Music Industry

Music in the Age of Streaming: To Own or Just Access? (Hint: You Can Pry Physical Music from My Cold Dead Hands)

I’m at the tail end of consolidating my home office into a newly-renovated basement HQ. For the first time in decades, all my music–vinyl, CDs, digital files, box sets and even cassettes–will be in the same place.

I have a lot of stuff. A lot. And I can’t imagine not owning it. Sure, I stream a ton of music, but there’s something satisfying–comforting–knowing that my music is safely stored in physical form in my home. And I’m not alone. This is from Mashable.

I’m not some snob with my nose totally upturned to streaming — as I type these words, I’m jamming out to my Ryan Adams station on Pandora. I love discovering new jams via algorithm, and Spotify’s new music page is one of the first things I check out on Friday mornings.

I can appreciate the power and convenience that comes along with streaming music. It’s intoxicating to be able to pull up just about every song ever recorded instantly, wherever and whenever you want. That’s one of the reasons streaming overtook digital sales last year for the first time ever — physical music sales were left in the dust back in 2011.

But for me, that power is too much far-ranging, and too impersonal. Everyone can have that same experience, while I still think of music I dedicate my attention to as mine.

The way that I listen to music makes me more likely to want to own it, too. I’m not a playlist fiend like most of my friends — I tend to listen to albums all the way through, in the gym, at home, everywhere. I appreciate the care that went into the organization and presentation of someone’s art.

It’s not that I’m a format snob. MP3, MP4, FLAC — they’re all a mishmash of letters and numbers to me. I’m as happy listening to a sketchy download as a vinyl record on my stereo system.

Read on. Anyone want to weigh in?

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.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “Music in the Age of Streaming: To Own or Just Access? (Hint: You Can Pry Physical Music from My Cold Dead Hands)

  • I am dreading the day of no more cds; I am overjoyed to find a cd in Walmart that I hear on CFNY. I found K-Flay’s for $10. I load my cds onto my PC using Windows Media File at the highest setting, and just have to reload them if my hard drive dies. With this new problem of cds deteriorating – two of my oldest – Sinnead O’Conners Lion and the Cobra, and my Hardest Hits Vol 1 both do not play properly anymore, so I should be moving everything to a portable hard drive. I only have just over 1000; as a former room mate was stealing and selling them. The only things I have ever downloaded had been 3 videos from You-Tube, back when you could without a subscription, of songs impossible to buy.

  • The only things I stream are podcasts. Because, the sound quality of all streaming is dead average, and in my opinion, not worth the cost of bandwidth.

    I spent a lot of money on my sound system, and when streaming to it, and then listening to the same piece on CD, Record of even Tape, there’s no comparison. Streaming is dead sounding music. It’s what you do when you don’t want to hear music, and just have it on in the background as you are doing something else.

  • I’m all-in for “own”, even if it means purchasing files from 7 digital and downloading them. Thanks in no small part to your work, I like a lot of alternative music. Some of it took more work than one would think to hunt down.

    I don’t trust streaming services to have the catalogue available forever; one contract dispute and hours of music could disappear. Better to create my own catalogue.

  • I just turned 43 so I grew up in the era of lp’s and mixtapes. I have a decent vinyl collection(My preferred method of listening) But I download mp3’s as well, for the convenience, but owning my collection is an old school preference for me. There’s nothing like going to someone’s apartment and rifling through their collection of music. It gives me insight into who they are, what’s important to them. Your collection tells me lots about your personality and it’s honestly part of the way that i gauge people. My music collection is important to me and I’m proud to show what I have to others. I know that may sound silly but it really has defined some friendships that I’ve made over the years. We’ve bonded over our love for some great music that we’ve shared and listened to together. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything


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