When the music stops

Why we stop listening to new artists

CRAIG CLIFF
Last updated 12:12 08/11/2010
Music
MAARTEN HOLL/ Dominion Post

Most people stop buying music by new artists by the age of 26.

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A few weeks ago I received an email with the ominous subject line: A Necessary Conversation.

I have received some unpleasant emails in my time. Friends in the depths of depression. Requests for money (beware my Scottish roots). Once I started receiving emails from someone hell-bent on breaking up with a guy called Ewen. I tried to tell her she had the wrong person and she proceeded to call it off with me, too.

But this Necessary Conversation struck closer to home.

The email was from a friend studying for his PhD in media studies at a Canadian university. According to a colleague in his faculty, most people stop buying music by new artists by the age of 26. Cue the breakdown of a 27-year-old PhD student in the land of maple syrup and hockey moms.

He emailed seven friends - all male, all 27 - to warn us and to start a conversation about new bands. His hope was that together we could haul ourselves into the twenty-teens and presumably become those old guys at mid-week gigs with paunches and ponytails.

None of the seven recipients replied to this email straight away. I presume they were all like me, looking back through their iTunes library and wondering: What happened?

When I was 25 I was still seeking out new-to-me artists and buying their music. That year I got into bands like Beirut, The National, Shearwater, Elbow and Wintersleep. I know because I tracked my listening habits on the website Last.fm. When I went back to Last.fm today I discovered I hadn't logged in since October 2009, which says something in itself about my waning status as a music aficionado.

On the one hand, I think maybe it's OK that my musical tastes have begun to ossify. It takes time and energy to keep up with new music; time and energy I could put into something else like writing or wedding planning (um).

If I want more music, I can keep adding new albums by old faves like Spoon and The Tragically Hip, or finally get around to filling out the back catalogues of Elvis Costello and The Clash.

That's far less risky than buying some new band on the recommendation of a teenaged cousin.

I could always check out this band's MySpace page or start reading Pitchfork.com again, but that seems like a lot of effort.

But then I look back over these sentiments and shake my head. That's old man talk, that is.

It's the same voice that says maybe it's OK that Guy Fawkes is becoming a spectator sport, and suggests you can get away with wearing socks and sandals when ducking down to the dairy.

So I'm going to make an effort a wee while longer, though I need help. Recommendations on bands that will rock my world. Inspiring stories from granddads who know their Ladyhawke from their Lady Gaga. Send them to indulgence@dompost.co.nz and I'll report back in a couple of months on how successful I've been at keeping that old man voice at bay.

Craig Cliff is a Wellington writer and office worker.

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