Something has been creeping into my mind over the past few weeks, and while reading this Fast Company article, it dawned on me:
I now listen to music almost exclusively through streaming services.
Granted, I'm a self-proclaimed Microsoft fan boy, and the Zune Music Pass service (now falling under the Xbox brand) has kept this notion in my head for years. Still, it's only with the U.S. debut of Spotify that I made the switch. The free tier was enough to let me delve into this radically different usage model. The ramifications are huge, but the transition to this type of listening has been so natural a progression that I feel most people haven't truly perceived the change.
Like many of you, my first experiences of listening to music were via cassettes (vinyl was unfortunately not used much by my family when I was a kid). You listened to an album in order - the way the artist intended it - and that was that. CDs made skipping around a bit easier, but you were still limited to a single artist, and the album format remained.
Obviously, the popularizing of the MP3 represented a major shift in our listening habits, but looking back, it was only a transitional step to a more mature way of doing things - subscription or ad-supported streaming. Like an awkward teen, the MP3 had yet to grow into itself. Sure, the dramatically smaller footprint was great, and we could queue up any song in our library on a whim. The downside was that people had two equally unappealing options to obtain MP3s: rip their CD collection - a laborious, time-consuming task - or illegally download files with inaccurate metadata and horribly low bitrates. Eventually iTunes came onto the scene and brought some order to music downloads, but you still had to buy individual songs and albums. It was more convenient, but in my opinion not a generational leap forward.
Thankfully, the music industry has evolved to allow these streaming services to flourish. I'm a fan.
It makes so much sense that we shouldn't have to worry about physical discs or even files anymore. Instead of manually curating, organizing, and syncing hundreds of albums among multiple hard drives and devices, we can just search for the artist in Spotify or Xbox Music or whatever. And then hit play to stream it. Plus, these modern streaming services are not only convenient, they're social, which leads to better music discovery.
Interesting times we live in.
I'm curious: do you yearn for the good old days, or are you a believer in music streaming?