Steve Jobs – how he changed our music

The founder and former CEO of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, passed away on Wednesday evening in Cupertino, California. In an address following Jobs passing, President Obama expressed to the nation that Jobs “changed the way each of us see the world.” Unless you work in the business, you may not realize that he made quite an impact on bluegrass music and our industry as well.

Steve Jobs was an innovator through-and-through. Almost exactly 10 years ago, Apple developed the iPod and its software counterpart, iTunes. Jobs’ iPod finally made portable music convenient, making it possible to carry 1500+ songs in your pocket.

The Apple digital music store, iTunes, brought the future of the music industry in the digital realm into reality. With ease, customers could buy thousands of songs instantly! For bluegrass fans in particular, this was revolutionary. An immense selection of bluegrass albums at your fingertips is something first generation grassers could have only dreamt about. As we all know, prime bluegrass is not easily found at the local Walmart or Best Buy. If you want anything deeper than Flatt & Scruggs’ Greatest Hits or Alison Krauss albums, you have to find another source.

This lack of readily available bluegrass recordings is why County Sales has been immensely successful for decades. Before iTunes, unless a bluegrass fan could make it to a festival to buy it form the artist directly, they had to order it and wait a week or more. Thanks to Steve Jobs and iTunes, we know we can find exactly what we are looking for, and have it instantly on our computer. This innovation affects bluegrass fans more than other genres of music, because of the hassle of purchasing bluegrass through other avenues. iTunes’ podcasts also make it convenient for radio personalities to distribute their program without being pigeonholed to their specific time slot.

Jobs’ other brainkids include the iPad, the iPhone, and the Macbook. All of these have had great effects on bluegrass as well. Macbooks make it easier than ever to get involved in the music. Their basic recording software Garageband, is included on all models. This makes it possible for anyone to record a demo, and it’s loads easier than trying to rely on a tape player. This recording software is also nice for disc jockeys to record interviews with artists while on the road. Macintosh’s advanced recording software is used by many producers in the studio.

The iPhone has also helped aid our industry. At festivals, it is not uncommon to see fans, promoters, and artists holding each others’ iPhones real close to share songs with one another. Being able to carry the internet in your pocket makes it simpler than ever to keep up-to-date with the industry. The instant something happens, it can be broadcast to the world.

iPhones also possess video editing software, which makes it more convenient than ever for a fan to record a memorable performance or an historic jam session with ease. This feature is also great for artists to posts “tales from the road,” or other videos to share with their fans. iPhones also possess a small recording device, very convenient for disc jockeys to have artists record quick radio liners without the hassle of microphones and other cumbersome equipment and cords.

The availability of applications for the iPhone in Apple’s App Store gives the iPhone endless possibilities. Musicians can download top notch tuners onto their phone with ease. Applications also allow artists to finally be able to process credit card transactions at the record table without a separate machine or landline.

The iPad has been Apple’s latest adventure, but is already making waves in the music world. Bluegrassers are beginning to utilize this magnificent tool to their advantage. For example, Newfound Road has an iPad at the record table for fans to sign up for the mailing list.

All-in-all, Steve Jobs’ innovations have revolutionized the way technology is perceived and used around the globe, both in and out of bluegrass. Thank you, and rest in peace.

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About the Author

Daniel Mullins

Daniel Mullins is an IBMA award-winning journalist and broadcaster from southwestern Ohio, with an American Studies degree from Cedarville University. He hosts the Walls of Time: Bluegrass Podcast and his daily radio program, The Daniel Mullins Midday Music Spectacular, on the Real Roots Radio network. He also serves as the station’s music director, programming country, bluegrass, and Americana music.