The innovation of the iPod and its marriage partner, iTunes, have seemingly created Valhalla for the music lover. Now you can have thousands of songs at your fingertips and customize your own playlists, make ratings, burn your own CDs and in essence feel that's it's you--not the recording artists--who are responsible for all your music.
But in fact, you will most likely face the fact that as you amass thousands upon thousands of songs, you will reach a tipping point in which your ability to appreciate music will actually diminish, not deepen, for having tens of thousands of songs and hundreds of playlists will degrade your music listening pleasure.
The first thing you’ll notice is that you won’t even remember what songs you have and the treasures that used to give you so much joy become buried under a pile of newer and newer songs that muddle your memory.
The second thing that will happen is that in your determination to listen to as much of your music as possible, you will create huge playlists and the music will play all day and night as you multi-task at your computer so that you’re not really focusing on music the way you used to. Your relationship with music has changed drastically to the point that it is now a form of “wallpaper,” a droning in the distance that swaths you with a feeling of security.
The third thing you’ll notice is that you’ll become more self-conscious of what kind of songs you own because you’ll become aware that you live in a culture in which your identity is judged largely on your playlists and “brand identity” as determined by your music tastes will become more important than actually enjoying music.
Finally, when you have hundreds and hundreds of playlists, you will suffer from “choice anxiety.” Fretting over what to play and always worrying that you’re neglecting a huge chunk of your music will become a distraction that compromises your music-listening experience.
Thus we are a culture with the technology capable of fitting 40,000 songs on an iPod, but our brains cannot embrace that much music without suffering some kind of permanent meltdown.