The Price of Progress?

The Price of Progress?

I was listening to a news story on the radio the other day about technology, specifically around the music industry.

Spotify logoIt was on the back of publication Spotify executive’s salaries and the way we access music in the 21st Century. The general gist of the story was that the Apple store will probably disappear in the next 5 years as people won’t own the music but stream only. It all smacks to me that the changes are for those high up in Apple and Spotify and less to do with the artists or giving the public what they “want”.

There were a lot of assumptions mentioned during the piece. Along the lines of no-one wanting to own music anymore, albums dying and as people are no longer interested, they only want to access the tracks they want to hear.

The more I listened the more pissed off I got.

Streaming

Who decided that no-one wants to own music anymore? I didn’t. Generally, I hate downloads and I hate streaming even more. Yes, I use Spotify on my blog, but first and foremost I will buy a hard copy on vinyl and/or CD. I suppose at least with a download I own the music, but I still like a hard physical copy. Yes, I know, I’m a curmudgeon.

VinylI yearn for the days when you saw a poster, heard on the radio or read in a magazine that a band you like were going to release a single or album in the coming weeks or months.

Buying Vinyl

The anticipation waiting for that release was immense, and the hiatus in hearing about it and the record actually coming out built up the excitement. Making the trip to the local record shop was an event. Getting there and picking up the record sleeve, reading the sleeve notes and track listing and admiring the album cover was part of the enchantment. Before I bought it, I might only have heard one song on the radio so the anticipation to get home so I could listen to the rest of the album was intense.

The journey home was part of the overall experience, sitting on the bus or train and reading the inner sleeve notes and lyrics. Then, finally getting home, slipping the vinyl out, the feel and the smell of the vinyl then the sound of the needle hitting the groove and the music starting. Bliss. I just loved getting lost in the music and immersing myself in the whole experience.

The instantaneousness of streaming or downloading isn’t the same – click – done. No experience, no gratification.

The public gets what the industry wants…

The whole argument about giving the public what they want doesn’t wash with me. The industry strangles us and gives us what they want. My kids stream tracks because that is what they are told they want. It is all they really know (well, if they didn’t live with me surrounded by CDs and LPs). Surely the revival of vinyl is an indicator that people still want this whole experience?

I feel sorry for today’s youth that all they know is this instant accessibility for everything. Streaming or downloading “tracks” rather than listening to an album as the artist intended. Or should I say these days the way the programmer and Autotune intended… But it is not just music, its TV box sets, social media, photographs, even ordering from the likes of Amazon and Argos and getting it delivered the same day. EVERYTHING is NOW NOW NOW.

I also fear for the future of bands and live music. Ok, so I don’t think it will ever die out, as the majority of the bands I listen to these days do it for the love of music. The majority are unlikely ever to be able to make a career out of it. It is a hobby rather than a career. That makes me sad. The industry has changed so much. Gone are the days of massive signing fees and bottomless pits of cash from record companies. How are the bands supposed to make any money from streaming if the figures I read are true?

I know it isn’t always all about the money, but if you’re making nothing and everything ends up costing you, how long can that be viable? I’m no industry expert but I do read horror stories of how many streams are required for artists to make any sort of return.

Is all change progress?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite – I’m writing an online blog after all! I do wonder sometimes whether so called progress is always necessarily a good thing.

I’m not anti-change, but are there always valid reasons for change? Industry will always argue that there are reasons, but most of that is to do with cold hard cash. Fuck people. Who cares about them!

Things seem to change at such a pace these days. Take TVs – my parents had the same TV for many years. Did that have an adverse effect on us? Absolutely not. Now there are new models out every 6 months/year and you are told in no uncertain terms that your model is out of date and it is going to have a massive adverse impact on your life if you don’t upgrade. Phones, computers, tablets… The list goes on and same message goes for all of them.

Slow Down

Sometimes people just need to slow down and relax. Modern society doesn’t seem to want this though.

What are the drawbacks of technology and change?

Well, this started about music so from what I’ve already mentioned there is an impact on the bands and artists themselves.

