Quick quiz: Which means more to you, the obscure CD that you scoured record store shelves for months to find, or the iTunes download that you paid 99 cents for yesterday after searching for 10 seconds?
The answer to that question may reflect changing attitudes towards music, according to British researchers who claim that widespread downloading may be diminishing people's excitement about music.
According to a BBC article, University of Leicester researchers monitored students to see how they interacted with music, and found that easy access to downloadable tunes has led listeners to take music for granted.
Music has become a "soundtrack to everyday life," and less frequently elicits a "deep emotional commitment," said the researcher leading the study.
There may be something to this (as my first leading question indicated). If the aspect of rarity or scarcity is removed, both basic psychology and basic economics would predict that people would value a typical product less.
But the study may not take into account the very real difficulty in discovering new and independent music, as opposed to the commodity tunes of, say, Britney Spears. I know plenty of music-obsessed people (I count myself among them) who will still spend days and weeks tracking down sounds they've never heard before. Some of these are online, and even once downloaded, a stunning performance remains potentially soul-shaking.