At the end of last month I posted a poll asking if you paid for streaming music. Why was I curious about this? Well as a big-fat music geek, I pay for my music. I do so for a couple of reasons, the primary being that I don’t think it’s okay to steal if you can afford to pay–for anything. I also look at the sorry state of music today and know that the problem is money-related. The Internet has made it easy to discover new and exciting music, but it’s also eroded away the old Music Biz-model. Scrambling to adjust to the new paradigm, record companies doing just about everything but fostering artists and release better music. When an artists puts out something of quality I feel very responsible to pay for their music just to send the message of “this is good, please make more like this.” When the streaming music model first hit the scene I was against it. Up until two or three years ago I was a massive collector of physical media. The idea of owning but not really owning a band’s album or song was foreign to me. I’d dabbled in iTunes and eMusic, two services that cut out a physical copy but still gave you something, even it if is a digital file. It quickly became apparent to me that a digital copy of an album was more or less just as ethereal as a copy I was only streaming. I simply wasn’t able to burn everything I (legally) downloaded onto CD, there was just too much. And boy did my hard drive fill up fast. So what did I do? I quit iTunes. I waved bon voyage to eMusic and got on the Spotify bandwagon.
Prior to Spotify, my only experience with music streaming was Pandora. I liked Pandora’s ability to recommend new music to me based on what I liked, but I didn’t care for the radio-like quality of the service. I’m the kind of listener who most times knows exactly what I want to hear, which is not really what Pandora’s all about. Spotify appealed to me because it was basically my iTunes…just with (nearly) everything I could ever want to hear. Spotify sneakily offered me a 90-day trial that hooked me. I now pay for premium Spotify in order to have the best sound quality, no commercials, and so I could have it on my iPhone. Recently Spotify changed their service to allow non-paying listeners the ability to listen to Spotify on their phones, which is a pretty big deal. The drawback to being a non-paying Spotify user is that you can’t pick what you hear beyond the artist. Only premium users are able to pick and choose what they hear, everyone who doesn’t pay is forever stuck on “shuffle.” There has been much debate on the amount of money streaming services pay artists. Most of what I’ve read indicates what I’ve suspected all along: a $9.99 streaming plan that gives customers access to 99.999% of all popular music is not a business model that rewards artists as well as traditional album sales. This bums me out and it appears to be the Achilles Heel of services like Spotify. Since they aren’t paying artists very fairly, many are “jumping ship” like Taylor Swift from Spotify or starting their own streaming services like Jay-Z. I don’t know exactly how I feel about this. On one hand, the chief reason I’m paying for Spotify is so I’m not picking anyone’s pocket…on the other I think it’s shitty you have play “I’m on Fire” 100,000,000,000,000,000 times for the Boss to make a nickel*.
As I stated, I don’t know very many hardcore music fans (a sad indicator of where the music industry is going or maybe just I’m bad at making friends) so I’m always a bit puzzled if I’m in the minority or majority when it comes to paying for streaming music…hence the poll. The results indicate that only 28 people could be bothered to read my shitty blog and take the poll. Of those 28 people, 16 people (57.14%) said that they do indeed pay for a streaming music service of some variety. There were 12 people (42.86%) who reported that they don’t. Then a bunch of cry-babies took umbrage with the phrasing of the poll answers. I wrote the poll answers with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but there were a few people who didn’t take it that way. They refused to participate because they didn’t like being called a “chump.” Similarly, some people were upset that the option of saying “no, I don’t pay for streaming music” also alluded to illegally downloading music (“No, this is 2015 and music is free online). I get it. People who are into music almost always want to pay for it and the stigma of being “a chump” looms over us all. Hell, one of the reasons I put the poll up in the first place was to see if I was out of touch (or whatever) because I was paying for a streaming music service. I don’t think I am…but not thanks to this highly-unscientific rock poll. No, the sheer number of streaming services is proof enough that the business model is making someone, somewhere money. You can’t make money without chumps–I mean customers–forking over cold hard currency. I’ve written in the past how Spotify saved me from a 5-10 CD a week habit. More than just the expense of buying all that shiny plastic, streaming music saves space in my home and has allowed me to discover so many great new bands and genres of music by simply letting me “try out” music with one flat fee. Having all the music I could want on my iPhone is great, too.
Really, the only negative I have with streaming music is the music rights issue. I can’t tell you how many times a band’s album or even entire discography has simply vanished overnight. I can’t quite tell the reason, but I imagine it’s because the service I’m using just up and lost the rights to carry the album/song/catalog. It’s a bummer when a song you love just evaporates, like it was never available to you. I also don’t like how certain services have certain bands. AC/DC and The Beatles are available on Pandora, but are nowhere to be found on my Spotify service. Bummer. If these two issues were somehow solved (which they won’t be) then I’d have no problems at all with streaming music services. I think that in a few years music streaming will 100% be the norm in regards to music consumption. I think Pandora or Spotify accounts will be bundled with Cable/High Speed Internet packages…and we’ll all live on the moon with our rocket sleds and robot dogs. What a glorious future it will be. *not an actual figure