The iPod’s impact

‘Wonderful and terrible’

by Greg Kot

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

26 October 2011


Artists and fans discuss the impact of the iPod:


Alex White, singer-guitarist in White Mystery: “The iPod created a new format for the music-listening public, and a new way for bands to get in their fans’ heads, literally, in the form of two white earbuds. My question is, what’s the product cycle for portable music players? Was there a 10th anniversary celebrating the CD-playing Discman? Is it the iTunes marketplace that actually makes the iPod so prolific?”

Michael Ackerman, Los Angeles entertainment attorney: “The iPod was a game changer in that it provided greater facility in managing and carrying one’s music. In terms of transportation, it can hold a great deal if you use the lower sampling rate (and care less about the sound quality). The shuffle feature, play-list creation features and general catalog management features were all novel and at the same time essential in that ‘How did we live without that before?’ way.”

Erin McKeown, singer-songwriter: “Someone was going to make something like the iPod, no matter what. Obviously there are other devices, but I think the popularity of the iPod is a testament to its incredible design. I’ve often felt like the iPod can read my mind, or that when I am navigating through it, picking out songs, making play lists, even just seeing the albums all lined up, I am inside my own musical mind.”

Joe D’Agostino, singer-guitarist in Cymbals Eat Guitars: “I reveled in taking a new CD home and ripping it onto my iPod. It is my constant companion on the road. In my bedroom at home (in Staten Island, NY) I have all my CD jackets on my wall. That’s all I use the CDs for once I put the music on the iPod.”

Heather Robinson, aka house music’s DJ Heather: “As a music fan growing up in the era of the Walkman, I’ve always enjoyed having music on the go and at my fingertips. The iPod felt like a natural progression.”

Alex Savitteiri, Augustana College student: “On a normal day, I’ll listen to my iPod no less than three hours. Without music, I am unable to focus and do homework … or work out at the gym. In my (iTunes) library I have about 10,000 songs, 2,000 on my iPod. That means I have 8,000 excess songs to swap out (in my iPod) every week, not counting the new songs I am finding all the time.”


Michael Ackerman: “The iPod essentially turned the record industry’s economic model on its head because the iPod and iTunes permitted and glorified the sale of single songs again, as opposed to entire albums. So, in the not-too-distant past, artists and record companies sold an album for about $15 to consumers, the advent of the iPod and iTunes permitted the purchase of a single song or even two songs for a dollar or two. I don’t think I need to explain what that tectonic shift did to the record industry’s gross revenues.”

Michael Gartenberg, technology analyst: “You could argue Apple helped a dying industry and the industry’s poor numbers would’ve been far lower without the iPod and iTunes. The music industry was in bad shape before the iPod came in. The industry’s online experiments had failed, digital downloads were not working. Only (rogue file-sharing site) Napster was working, and that was not helping the music industry.”


Psalm One, Chicago hip-hop MC: “Having an iPod makes it extremely easy to skip a song, shuffle songs, or have it on a continuous loop. Play lists allow me to really set my mood, and I really don’t have to think about my music purchasing anymore. I don’t have to leave my home. This is wonderful and terrible, all at the same time. … The ease of having thousands of songs at my fingertips has enhanced my listening experience tremendously. I can listen to myself all day. How deliciously vain is that?”

Erin McKeown: “I keep my entire updated catalog on (my iPod) and often use the ‘sort by songs’ function to help me write a set list (before a show). I am terrible at remembering what songs I’ve written and could play. The other week, I had my songs on shuffle on my drive down to a gig in Delaware, trying to remember how to play some of them. I wrote down what came up, in what order, and used it as my set list for the night. It worked great!”


El-P, hip-hop MC and producer: “We take it for granted now but the idea of shuffling randomly through thousands of songs is really pretty novel in the scheme of things. Not to mention the sound doesn’t degrade. You can make a mix tape without (having to hope) it doesn’t rub down or pop.”

Erin McKeown: “I remember very clearly a journal entry I made on a plane, during some long tour, shortly after getting my first iPod. I drew a little schematic of the device and captioned it ‘iPod saved my life.’ I was trying to describe how lovely it was to be up in the sky, looking at clouds and tiny land with a thrilling song filling up my ears. It felt incredible! It made me love and feel music in a new way — probably the way the people who don’t make music for a living feel: some distance and some fanhood.”

Michael Ackerman: “In the days of the Walkman, pre-iPod, one could only carry about a dozen cassettes, which meant you could only carry about 24 albums for a long road trip. Although they have yet to make an iPod with the capacity to house my entire collection of thousands of albums, I can take hundreds of albums with me on my iPod/iPhone in my pocket with no extra baggage.”

Psalm One: “If I’m in your iPod right now, I know I’m doing something right. Entertainment and technology are ever-evolving. The music business has been struggling but music itself is still my favorite thing on earth.”


Frank Orrall, singer-songwriter in Poi Pog Pondering: “Once I stopped using the iPod (or for that matter, any mobile personal stereo) I then found I preferred listening to the sounds around me on my commutes. There have been times when I am driving or on the train where having that ‘insular personal world inside your headphones’ feeling is quite nice. Also, being able to use it as a hard drive was also handy. But I have grown to much prefer saving my listening time for the home stereo and carrying a flash drive for portable files.”

Martin Atkins, drummer and record-company president: “As far as my kids go — the change I have seen is that we don’t ‘communally listen’ as much anymore. If I’m driving I might be listening to one thing, each of them might be listening to something completely different — it feels like that communal aspect of sharing in that way has been changed.”

Jenny Lizak, Metro publicist and radio DJ: “One thing I do wonder about is how it has affected the way kids listen to music — it used to be you heard whatever mom or dad put on the car’s tape deck or stereo, so you grew out of their musical interests, but now even young kids have their own iPods with their own music. I was having a conversation with my goddaughter recently about Lady Gaga, (who she was listening to on her iPod) where I compared her to Madonna, and my goddaughter didn’t really know who Madonna was — I wonder if kids are not listening to as much older or what I’d consider iconic/classic music because they have the choice of their own iPod? Of course, if your parents have terrible musical tastes, perhaps that’s a good thing, but I loved having conversations with my parents about music when I was a child, so I think I’d miss that.”


Martin Atkins: “It’s made some music less special — more of a background incidental thing than something to sit in the middle of the stereo field and listen to uninterrupted. That’s a whole other societal change that has not that much to do with the iPod — that’s A.D.D.”

Joseph D’Agostino: “The ritual of listening to music is kind of lost. Listening on an iPod through a decent set of headphones is better than listening on a laptop or ear buds, which are so terrible. It cheapens the listening experience on some level, but we have to accept it. Those who do buy vinyl or pop a CD into the stereo and make a night of listening to music, that’s a wonderful thing, but they’re in the minority.”


Joshua Arter, Marquette University student and electronic-music artist: “The evolution of the iPod itself has changed a device that just plays music to a complete social experience. You can now connect to Wifi and check email, surf the Web, tweet, and check Facebook all from what started out as a great new way to listen to music. Even the new little iPod shuffles have a touch screen.”

El-P: “I own an iPhone. The iPod went out the window for me once the phone came out. That’s my iPod now.”

Michael Gartenberg: “The classic iPod still exists, there is still demand for it. Apple melded the phone with a first-class music experience, bringing the iPod into the phone, so as we’ve seen the numbers for the iPod go down, the numbers for the phone are way up. We’ll see the brand live and continue to morph.”

Topics: apple | iphone | ipod | mp3
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