There’s too much and not enough at the same time. – Dylan Moran
My Google Play subscription ended a few months ago. I already have an Apple Music family subscription, and though I prefer the services of the former, I thought I’d save a few bucks. 89 rupees per month to be exact, which is 1.367 USD. And now, Amazon Prime has launched its music services, and because I happen to have an account, I’m guessing I’ll be eligible for it too. And I can’t f***ing take it anymore.
As Keanu Reeves (who played bass in the band Dogstar) would react to the above information – Whoa. Back up a little. You have a problem because there are multiple music streaming/downloading outlets? That they are all too cheaply available? That they are all, what is worst, too easily available? You spoiled privileged brat you.
Hipsters will probably be saying, preach sista preach. What about those days when you saved all your money to go to record shops on the weekend? When you listened to the radio, the one radio that the whole family shared? When you borrowed and lent out records to friends? When you played the same single or album over and over again? When you could sell your collection to make some cash if you needed to?
Well, most of this is not applicable to me, considering I’ve been a teenager in the 21st century. My hipster version of the protest would be – what about those days when you bought cassettes for 50, 100 or 150 rupees? When all your money went behind said cassettes? When you tuned into Top of the Pops on the ancient AM family radio on Saturday mornings where you could listen to UK pop hits that would only be released in your country nine months later? When you picked up and placed back cds in the record store, hoping that one day you’ll be able to afford all of them?
The struggle, the longing, the absolute yearning was part of the charm. Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter – John Keats. A day would come when I would no longer listen to anything that came my way (something that makes you a better critic than being a choice collector), nor would I listen to only what older people considered important (because they’re the enemy, right?), but come across all this music that is meant for some mystic union with my soul. Millions might love them, but my music would be sacred. It would be for me alone.
And now, I finally have it. Everything I could want. I don’t need a magazine. I don’t need to search for people to learn more from. It’s all available in the same place I use to pay my bills and look up tips on how to repair my washing machine. And I can’t even call it cheap as chips, because in some cases, it is cheaper than chips. Where lies the problem?
Only I could have a materialistic issue with the most affordable thing out there. I am not a miser, nor am I a financial wizard. But, I am so uninterested in money, I deal with it as little as possible. I take absolute ages to buy anything. I am interested in things of course, but not in collecting them. There are very few things in my life that are not used, and many that are used a lot. But, when it comes to books, music and even movies, I’ve been conflicted.
I will not try to dissuade anybody from the notion of streaming/downloading services when it comes to the above. I do think it’s unfair that some up and coming musicians do not make as much as they could have even ten years ago, but the protest that comes from colossal figures in the music industry pisses me off. Especially when that protest is unethical and self-serving, which is evidenced by them backtracking as soon as they’ve made a deal.
I want to pay for music I like. In the old days, I would have cared if I had a dud album (considering all my albums would be music I probably hadn’t listened to before buying), thought it was a waste of time and money, but now it seems a waste to pay even for what I love. Especially because most of the people I listen to are either dead, or the royalties of their music go to organizations I don’t like.
But, did I think about where my money was going when I bought albums ten years ago? No. I bought them, because buying was the only way I could listen to them. I didn’t think about whether my money supported the artist or not. It was the music I paid for. Did people regret buying Rolling Stones or David Bowie records once they found out how they had been cheated by their managers? No. You’d pay over and over again if needed, because all you care about is the music itself.
It was a no-brainer for me to buy Kate Bush’s latest album this time last year, even when I could have satisfied myself with streaming it first. It wasn’t because it was a rare event for her to have an album out to begin with, or that I had sulked for three years over not being able to go to her live shows which had culminated in the album, but because her music is mine. It isn’t out to me on loan, it is as much mine as any other thing I find indispensable in my life. Music streaming is not a problem when it comes to music you love.
It’s the unheard music that I am struggling over. I would have loved subscription services from the ages of thirteen to twenty-three. I cannot think of anything more apt to spend money on. Now, I just find myself listening to the same thing over and over. I have the same music downloaded on every service, and I pay to listen to it again and again. Oh, and again. I am constantly anxious over artists I like, because I am hungry to listen to everything they ever did (some crap home recordings, now that I have them) and listen to people who are like the artist (suggestions for which are not always reliable on subscription services).
I have even been considering heavy metal, now that I no longer have to worry about the condescending look I’d get from the cashier at the CD shop. Things are that complicated.
Even if I pay 89 rupees per month just to listen to one album, that is less than what I would have to pay to buy that album. I’ve become so lazy, I don’t take the trouble to put on my cds anymore (I no longer have cassettes or my father’s records). Nostalgia is for another time, I feel injustice for not being younger.
I am not exactly old (six months away from turning the cube root of 27000), but one of my 2018 resolutions is probably going to be about how I listen to music. For the last ten years, it has mainly been reading up and going for stuff that interests me. I rarely discover things, I already have an AllMusic background of the artist in my head when I get down to listening to them. And, I don’t even listen to them as intently – not intensely – as I used to. I’ve never been one for background music, because my theory is, if it is background, it might as well not be there. But now, even the best of it seems to have been relegated to the background, simply because I am not as crazy about it as I used to be. As crazy and as concentrated, as if that album is the only thing that matters. As if engaging with that album is the only experience worth having.
When I was travelling last month, I came across several grand ‘views’ – something I don’t often get to have normally. On watching one such place I wondered, does this do more for me than “Thieves Like Us” by New Order? No, it doesn’t. Am I so thoroughly under the mercy of artifice – of created beauty? Perhaps, yes. As long the beautiful is part of my life, I don’t care what form it takes.
I’m not going to do lists and challenges, but I do want to use my subscription(s) more cost, as well as pleasure-effectively. I’ve tried curated playlists and top 40s, but they mostly put me to sleep. However, there has got to be a way, a road map through which I will be able to fulfill that yearning, that ambition, from all those years ago.
How do you use your music streaming/downloading services? Variety, playlists, or the same thing over and over again?