Never before in the history of humanity have so many different kinds of music been so easily available to so many people. The development of the electronic media in the latter part of the 20th Century revolutionized access to and use of music in our everyday lives. We can turn on the radio, play a CD or tape, or listen to music on video or TV with very little effort. This has not always been the case. Prior to these developments, music was only accessible for most people if they made it themselves or attended particular religious or social events. The effects of these changes have been dramatic. It is now possible for us to use music to manipulate personal moods, arousal and feelings, and create environments which may manipulate the ways that other people feel and behave. Individuals can and do use music as an aid to relaxation, to overcome powerful emotions, to generate the right mood for going to a party, to stimulate concentration, in short, to promote their well being. It has become a tool to be used to enhance our self presentation and promote our development.
The down side to the easy availability of music is that there is a tendency for it to be taken for granted. At the same time as music is becoming a more integral part of every day life, the place of music in formal education world wide is consistently being questioned. Music already plays an important role in promoting human well being. As the positive benefits of music are increasingly demonstrated in health, psychology and other fields demand will increase. If this is to be met society will need appropriately educated musicians.
Probably, the most significant development in music in the last century was the development of the technology which enabled the recording of sound. This has made music easily accessible to everyone. As a result of this music has become a major industry world wide.
In the USA and the UK music is amongst the top economic generators of income. There are currently 13,159 radio stations in the USA. The average American is exposed to more than 1600 commercial messages in each 24 hour period through one type of media or another. Most of these advertisements are accompanied by music. In the UK, in 1998, the British Phonographic Industry annual trade figures indicated that sales of music reached an all time high of £1,118 million. Album sales exceeded 210 million units. In 1997, total domestic spending on music in the UK was valued at £3.7 billion. Gross overseas earnings were valued at £1,332 million compared with payments of £813m. Net earnings were estimated at £519m. The domestic music industry also had a value of £3.2 billion with the equivalent of 130,00 full time jobs.In 1999, the UK was ranked 3rd with only the USA and Japan higher in relation to world music sales. Music is of major importance to the UK’s economic health.
In 1993, 98.5% of teenagers in the USA claimed to listen to music. In the region of 70% of students report listening to music while studying. This degree of exposure and the evidence indicating the importance of music in adolescents’ lives suggests that its influence may be very powerful. But it is not only adolescents who listen to and enjoy music, a recent US survey of musical tastes indicated that 75% of mature citizens listened to music for at least one hour everyday. Their preferred music was classical, show tunes and country music. In the UK, recent figures suggest that in the order of 11.3 million people listen regularly to BBC Radio 1, 10 million to BBC Radio 2, 6.2 million to Classic FM and 1.9 million to Radio 3. In addition there are over 300 commercial stations and almost 40 BBC local stations which spend a considerable amount of air time playing music.
People not only listen to music, they actively take part in making it. In 1993, in the USA, 62 million people said that they sang or played a musical instrument. In the UK millions of people sing or play instruments for the love of it. In 1999, 49% of children took instrumental music lessons. The decision to learn an instrument was generally theirs, although teachers were influential in the process, more so than parents. Approximately half of the children who played had a friend or family member who also played an instrument. Estimates of adults playing an instrument have varied between 24-30%. The instruments most likely to be played by children are the recorder, electronic keyboard or piano. Piano is the main instrument for adults. The main reason children gave for learning a particular instrument was liking the sound, although friendships were important in some cases.
These figures suggest that music has become an integral part of our everyday lives in a way which would have been unthinkable 100 years ago. Further, we not only listen to music, we make it. This is reflected in the setting up of a development agency for participatory music making in the community called Sound Sense. This acts as a source of information and provides opportunities for the exchange of ideas in relation to all aspects of community music.