But widening this out, technology and change are sold as opportunities for people to make the most of their leisure time. Is there not a catch 22 here? The more automation and change that happens, the more leisure time we’ll have as everyone will be out of work and as a result won’t have the income to do anything with their leisure time and all this fantastic technology…

Mental Health & the Modern World

I like to write about the music I love, but my blog is also about mental health concerns. From a personal perspective, I need to ensure my behaviours are right and I do the right thing for myself. The modern world doesn’t always help someone with anxiety and depression issues in dealing with them.

Slowing down is always a consideration. Everything, everywhere goes at 100mph. People want things yesterday. One of the things that has the potential to bring on my anxieties and panic attacks is the expectations (often self-imposed) that everything needs done NOW. That may be work related or outside work – DIY, stupid tasks around the house, anything and everything.

The feeling that you have so much to do and so little time and the feeling of failure when you don’t achieve what you THINK you needed to achieve.

Instant gratification

This culture of instant gratification for everything, people not seemingly able to wait for anything and trying to get everywhere as quickly as possible doesn’t help this. Neither does modern technology. Yes, I don’t disagree, it is great that you can find information straight away using Google (other search engines are available), learn a new skill via YouTube (ditto…).

It is however, almost impossible to escape your work or be off the grid with laptops, tablets and mobile phones being part of everyday life. Remember letters? Even faxes. You got a chance to receive and read these then compose your response before replying. Your inbox these days is constantly pinging and the pressure to respond immediately can be intense.

Slow Down

The world is obsessed with doing everything faster, cheaper and more efficiently. I can appreciate that margins are tight and why businesses want to save money but does there not come a time when we have to say stop? After all, is the economy not a man-made notion and influenced by the few at the top. It is not a naturally occurring phenomenon

Are we so obsessed with cutting a few minutes off journeys that we are prepared to risk people’s lives? Look at high speed trains. Look what happened this week in the US.

Amtrak high speed train crash
Amtrak high speed train crash

Roads. Yes, it can be frustrating waiting in traffic, but who has created that mind-set? Do we really need to be constantly building new roads, reducing the time it takes to get places, increasing the amount of traffic on the roads? Why is everything so focussed on time, time, time – faster, bigger, more…

Nothing ever closes

We have a 24/7 society and it is difficult to switch off. Supermarkets open 24 hours, shops opening earlier and closing later. Banks closing left, right and centre because they have forced us down the internet route and now no-one wants to use the branches. Until they close and then everyone realises the impact it has. The internet never closes.

And automation – these robots coming over here and stealing our jobs! Self-service check-outs, self-driving cars, internet shopping, social media even skype. Bloody hell, with “Alexa”, you don’t even need to get off your arse and switch a light on/off or type something into your keyboard. What have we become? Great, these innovations may all save time and money. They may make things easier for us. But are we losing the ability to communicate with others? When do we find the time to interact with fellow human beings?

What does that all mean to our mental health? Or indeed or physical health. Is it any wonder there is an increase in obesity? Are we surprised we have more lonely people about? Is it any wonder that there are increased levels of anxiety and depression? Unreal expectations, automation taking away human interactions, reducing people’s skillsets, feelings of worthlessness, inability to cope with the all pressures that go along with modern life.

Live Life

There is no escape but there are things you can do. What will I do?

I’ll continue to buy my music on vinyl or CD (no matter how much my wife complains about space!)

I’m going to continue to support new bands and artists if I can – promoting them, buying their product, going to their gigs when able.

I’ll use the tills with people on them, who cares if I have to wait in a queue for a few minutes, I’ll get to talk to someone and not encourage continued automation.

Take the slow train. Read a book, listen to music! RELAX

I know I need to be more active – not only for my physical heath, but for my mental health. Take a break from the pressures of 21st Century life. Realise what is all around me. Take a step back to think and observe what life is really about.

I need to switch my phone off when I’m in the house. Writing this I realise how often I check my e-mails, my messages, Facebook, Twitter in the course of a day. What will happen if I don’t respond immediately? The world won’t come to an end.

