Who tells you what to listen to . . . or guides you to places they've discovered?
I used to go to record store owners to find new music. One of them made the switch and now I listen to his Spotify playlists. It is now, however, a different experience. Fundamentally. Whereas before I'd save up to buy an album every month or so (or maybe sign up for BMG again and get the free cds), now it's all at my fingertips. An unfathomable amount of music, right there. The fact that our minds are not blown by the landscapes open to us now, the treasure hunting available, is stunning. Once we start to get it we will learn new things, recognize new patterns, invent new ways of describing what we see. This is probably already happening.
This new reality calls for a new type of critic -- one that helps people learn how to listen again, how to look, how to appreciate, how to swim in the ocean. Before critics were expert guides to particular swimming holes, rivers, or lakes. Some were explorers who visited other lakes and rivers. Some found the sea, but most of us didn't care because we couldn't afford to travel there. Now, however, the ocean is open to many, many more of us, and it's hard to hear the old critics voices over the roar of the waves. But some of them are modifying their boats or buying seagoing vessels. . . and other, younger ones are growing up on the ocean, visitors to the lakes and rivers that were homes to yesterdays critics. But salt water is different than fresh water -- some skills translate and some don't.
I have a friend in his twenties that I see two or three times a year when I go to Nashville. He's become one of my new music "dealers", a seagoing explorer who comes to shore and shows me what he found since I last talked to him. He sometimes begins with an apologetic, "Well I don't have much for you this time" and then goes on to introduce me to a brilliant singer, writer, song, or even sub-genre. I'm trying to get him to write about what he hears. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. Maybe it will work, maybe not. At this point the important thing is that he's out of his boat looking. When he comes to shore he talks to his friends and they talk to their friends. People like him may end up writing... or not. Maybe they'll talk, or tweet, or host television shows -- or maybe (hopefully) there will be another way to introduce people to what they find in the sea, a method that does justice to the kind of change we are undergoing.