Posted in Of Musicals

Does Music Streaming Make You A Better Listener?

High Fidelity

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.

Bob Dylan and The Beatles  If You Needed Examples of Musicians You Can Stream

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?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

9 thoughts on “Does Music Streaming Make You A Better Listener?

  1. So many good and valid points that I found myself nodding my head in agreement to. When Spotify first became big, and Pandora to a small extent, I went all in. All this music available for nothing minus the odd commercial or two? Wow man, wave of the future. Just hook my laptop up to my stereo and away I went. But then I started hearing the negatives about them, about how poorly the revenue for up and coming artists, or even artists that are just on there were doing. On the one hand I was hearing from people like Rosanne Cash, who rail against the inequity of it all. And she’s right.

    There is another side of it though and I guess it would qualify as all press is good press sort of thing. Take one of my favorite songwriter’s-Chris Trapper. Not someone most know by name, but ask someone if they know ‘Everything Shines’ from There’s Something About Mary, or This Time from August Rush and there’s a chance they do. Both his songs. When I was wrestling with the decision about what to do, he made a tongue and cheek comment about This Time having hit 1 million listens on Spotify. To which I thought man, super cool! One million! Then he said it netted him about $100…total. And I felt such a sense of guilt about that. In his case I had been buying the physical albums, but it kind of turned me off most of them after that. The kicker is however, that Chris himself seems resigned to it being a platform available that keeps his name out there, so most of his music has stayed on there I believe. And I know lots of other artists that feel the same way. Lobbying for a better cut, but keeping the platform. Until then, I like my ‘product’. I have hipster tendencies but not for the sake of it being cool. Take the songs I just wrote about for my anniversary post by Bob Seger. I wore down two cassettes of that album that I can recall. Blasting them throughout college on crappy boomboxes and cars. Every bit and nuance of that album is inside of me. The same thing happened on CD…though with much more clarity. And now the same thing happens as I listen to the funky guitar and killer bass lines on my Ipod. If I happen to see a repress of it on vinyl I’d probably get it to feel like it was 1975 all over again!

    1. Hasn’t artists’ revenues always been an issue? Be it writers or musicians or even actors? Yes, this type of service generates less, but it is proportionate to what they were being paid in other models. I’m not going to mention the colossal figures I alluded to in the post since they’ve been known to blacklist nobodies on the internet for criticizing them but it’s not like their overall income would suffer through streaming. They just want to make more, irrespective of how the platform works. You and I have discussed this before, but having music available online at a cheaper rate is certainly a good thing. Albums don’t have to go out of print anymore, an artist can still keep trying even if they can’t find record companies to sign them. It does get difficult for the listener to navigate, but that might just be something to do with their personalities. When I was a teenager with a MySpace account, I listened to so many people who may or may not have become big names. But, it was a platform where I was excited everyday to pick up a genre or respond to artists asking me to give them feedback on their tracks. I don’t think I would have ever picked up ska or emo in a cd shop. Nobody who has a product out there in a model such as this (like my humble little kindle book, which only a handful of people, like yourself, have kindly read) should suffer the illusion that just because it is cheap and widely available, people will try it. There’s just too much stuff, and it is difficult to stand out without the help of those traditional sources of power. But, you can still find your niche, YOUR audience, in a way you couldn’t before.

      1. True. I guess it just comes with an acceptance that for some of us, we want the product itself, which feels like a physical support for an artist or writer…unless you buy it secondhand. But these days the lines are all over, and I see the move towards product being eliminated all together in the not too distant future. Obviously U2 with that Apple exclusive release album did something like that. Depending on who you talk to that was either brilliant or crass! As you say there is so much out there and I think that is why some musicians have just resigned themselves to letting it be out there and look to make more money out of touring and getting songs out on to tv shows and such. This is kind of like the obsessive sports talk radio we have over here. Talking about the business of sports and contracts and stuff rather than the game. I just want to listen to music. I want to support the people I come across that I like, so they can continue to do what they do.

      2. Sports is highly commercialized, so it isn’t surprising at all. I like that it’s more blunt about its sponsorship than things like cinema or social media. The U2 thing was pretty obvious lol. It’s like Mick Jagger drinking Coca-cola, he’s not fooling anyone. But, with what Radiohead did in 2005 with In Rainbows, or for that matter what Duran Duran did in 1997 (they were the first big act to release for download. They were boycotted in all shops as a result of it.), that shows that downloading is here to stay, until the next big thing comes along. I don’t think physical albums will ever go away though. Just like people buying way more physical books than ebooks, records will last as well.

  2. Of course you know I was pleased to see the Keanu reference Amrita!
    I ended up joining apple music last year – I find it’s been great for the more obscure of the 1001 albums.
    I’ve never really been a playlist enthusiast, so I appreciate how they sort by albums too!

      1. I’d imagine so – I think for the first couple years of the project, there was a site I found that streamed a bunch of the 1001 albums, which helped of course.
        But when the site stopped working, I’m glad apple music was able to get the job done.
        I don’t think I’d ever find some of these albums at local record shops!

  3. VERY clever!!!!!! The cube root part. I did end up looking it up via google. That sort of math makes my head hurt!
    My youngest came to visit and left with a stack of record albums-those are coming back into fashion. Something about the sound and how it interacts on a record vs a CD.

    1. Oh don’t worry, I’m not good at maths either. I just don’t want to say my actual age loud lol!
      Yes, the music is supposed to be warmer, and ideally I would like to listen to vinyl records, even though they are very much a hipster thing. But, I neither have the finances, nor the lifestyle for it. Downloading music and listening to it on my phone (preferably with bluetooth speakers) is my favourite and I guess the most popular way to listen to music these days!

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