Breathe – and I mean that literally. Sit down, breathe and notice my breathing. Notice the sounds around me, notice what is happening to my body. Relax.

So, stop reading this blog on your phone, tablet or computer. Go and talk to someone. Switch off your tech, read a book, listen to some music (on vinyl!!), go to a gig. But most of all slow down, chill out and relax. The world isn’t going anywhere. Enjoy life. Don’t let it pass you by.

Writing as Therapy

CBT (Cognitive behavioural Therapy)

I recently completed 12 weeks of CBT. Some of the sessions were exceedingly difficult. I would even go as far as to say the initial sessions made me feel worse. It was a number of sessions in before I started beginning to feel positive.

I know now this was to be expected as my counsellor spent time unearthing my core beliefs to enable me to work on the correct solutions. These solutions are what are ultimately allowing me to manage my anxiety and depression. It was not however an easy trip to get there and accepting my core beliefs wasn’t something I readily did.

Its good to talk

It is difficult to put yourself out there, open up to someone and talk about what is causing you to feel, think and behave the way you do. However, I found that once I could do it, there was a realisation about how cathartic it was and then it was like taking the lid off of a pressure cooker.

During my sessions, we explored different strategies and opportunities for me to use to manage my anxiety. Some things I tried didn’t work, others did. I had to experiment with different ways of dealing with my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I’ve blogged previously about meditation which is just one of the methods I use.

We talked a lot about having a focus on something that was totally unrelated to all the things that we had explored that had brought on my anxiety. Of course, I still had to face all of these things as they are part of daily life, and I have strategies in place now that help me manage these.

regression

However, one thing I feared and discussed with my therapist was that I’d had a similar experience in the past and similarly, I had strategies in place. Over the years as I felt better, I let some of these good behaviours slip and ultimately stopped doing them.

I didn’t realise this at the time, but now as I reflect back, it was an unconscious decision not to do some of these things, but directly associated with improved mood and lack of anxiety.

I now liken it to the times you go to the doctor and they give you a prescription to take for a specified period of time, but you stop taking them as soon as you feel better. The result being that your symptoms return as you haven’t taken the advice of your GP.

I had fallen back into old habits that I believed were helping me but were essentially exacerbating my issues.

I’ve now realised that for me to stay on an even keel, I need to ensure that I keep up the strategies that work for me and not let them drop. I needed something to ensure that I maintained my focus.

This is where the writing comes in.

Returning to what I said earlier about having something to focus on, we explored the things I usually enjoyed doing. We talked about my love of reading, of listening to music, of going to gigs and so on.

At my lowest points though, I couldn’t read books. The words didn’t make sense, I couldn’t concentrate as I was thinking about too many other things. Even listening to music or going to gigs didn’t give me the same enjoyment as they had. I felt guilty all the time if I was doing anything that I deemed as non-productive, but that is for another blog.

Writing a diary

During the weeks I was having sessions with my therapist, I had kept a diary. The main reason for this was to record how I was thinking, feeling and acting, trying to identify what was causing this and as the weeks went on, recording what I was doing that made a difference. Again, this wasn’t easy to start with and I found it hard to write anything on some days as I felt nothing.

As the weeks passed, however, I found that it was actually the writing itself that was one of the things making me feel better. It was a channel to get the negativity out of my head. It was something to focus on that was different from the norm and allowed me to empty my head of thoughts. Something that I hadn’t been able to do for some time.

I reflected about this over the following weeks and about what we had talked about in my sessions. Core beliefs, thoughts I’d had, decisions I’d made, ways I’d behaved and things that should be giving me joy. An idea formulated in my head.

I started working in a bank when I was 16. I have always loved music and being creative, but my parents, with the best of intentions, had instilled the belief in me that I needed to get a “secure job, a job for life”. 20 years later I was still there, I’d got to the stage that I was scared to do anything else as I knew nothing else. Redundancy gave me the opportunity to go and do something else, but I stayed in my comfort zone, different industry but same type of job.

