Hi, If you're reading this, it's probably because you've been listening to my weekly Spotify playlists. Thanks for doing that. But now here's a rather counterintuitive rant about why Spotify and services like it should not be your only source for music.
I love music. I love a LOT of different styles, genres, etc. of music. Once in a while, an album or song I like suddenly disappears from services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, YouTube Music, et al. and it never fails to drive me crazy. See, how these services all work is that the artist or label provides, along with the actual music, a license to stream that piece of music. Those licenses have expiry dates. So typically, the reason music disappears from streaming services is either A) the artist or label has purposefully revoked the license, or B) the streaming service (or the artist/label) lets the license expire and has not yet negotiated a new license.
All of this is to say that we are venturing into a sort of post-ownership society, where everything is rented, and nothing is truly YOURS. And this kind of scares me.
So what is the solution? Well, you could always go with a service such as Bandcamp, which allows you to purchase and download music, DRM-Free (more on DRM, copy protection schemes, and the history thereof in a future post perhaps), directly from the artist. Now, at the risk of going on a bit of a tangent, I love Bandcamp, and I love how they directly support the artists on their platform. See, streaming services are a fantastic way to introduce yourself to new music without having to invest much money, time, or effort into doing so. Unfortunately, this extreme level of convenience, like so many other things in our modern digital lifestyle, comes at a cost; both to us as consumers, but also to artists. Much has been said about artists being underpaid by companies like Apple and Spotify, who license their music but, in the majority of cases, pay fractions of a cent per stream to the artist. I'm not here to discuss the ethics behind that (or my role as a complicit contributor to the problem by using streaming services myself), but it needs to be said.
With that in mind, while Bandcamp is great for NEW music, what about older music? Honestly, the only solution here, really, is to buy a physical copy. You can still buy CD players on Amazon if vinyl isn't something you want to collect. And if you want to purchase that music? Discogs has you covered. This is precisely what I've been doing. Too much of my favourite music has been slowly evaporating from Spotify and Apple Music, and this has prompted me to start up a CD collection again, after having ditched physical media wholeheartedly several years ago. And if doing all your shopping online isn't something you're interested in, there are of course always second-hand markets such as thrift stores and sites like Facebook's Marketplace or Kijiji. I've had success in both, but honestly, you can't beat Discogs in terms of quality, but that kinda goes without saying.
At the end of the day, none of this is to say that streaming services are inherently bad, or wrong, or evil. They're businesses that exist in a capitalist marketplace, and as such, they have to do what is best for them to continue generating revenue and profits. Where I see Spotify and other streaming services fitting into my life going forward hasn't changed much, and likely won't. For me, collecting physical media is more of an insurance against the fickle nature of streaming services; it's an extra cost, but one I'm willing to incur if it means I'll always have access to my favourite music. On top of that, in some small way it means I'm able to preserve and protect the music I love so that hopefully, future generations can listen to these albums and artists, even after I'm gone, and as a music nerd, that means the world to me.