Claim: Streaming Music Services Are Killing Jazz and Classical Music

Technology has always shaped the way we make, distribute and consume music. Since the advent of recording technology some 130 years ago, our perception of music and our behaviours toward it and with it have changed drastically. Before 1877, it was impossible for anyone to listen to music on their own time in their own homes.  When the phonograph and gramophone came along, humanity’s relationship to music began to evolve in directions no one could have ever envisioned.

Those inventions by Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner led on the road to the recording industry, record collecting, home audio equipment, radio, LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, iPods and MP3s.  And now we’re at the very beginning of a new technological transition that’s going to change our technological relationship to music even more. And whenever that relationship changes, so does the course of history for various forms of music.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of streaming music services–hell, I even work for Songza–and I believe that streaming represents a major part of music’s future. However, some people vehemently disagree–and in one particular case, I may agree with them. And that’s in the area of jazz and classical music.

Unlike pop, rock, hip-hop, country and other forms of popular contemporary music, jazz and the classics require a certain amount of dedication and work. No one likes modern jazz the first time they hear it.  It’s too complicated and weird to be appreciated immediately by novice ears. You have to be taught how to listen by someone more experienced. Same with classical music and opera.

These are genres that often require repeated unintentional or forced exposure before the penny drops and you begin to go “Ah! I get it now!” Which leads us to the challenged posed to jazz, classical and opera by streaming music services.

When each of us has 100% freedom to program music for our lives, it’s only natural that we’re going to gravitate to material that we immediately find pleasant and enjoyable. It’s just human nature. With so much music out there, why spend time listening to something that you don’t like, you don’t get or music that simply is annoying on first taste.  You see the problem, right?

Read more about how streaming could threaten jazz and classical at Salon.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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