The Evolution Of How We Listen To Music: From The 90s To Now

I was driving to work today, blasting Fall Out Boy as I sometimes do, and realized I would not be typing ~LyRiCs LiKe ThIs~ in my away message any time in the near future. This was commonplace in the early 2000s. I then realized I haven’t turned my iPod on in at least a year and a half (I wouldn’t go anywhere without it just a few years ago.) And it’s been even longer since I burned a CD. How times have changed!

Elementary/Middle School

For my 10th birthday, I got an Aiwa CD player from Circuit City. How late 90s is that?! (Also, Aiwa is no longer its own company.) I was #blessed with a model that also had a cassette player, so I could tape my favorite songs off the radio. I waited hours for Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” to finally play, expertly pressing record and play at the same time at the exact time the song began. I eventually got her CD so I ditched the tape method, although it was great for CDs you didn’t have enough allowance for. My CD collection began growing to include several NOW discs, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, O-Town, etc.

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Late Middle School/Early High School

CD burners became a thing, as well as Kazaa and Limewire and all those illegal things your parents told you not to download but you did anyway. I recall a friend asking to borrow my Bring It On soundtrack so her brother could burn it. I refused because I thought he was going to set my beloved CD on fire. I tied up the phone line downloading old favorites such as “Genie In a Bottle” and new, hip things like “Right Thurr.” Then I would get friends to burn me CDs, as the family computer we had was not quite there yet, and would listen to them in my Sony Discman on the bus ride to school. Then my Discman was stolen out of my locker and my life was basically over.

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Late High School

I got my first iPod for Christmas my junior year of high school. This was such a game changer. I could put my Kelly Clarkson and Fall Out Boy CDs onto a little rectangle music player and could fit ONE GIGABYTE of music on it. I could be emo and look out the bus window and think about what Dashboard Confessional lyric would go in my AIM profile when I got home from school, and put more music on my iPod. It was a process, importing CDs into iTunes and syncing my ‘pod while I stalked AIM subprofiles and penned LiveJournal entries about how unfair it was to get my Motorla Razr taken away from me. Once I got my license, I burned CDs for different moods (“angry driving playlist,” “fun tunes,” “volleyball warm-up CDs”) so I could listen to whatever music *~spoke~* to me.

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College

I *~upgraded~* my first generation black iPod Nano to a later generation pink iPod Nano I got for free with a MacBook. So trendy. I got my music from friends via AIM, or burning CDs from my college radio station. I made workout playlists. I still burned CDs for my car. But the song lyric away messages faded away. I want to say I started appreciating music for just being music, not for its ability to explain how I felt about a crush or life in general for the world to read on AIM while I was in class. In my later college years, I got a new car that had an auxiliary jack in it. I could listen to my iPod in my car without buying one of those expensive FM radio cord things?! LIFE. CHANGING. Also this was the height of the iTunes gift card.

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Now

My trusty pink iPod Nano is in a drawer, collecting dust. I now have all my music on my iPhone. I splurged on a Spotify premium subscription so I can listen to just about anything. I have playlists for everything, plus access to playlists others have made. I don’t have to spend hours finding my favorite 90s songs. Someone has probably already made the perfect playlist. You can even make collaborative playlists with your friends. I can Shazam songs I hear on the radio when I don’t know the artist. There is an app for everything. I can’t remember the last time I downloaded a song on a computer then plugged my iPod into it to sync. I have a stack of CDs that have been in my car for years. I only pop one in if I’m bored with the radio or my Spotify. I suppose I could put lyrics in my GChat status but I won’t. But, like I said before, I like to go back to those Yellowcard songs every so often and laugh at all the lines I would carefully select in Georgia, 10 point font, light pink with a black background.

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LizWitter

Liz Witter is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University where she majored in broadcast journalism with a (useless) minor in French. She is originally from Rochester, NY but moved to Boston for a job...then another job. She spends her free time sleeping, going to Sephora or doing crafts. She plays volleyball recreationally and refuses to believe she peaked in high school. She’ll take Tim Hortons over Dunkin, and Wegmans over basically anything. You can follow her on Twitter at @lwitta6.

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