$360 For 3 Years of Spotify Could Have Bought You 360 Songs Forever

| Editorial

Here I am at SXSW, and it's now fully transitioned from the tech geeks (and marketing flacks) attending the Interactive festival to the music geeks attending live music showcases at night and catching a few panels during the day.

The ages of people at the showcases I've attended thus far range from "he's old enough to get into a bar?" to "heck yeah I'm still young compared to that dude." And with that range comes a dichotomy in terms of what it means to "have" music.

People my age (I'm 41)—and certainly for those older than me (and probably some about 10 years younger than me)—were all raised owning our own copies of the music we listened to. That mentality is hard for us to break and for good reason: we know what it's like to NOT be able to get and listen to the song we want to listen to at that moment.

Growing up I remember friends having albums that I wanted to have, but were out of print at the time so I had to wait for a reissue or find it in the (gently-)used bin at the record shop. CDs came out and fixed a lot of that because so much music was reissued at that point, but still there was a lag — not everything was available on CD the moment I wanted it, and some stuff still isn't available in any form.

To Rent or Own?People raised in our current "streaming age" have yet to experience that. In fact, everything is becoming more available, so much so that it's no big deal not to own a song as long as you keep your Spotify or Rdio subscription current.

What happens when the song you liked 5 years ago suddenly falls in popularity and Spotify stops carrying it for some reason? Or what happens if you lose all your playlists you've built up on Spotify?

Many of today's consumers don't know what it's like to LOSE access to a piece of music, and by nature of the Universe that's bound to happen at some point. So what happens then?

Sure some folks won't care and will just move on to the current song du jour, but that's been true forever. I'm talking about the true music fan who, because he/she was raised in the streaming age, owns nothing more than an iPhone and a Spotify subscription (and perhaps a great pair of headphones...and a Sonos system). What happens to that person when they just lose access to their favorite songs?

They don't yet know to collect and squirrel away music because they haven't been conditioned to do so. Mark my words, though: squirreling things away is human nature (and squirrel nature). As soon as (or if) some significant chunk of what's available today becomes NOT available, or even just difficult to access in some way, there will be this mad rush to buy and own music again.

For many true music fans, that will be an expensive—and perhaps cost-prohibitive—lesson. The $360 you spent for 3 years of Spotify could have bought you 360 songs that you retain access to forever.

So what happens then? Does another streaming service pop up and take the previous one's place? Probably, but for how many people will the damage already be done? And how long will it take to raise another generation that doesn't remember that great loss? And how many iterations of this can the current climate survive before people just spent $10 per month on 10 songs per month and build up their own library that never leaves them?

I like streaming music, so much so that even I have succumbed to the concept of "I don't need to buy it because I can stream it" in a lot of cases. But every now and then I think, "Be careful, Dave — the fact that you can stream it today is no guarantee that you can do so again tomorrow."



Can you DJ a get together using Spotify?

Do they have “Snack Attack” by Godley and Creme?

Can I make a mix and send it to that girl I like?

Will Spotify play “Dark Side of the Moon” into my light organ?

Do they have cut-outs?


Now there’s a coincidence. While I was reading this article Torquil Campbell was on CBC Radio Q saying more or less the same thing. His key point was that those that love music want it to be substantial, to have art, to take up space, to have SIGNIFICANCE. Music is more than streaming background noise.
I think this link will take you to the podcast. It’s the last bit.
One thing they went on about was how they loved their old vinyl records. Personally I have no fond memories of vinyl. They were scratchy, popped, skipped, they wore out after just a few playings, they were absurdly delicate, I was so thankful when CDs came out. Talk about keeping your music forever, CDs are forever. Vinyl you get 20 to 50 playings before they are noticeably degraded.
Personally though, I’ve only bought second hand CDs for the last decade. I’ve gone to iTunes. Last week I got the latest album from The Real McKenzie’s, via iTunes. Not as ‘substantial’ as CDs but it sure is easy, and safe as long as I do regular backups.


The machinations of the music biz are another thing the young’uns don’t fully understand - all of the multitudes of reasons *why* something might disappear from their stream, it isn’t strictly always even about popularity. Few seem to realize how Apple had to arm wrestle the these companies to even offer what they do, which in turn made agreements with companies like Spotify possible.

This is all, personally, my biggest beef with the notion of living in the cloud. It isn’t about ownership, but access, and more specifically access being granted by a gatekeeper or service that may or may not exist in the future (*cough*Reader*cough* or alternately, PlaysforSure), and that sort of flies in the face of what the clod is intended to offer in the first place (where is the logic in requiring our data and media to be filtered through a third party and stored entirely offsite?).

