Music Business

Rock And Roll Magic In The Cloud [Jack Isquith, SVP Of Slacker Radio]

Cloud-08Here Jack Isquith reflects on how the transition of music from it's cumbersome physical form onto the significantly more accessible cloud has made it enjoyable in way that seems miraculous.



Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future,

concentrate the mind on the present moment.



Guest post by Jack Isquith, SVP of Content and Programming, Slacker Radio

Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Actually, greetings from Ocean Grove New Jersey, a beautiful spot, especially in the summer, just one town over from the spot Bruce Springsteen made famous — Asbury Park.

Ocean Grove wasn’t always this serene, this beautiful. In the 1970’s, when a tough economy hit the Jersey Shore, they used to call this place “Ocean Grave.” There were hard times here in Ocean Grove, despite its history as the vacation destination for presidents like Grant, Roosevelt, and Wilson, heavyweight boxing champions James J. Corbett and Max Baer, and department store magnate F.W. Woolworth.

Maybe that rough and tumble nature appealed to a young leather-jacketed Springsteen, who titled his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and spent his formative rock and roll years here. Based on songs like 4th Of July, Asbury Park, it certainly seems like Springsteen spent a lot of time right on this boardwalk, ducking in an out of dusty pinball arcades, sleeping on the beach, chasing girls under the boardwalk and getting his shirt tails caught in the tilt-a-whirl.

I say apparently, because I don’t know exactly what a young Springsteen was really up to on this strip of beach, but thanks to modern technology – an iPhone and a signal, I can conjure up a pretty good idea. With a click of a button, I can not only look up the lyrics to Springsteen’s songs about Asbury Park but also listen to his complete discography, as it’s all at my fingertips through streaming music services like Spotify and Slacker Radio. In fact, earlier this morning, I listened to Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle while running on the boardwalk.

"streaming music feels like magic"

Android-Music-AppsFor me, an obsessive music fan who grew up in a pre-Napster era, streaming music in this immediate-gratification way, feels like magic. The ability to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want, is incredible. The idea that I can have a song that matches the exact moment I’m in, without any planning at all, seems like a miracle.

I’m reminded of what going to the beach, or any kind of trip, used to be like. It took me as long to sift through my CDs and cassettes to find exactly what we wanted to hear, as it did to make and pack food, towels, beach chairs, and the like. I still remember the looks I got from my family already settled into their seats in the car, as they waited for me to run into the house for one more album.  

Now, with digital music access, we can skip that whole step. Want the perfect album or song no matter where you are…? Grab your phone, and you’re covered.

Let me take you back to that boardwalk in Asbury Park for a second. Yesterday, I strolled into the Silverball Pinball Museum, which sits right on the boardwalk. I had no plan to go play pinball when I set out in the morning but stumbled upon this place, filled with old school vintage machines celebrating Scooby Doo, Evel Knievel, The Beatles, Elton John and KISS. With a click of a button, I was listening to Pinball Wizard from The Who and Get Back from The Beatles, followed by songs from Elton John and KISS. If you have your phone and a digital music subscription, you are ready for any musical serendipity that comes your way.

I started to think about how often in the last few years I have enjoyed this ‘living-in-the-moment” aspect of digital music in the cloud. There’s a lot to be said for immediate access, with no planning needed. Sometimes I find myself having a very specific and unpredictable experience like playing pinball in Asbury Park, but more often I’m simply accessing my music when at the gym, or working on documents, or settling down for a family dinner. In each case – there are a slew of well-crafted playlists and radio stations for these activities across the premiere digital music providers.

The usefulness and innovation of the cloud seems to be consistent with the normal course of technological innovation – making the miraculous, commonplace. I’m not so musically obsessive that I would rank the perfect song at the perfect moment up there with the invention of the printing press, telephone, airplane or the internet writ large, but it’s a bit of a miracle in my view just the same. After all, until you’ve heard Born to Run at full blast while navigating the Asbury Park Boardwalk, you don’t know really know rock and roll magic.

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