Why Streaming Music Has an Offline Problem

One of the best things about streaming music services is how you can download the tracks you want for offline listening–like, say, on an airplane. But there are still some glitches. Wired explains.

WE SET UP early on the beach, trying to get a good view of the famous July 4th fireworks on South Lake Tahoe. We came seriously prepared: a huge canopy to help us avoid repeating the previous day’s sunburn disasters, a giant cooler filled to the brim, and every beach game we could find at the Big Kmart down the street. My primary contribution was the UE Megaboom, the barrel-shaped Bluetooth speaker with enough power and battery to turn our half of the beach into a thumping BBQ dance party.

There was just one problem—a pesky little “1x” at the top left corner of my iPhone’s screen. Technically, the symbol indicates you have 2G service (party like it’s 1999!), but really, the 1x is the universal indicator that you can’t do nothin’ on your phone. So around the circle we went, the whole dozen of us, everyone checking their phone to see if they had enough service to stream music. Nobody did. And nobody had any music stored on their phone, because why would they? It’s 2015. Our day turned into a constant battle against YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora, and I don’t think we ever got through a full song without interruption. It sucked.

Streaming music has an offline problem. As they’ve fallen all over themselves reminding us how wonderful it is to have 30 million songs only a few taps away, all for the low, low price of $10 a month, these companies have forgotten that the key to a great music experience is pressing play and hearing music. That shouldn’t be as hard as they’re making it.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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