I'm convinced that for most people, most of the time, the experience of listening to (rock and soul) music in the 21st century is essentially different than it was back in the day. I'd love to know your thoughts.

For me, the whole listening experience is different in so many ways that I hardly know where to start. Here's a quick summary of six differences that stand out to me. Each one is linked to its own discussion thread for your comments.

• The older Top 40 mix of musical styles with a huge shared audience fragmented into many smaller niche audiences, one for each musical style and slant, exchanging more personalization for lost common cultural experiences.

• Much of the best music of the last three decades has come from experiments with rhythm and sound at the expense of melody and harmony.

• 24/7 TV and internet video marketing has supplanted listeners' imagination and subverted the meaning of music into brand and lifestyle choices.

• With increased mobility, faster pace of life, competition from interactive media, and shorter attention spans, music listening has less meaning and importance for most people than it did when sustained attention was commonplace.

• Music reflects the times. Today's songwriters and audiences reflect a more individualistic, materialistic, fearful, uncertain, cynical, and alienated society than back in the day.

Sound quality largely sucks today because two distinct types of compression (file size/bit rate and loudness/dynamic range) destroy music's sonic subtleties and seriously decrease the emotional impact of the listening experience.

All six of these differences affect my listening experience.

Back then I had more reasons and opportunities to give myself up to the music completely. Some of that came from being part of a common musical culture and from the historical continuity of the rock and soul era. Some of it was having more time available, with fewer distractions and less competition from interactive media and other activities. Much of it was simply the stronger emotional appeal of the songs and performances, the messages in the music, and the sheer beauty of its uncompressed analog sound.

How about you?

Comment on this article to discuss the main idea, the six points taken together, or to add another log or two to the fire. Follow the six links above to discuss each bulleted point in its own right. Click here to see a summary table of all six differences across three points in time.