Fragmentation as a long term trend

Fragmentation as a long term trend
Photo by Ning Shi on Unsplash

Does everything fragment eventually?

Talking with my daughter recently about music was really interesting, her and her friends have a completely different conceptual model for how they think about music, compared to how i used to think about it at her age.

  • The song is important, a collection of songs isn't
  • Whilst it is possible to be a 'fan' of a particular artist, its the exception, she is more likely to be a fan of a song, if the artist happens to have more than one song she likes then ok, but the majority of the music she listens to is made up of one song per artist
  • Genres mean nothing, 'is it good?' is the only criteria
  • Age means nothing, is it 5, 10, 30, 50 years old? doesn't matter, 'is it good?'
  • (She doesn't use the term 'is it good?', this is my interpretation)
  • Whether her friends like it or not is of very low value

When i compare this to how my early teenage self would approach music, it's very different. Features of how i would think about music would be:

  • If it's not from a genre I aligned myself with as part of some sort of implicit identity definition then i'm less likely to listen to it
  • I would consume albums vs specific songs (this is likely influenced by my listening media as a teenager which was tapes or CDs, changing CDs per song would have been a complete pain)
  • I would often consume multiple albums from the same artist (not sure i'd have identified as a 'fan' because that term would have made me cringe, but i would have deinfitely been able to list off my favourite artists/bands

Discovery of new music is also very different. for me it would have been:

  • Friends
  • Music weeklies or magazines
  • Radio
  • TV

For my daughter and her peers its likely to be:

  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • Friends

I think Music's role in defining or creating an identity has also changed. As a teenager for a period music partially defined social groups, interest, fashion. Whilst this is still true to some extent, I see it as a less powerful marker of 'people like me' and 'others' than it used to be.

What are the implications of this? In one ways its amazing, my daughter and her peers have access to more music, more diverse music, from more diverse artists than ever before. They are no longer constrained to the album format, so their ability to filter out poor quality/album filler music is greater. If their curation skills are good and their exploration network strong then they can curate a music environment of 'all killer no filler'.

Is this fragmentation part of a wider trend within other forms of art/content? i'm not sure.