Alan Cross and the music revolution

Canadian radio icon and music aficionado Alan Cross captivated the crowd in Arts 1E1 on Friday night.

Best known as the host of radio show The Ongoing History of New Music, Cross was the main attraction on the opening night of the Ontario and Quebec Regional Canadian University Press Conference (ORCUPbeq), hosted by Laurier.

Throughout his keynote address, Cross explored the way music consumption has been changing and “what it means for Canadians.”

He reflected on the speed at which new music is being acquired, the quality of new music, music going mobile and whether or not Canada is being left behind in what he deemed to be an ongoing music revolution.

Like his radio show, his keynote sparked discussion with the audience, which Cross encouraged.

Cross also raised many questions of his own such as whether or not we are “burning through music too fast,” suggesting that we may be spending too much time researching music and not enough time enjoying it.

Cross seemed concerned about the dynamic between easy access to music and actually buying and owning it, imploring, “What happens to the value of music when the supply goes up and the cost goes down?”

An audience member proposed that it may be the hunt that we’ve come to enjoy. Cross also noted that we are the Internet generation and that means that everything media-related is customizable.

We want to listen to what songs we choose to when we choose to and we can do it for free on the Internet.

We feel as though we no longer need a radio host to tell us what “good music” is because we can access it all ourselves.

Nevertheless, because of the overwhelming amount and availability of emerging songs and artists, Cross suggested that radio hosts and music bloggers are once again playing a stronger role in our music consumption.

He even went so far to analogize the listener in today’s vast music market to “a fat person at a buffet.”

In an age of so much content, music curators, bloggers and DJs are still some of the most useful resources for discovering good music by sifting through the bad stuff for us.

Cross himself isn’t even immune to the staggering speed at which music-lovers are exposed to new content, as he stated, “I listen to music for a living and I can’t keep up.”

Cross emphasized this point with an anecdote about this year’s Polaris Prize.

He was surprised to learn that there were shortlist nominees he hadn’t even heard of, including winners Karkwa.

“How could I have missed two bands that made the Polaris shortlist?” he asked.

Although many of the answers to this ongoing music revolution are still in the process of being worked out, Cross left the audience with a lot to think about.

While the industry shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, the least we can do in the meantime is to take a step back and try to enjoy the vast amount of music that we do consume.

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