Internet downloading and MP3 players are creating a generation of people who do not seriously appreciate songs or musical performances, British researchers said.
"The accessibility of music has meant that it is taken for granted and does not require a deep emotional commitment once associated with music appreciation," said music psychologist Adrian North.
North led a team from the University of Leicester, central England, that monitored 346 people over two weeks to evaluate how they related to music.
They concluded that because of greater accessibility through mass media, music was nowadays seen more as a commodity that is produced, distributed and consumed like any other.
It could also account for the popularity of television talent competitions, particularly in Britain, which allow viewers from the "iPod generation" a rare chance to engage and appreciate music and live performances, they suggested.
"In the 19th century, music was seen as a highly valued treasure with fundamental and near-mystical powers of human communication," said North.
"The pace of technological change has accelerated further over the last 20 years or so and these fundamental changes in the nature of musical experience and value have arguably become even more pronounced.
"Because so much music of different styles and genres is now so widely available via portable MP3 players and the internet, it is arguable that people now actively use music in everyday listening contexts to a much greater extent than ever before.
"The degree of accessibility and choice has arguably led to a rather passive attitude towards music heard in everyday life.
"In short, our relationship to music in everyday life may well be complex and sophisticated, but it is not necessarily characterised by deep emotional investment."
The academic's assessment follows a warning last week from rock legend Pete Townshend, The Who guitarist, that listening to rock music on an MP3 player through headphones could cause deafness.