But I digress. Basically, I believe Mr. Jobs was correct when he asserted that people don’t want to ‘rent’ music. Today’s younger fans just hasn’t realized it applies to them - yet.

Ah, the ignorance of youth. wink


I will often stream music (free on Pandora only) mainly to hear things I don’t own. However, when I am streaming and I hear something I really like, I buy it. What I’m trying to say is, streaming music for free on Pandora has undoubtably caused me to buy music I never would have otherwise.

But having streaming (free or paid) as my only source of music? I would never do that.

I’ve always believed that you could tell a lot about a person by their record collection.


Grumble. Typo-riffic! Is the ability to edit posted comments still available?


geoduck - Thanks for the link! Q is a great program. Jian Ghomeshi asks the questions I want to know.

And I want to know what you have against vinyl? I love vinyl. I listen to my LPs when I can, and if they are truly favorites, I digitize them. I used to clean up the digital files but now I just leave in the scratches and pops. That way, when I hear the song on my iPod I know its from MY record, yea, it has a pop there in the quiet part. It reminds me of the thing. Which reminds me of the day I was attracted to the record cover and bought it without a clue as to what it would sound like.

ah, the ignorance of youth… That ignorance allowed me to take risks. and when a risk payed off, it was a special thrill. One that I relive whenever I hear the clicks and pops of my treasured LP.

ewww, sorry for showing my age wink


And I want to know what you have against vinyl?

I HATED vinyl. Keep in mind though that my experience was with late ‘70’s and early 80’s records. As I understand they were better in earlier decades.  Literally they degraded noticeably with every playing. Even when we used very light arm weight, as low as 1/4 oz if I remember correctly. In as few as 10 playings you could hear the wear on the disk. the sound wasn’t as sharp or clear. Our SOP was to buy a record, play it once to make sure it wasn’t defective (a lot of them had scratches or chunks of debris pressed into the vinyl, even when they were from Deutsche Grammophon or one of the other quality companies), and then copy it to tape. The record then was stored until the tape wore out, unless that is if they got too near the radiator or in the sun when they would warp. No my memory of records was that they were not reliable to bring you music or to keep it for a long period of time. This is WHY CDs replaced them so quickly.


Or maybe that should have been Grams not oz. It’s been so long I can’t remember, I just know we kept the arm’s as light as possible to reduce wear.


Not to mention bias compensation and anti-skating devices.  The mechanics of the record deck was an industry in itself.


“The mechanics of the record deck was an industry in itself.”

Indeed. The funniest comment on this must be Stan Freberg’s items of “Dr. Herman Horne on HiFi”

Absolutely to die for.


I did the same as geoduck, get the LP home, and play once to transfer to cassette, and then store the LP carefully away from heat etc till the tape wore out, and then repeat the process again… I even remember having a electrostatic “gun” and the carbon fibre brush ?

I wonder if any of the albums I’ve got in storage still play. I’d need a turntable first….


It’s a false dichotomy. I spend $5/month for a MOG subscription (plus an occasional month at $5 extra to get streaming to my phone—mostly for car trips). That is not so much that I feel like I can’t spend money to purchase music that I expect to listen to for many years. Plus, with a young child in the house the streaming service not only fits well with her ever-changing tastes, but allows me to play just about any genre of music for her on a whim.

Paul Goodwin

kevinlane-yes me too. Find it on streaming and buy it if it’s good. One thing’s for sure, if you go with streaming only, at some time, many great songs (many of which are not big radio hits) will not be available, and the cost to listen to them will be higher. Music listening is impulsive too. When I want to hear a song, I want to hear it now. I don’t want to go find it. I want it in my library for instant gratification. One bummer in buying music by the download is that a lot of really good songs are still only at 128K bit sample rates. It’s great to not have to buy a full CD to get a few songs you want, but CD quality music is so much better than the 128K bit sampled versions. And the same is true of the streaming services, their sound quality isn’t great.

Unfortunately I ripped my 600 CD collection in 2002 for my first iPod, and did it at 128 K, because disk space was limited back then, and my first iPod was only 15 GB. Also, for a long time iTunes only carried 128 K music; long enough for me to mass about another 5,000 songs through downloads over the years, and only about 10% of them were high quality. My to-do list includes re-ripping my CDs, but Jaheezus it takes a long time to do it with 600 or so CDs.

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