The other day I heard an interview with Billy Crystal, and for a moment I felt like I went back in time. It wasn't on TV, and I wasn't just half paying attention on my way to work. I was sitting down with my parents in the living room, doing nothing but...listening. It was a little weird.
That evening made me think about how drastically our listening habits have changed over time. (I wrote a little bit about one facet of this change - the recent rise of streaming services - right here.) It seems like hardly anyone dedicates their entire mental capacity to music-listening, and they certainly don't sit down to do it. Poor music is always, ahem, playing second fiddle. I'm here all week, folks.
By the way, I'm not suggesting that music as a background element is a new phenomenon. Court musicians were playing for 18th century nobility, and they certainly existed long before that as well. I'm also not saying it's a bad thing. It's present in everything from therapy to video games, and that's great. There are avenues for which music needs to be secondary to another experience.
But a lot of the music we're exposed to isn't written to be secondary or incidental, and we still treat it that way. There's too much to enjoy to not sit down once in a while and just listen.