It would be wrong for me to regret anything I have done, that would be like me giving in to my anxieties and living in the past. However, I wish I had been courageous, followed my dreams and done something music related when I was younger, even if it hadn’t been my job, just something that would have given me a sense of achievement.

I used to listen to John Peel and think that he had the ideal job, listening to music for a living and sharing his love for it with others, discovering new bands and being excited by them.

starting a blog

So, I decided, that if I couldn’t be a DJ, I would start a blog. My theme would be music and mental health.

I’d use the blog to write about the music and the bands I loved and that brought me joy. I’d use it to share what I love with others but also, and importantly, it would give me a focus on things that weren’t work and normal day-to-day life. A release of sorts.

I would also use it to write about mental health and things that had affected me. About things I’d done to control my anxieties. Writing about it would also help me to keep focussed on what I need to do to control my anxieties and no allow myself to go back down that road again.

When I started, it was essentially a vehicle to focus my mind. To give me something to think about to avoid “just thinking”.

But, I enjoyed the challenge of setting up the blog, of writing and editing my first posts. I enjoyed the satisfaction of sharing these and having people actually read them.

I hadn’t really fully considered that side of things. It was intended, as I’ve said, as more of a release. Once I started though, I realised just how much I enjoyed the writing, and the more I did the more I wanted to do.

The other thing writing has done for me is opened up more opportunities. I’ve had posts reproduced on other sites, I’ve had opportunities to write reviews for music sites and magazines. I’ve also had bands approaching me to ask me to review singles. It has improved my self-confidence.

What differences do I see?

Well, when I leave work now of an evening, I leave work.

I used to take it home with me. And what I mean by that is not necessarily physically taking work home, opening my laptop and sending e-mails. But taking it home mentally. Spending all night analysing what happened during that day, berating myself for anything that went wrong, focussing on the negatives, planning the next day in my head, down to working out word for word conversations I would have.

As a result I didn’t communicate at all well with my family. I could watch TV programmes with my wife and have no idea what I’d watched. I’d not sleep properly as my mind was overactive and would snap and shout at my kids for no reason.

I now spend my journey home from work thinking about things I am looking forward to. I do actually look forward to things. My communication is better with my family. My mind is not overactive, I’m not over-analysing or over thinking everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and have to work hard sometimes to not go backwards.

The thing with my blog though is, it is MY blog. There are no deadlines or actions plans or to do lists. I control what goes on and when.

It is not like work where I have targets, deadlines and constantly changing requirements. However, I know I am also more productive at work now than I was. I’m focusing on what needs to be done rather than dwelling on what has happened or what might happen.

In the past, the more time I spent over thinking, over-analysing, worrying, planning, re-planning, changing and checking, the less productive I became. I’m not saying that I think I won’t ever do any of these things again. I know I will and I have done since. But I know that when it happens, I can deal with it. As long as I focus on the right things.

For now, things are going well and as long as I am writing and have this release. I believe that will continue.

What’s next?

Around 20 years ago, I started writing a book. I never got further than the first chapter though. Maybe that will change……

Sinead O’Connor

Its tragic to see what has happened to Sinead O’Connor over the last few years with her obvious struggles with mental health. It is not for me, or anyone else, to discuss the whys and wherefores about what her issues are. So I have been disgusted at some of the comments directed towards her on social media today.

I understand that she divides opinion due to her being an outspoken individual. Over the years she has rubbed people up the wrong way with her opinions and actions. But the woman is obviously suffering and for people to criticize her for what she has done in posting a video about how she is feeling in which she is visibly upset and obviously needs help is disgusting. Who are these vile people to decide what is right and wrong for her? Mental illness doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, success or failure and can affect any one of us.

I feel for anyone who is suffering from mental health problems in silence and happen to read these disgraceful comments. It is hardly going to give them the confidence to talk about their own feelings and seek the help they need.

I for one sincerely hope she gets the help she needs and gets through this. She is an incredibly talented artist, and we have seen far too many of them take their own lives recently.

Get Well Sinead.