so much easier; from magazines to books.

    Soon we wouldn’t have paper books anymore… If poverty were eradicated that is.

    The only reason why print media would still proliferate would be when people from countries like mine would still opt for books, because e-book readers and computers are still too expensive.

    But the world is changing.. There is a certain nostalgia to it. :)

  12. me@home.com says:

    Hi John,
    great book. Great blog. Great thoughts. Great post on music.

    As a music nut I started subscribing to my favorite music related blogs via reader.google.com. There has never been more variety in music that suits my personal taste/interests.

    Just imagine being the editor of your own music magazine. Quick and easy. And all info/reviews/recommendations/news delivered to one site instantly.

    You’ll have input from e.g. your favorite artists blogs, recommendations from other people that are even crazier about music than yourself, blogs that have live bootlegs of concerts and so on…

    I can only encourage anyone who loves music to have a look at combining it with music related blogs and a nice RSS-Reader. For me it’s the modern version of my dad’s recorde collection + record player setup :)

    Music for life! Happy weekend.

    me

    PS: start here http://reader.google.com + http://hypem.com/feed/time/today/1/feed.xml

  13. nmw says:

    wow — that almost makes the sohbet spammers look respectful !!

    :P

  14. John Weir says:

    Great post John.

    I’m running some courses on web publishing for the magazine fraternity here in the UK and your comment is definitely going to spark some debate

  15. Howard Owens says:

    LPs are not dead.

    I still buy them. I own hundreds. Many people do.

    Artists still put out their new music on vinyl.

    Yes, I listen to MP3s more, or XM, or the occasional CD, but I still love my LPs.

    And to an earlier commenter — Paste is wonderful. I highly recommend it.

  16. steve katelman says:

    It’s just too bad that the Hungry I is now a strip club. (san francisco)