Owning Music vs Streaming Music

‘Check out all the amazing artwork on these, Rach!’

My dad was showing me his extensive collection of LP’s and records back from when he was my age up until now. A library of music from every age and taste he’s had. From Santana to Black Sabbath, Hendrix to Incognito, a timeline of his musical past lined up in perfectly regimented order to preserve the crisp corners of each LP. Post- vinyl-appreciation, I flicked through my iPod and realised how unfulfilled I felt with just a simple scroll through a list of artists. No physical music to hold anymore. No excitement of buying the latest album on release day to flick through the cover booklet and marvel at the skilled photography or quirky artwork used. Just a 30 second speed upload or a one-time-only stream. It’s hardly something to tell your kids about now, is it?!

It got me discussing the recent debate of owning music vs streaming music… traditional vs the modern… my dad vs me! Yet it seems at some points these lines are blurred, and the perks and cons of each are apparent in both generations.

Asking around a few peers and whiz-kids of the download generation, they can’t express enough their adoration of the streaming world. Spotify and YouTube acting as their main source of musical accessibility – yet nothing belonging to them except a few Spice Girls albums and a Now 56 compilation circa 2001. Is this really the musical generation we want to represent? No physical history of the tastes we’ve had over the years? Apparently so!

‘But it’s free!’, ‘It doesn’t take up space on my shelves,’ or even ‘I can listen to whoever I fancy at the time’ are all the usual responses to the streaming side of the debate. All perfectly valid and extremely beneficial, agreed! Especially with the recent exponential growth of music and artists now available to us online – you really can listen to whoever you want, whenever you want, often with suggestions of similar tracks or forgotten artists in the meantime. This is surely a better way of finding new music than traipsing the local record store for the Recently Released or Unsigned shelf!

Even my Dad, a music veteran of the vinyl generation, is partial to a download or two! Perks for him are that he can now find tracks or albums from his favourite old artists that may not have been released on CD, or an unplugged session in a radio studio which has now been released to download 30 years later.  The internet has created an infinite sea of not only new and upcoming music, but an ocean of uncovered tracks from years previous, too. A perk, undoubtedly, but enough to replace his love for those 12” covers? Only time will tell!

On the topic of owning music – there are, too, many arguments which bury the influx of technology and surge of modern streaming sites. Firstly – that pure love of owning the album. The ability to dig out that old record from 20 years ago, blow off the dust and reminisce about where you were when that single adorned the charts, or who you slow danced with to the B-Side at the prom. These memories, and the boast-able collection you can gaze proudly over, are the main pros to owning music.

Back when LP’s were popular, even more so than the introduction of CD’s, music was about your eyes too – not just your ears. The art work for LP covers were just as thought about as the tracks themselves, often commissioning creatives from artists and photographers of high calibre. Vinyl’s became collector’s items, and even to this day are worth an arm and a leg! This combination of music and art is slowly depleting, with most stream sites today barely owning the cover image in a jpeg!

Buying music not only fulfills the buyer, but also is highly responsible for keeping our record industry afloat! Bands and artists which we love, rely heavily on the sales made from their CD’s to support them – particularly since the increase of illegal downloading has spread. These piracy issues and promotion of illegal downloads is crippling the music industry – a problem which never arose in my father’s day of the LP.

So it seems that the age old debate of traditional vs modern will continue, and the music industry will forever evolve with the popularity of music streaming. The internet, and what’s available on it, is exceptional – there is no denying that artists and listeners alike benefit hugely from sites such as Spotify and YouTube. The rapid growth of streaming popularity will continue, but I believe that so will the love for the traditional. People who stream music still buy music – for their car, or as presents, or even to then put onto their iPod, and people who buy music also have a tendency to stream. It seems there is no black or white, but instead a blurred line between the two. As the modern generation, we will forever search for music online, but let’s not forget about our dusty CD’s and Records! After all – they’re a pretty good map of your musical past.

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