The Death of Your Music Collection?
So… CDs and downloading are on the way out, are they? Recently iTunes revealed it is closing down its download store. The rush towards streaming seems to be a reaction to the apparent success of the model in creating revenue… but to whom? Probably not the artists, musicians and producers if previous examples of giving them their ‘just desserts’ is anything to go by. In recent reports by people such as Forbes, streaming is growing at more than 50% per year and now has a majority share in overall music industry revenue.
One thing that streaming does improve for the consumer is not having to manage a collection of audio files, as anyone who has been burned by trying to migrate their iTunes collection to a new computer/phone/hard drive etc will attest to. When record and CD sales started to wane years ago, the ownership thing was questioned, as audio files were not a physical thing. But people soon got used to owning the digital product, albeit in a low-fidelity form in most cases (MP3). Are they going to be as quick in not owning anything, except the permission to access, and at what cost? The resurgence of records as a tangible artefact you can own is surely an interesting reaction against this.
Imagine all the worlds music disappearing overnight!
As for curating your own music in a closed subscription environment, it seems to be a godsend for the music consumer who does not ‘own’ a collection, and I myself have experienced the joy of finding unknown random tunes on an online subscription playlist, or finding an exciting internet radio station. But have these music fans thought about the implications of a particular internet host going bust….and taking your music collection, playlists, favourites, searching history etc into oblivion. Amongst other things, in order to migrate these vast music collections, do we need a standard open meta data protocol between providers etc?
To get a bit lateral, imagine subscribing to a fashion retailer who provides you with the most amazing wardrobe of virtual clothes to wear. One night you are out on the town with all your friends and suddenly all of your clothes disappear (including all the clothes in your wardrobe at home), leaving you standing in the middle of a packed club naked! Your virtual fashion retailer has just gone bust, and all of the technology that enables you to wear the clothes remotely has just been seized by the bailiffs!
Rip it up!
Being the owner of a vast personal record, cassette, CD and digital library I obviously have a vested interest in my future collection. A lot of DJs and producers I know, myself included, spend an inordinate amount of time ripping pristine high fidelity digital copies of rare vinyl records. They also spend the rest of their time religiously collecting everything they can in vinyl, CD and digital form….it is almost like they are the back-up custodians of the world’s rich musical heritage, just in case the internet gets deleted!! Who knows what some James Bond film-worthy and dastardly internet virus may be able to achieve in the not too distant future? Imagine all the worlds music disappearing overnight! Chills me to the bone.
Not to mention the unreliability of wireless streaming…‘we’re breaking up, Captain!’. As a DJ, can you rely upon the speed, internet connection, Wi-Fi protocol and 100% reliability of whatever network/venue etc you are connected to? No one wants that sudden silence on the dancefloor, or conflicting streaming/internal issues if you are trying to record your set – not to mention licensing issues. Also, the unreliability of the cached/offline file access function sometimes. With regard to using phone networks, the much touted 5G is around the corner, will it be the game changer as promised (20 Gbit/s). From past experience 4G has not been the sea change that was promised before it was released. And where does that leave the modern DJ who has the options to re-edit or remix a downloaded track to make it easier to play, if the released version is not quite right for their dancefloor. You cannot edit a stream.
An incredible amount of modern popular music nowadays has it’s roots in early hip hop, dance and electronic music – musical styles which were ignored by mainstream media in the early days as they were ‘niche’. But they were nurtured through independent labels, gigs, record shops and specialist radio shows, which gave them time to grow and build a fanbase, eventually becoming mainstream popular music in many cases.
What will happen, when control is in the hands of a selected few streaming companies, to the new musical styles and genres which were given time ‘to become adults’ in the past. In this increasingly profit-driven modern society anything that is not profitable will be dropped, or not taken on at all. Some musical styles are already hard to find, or are not being fully released due to lack of profitability. And what of protest music, if it does not agree with the hosts views? Our choices are being limited. Where does this leave the musical breeding grounds? Will culture become constricted?
I am high on hope that our future will be as interesting and stimulating with it’s musical landscape as it has been over the previous years to the many creators, producers and lovers of this thing we call music. There are always workarounds. Lets hope.
I have only touched on these issues in this article, and the views here are intended to stimulate healthy argument and debate.
In the interests of intelligent and constructive discussion, please have your say and leave a comment below. Do you have any suggestions for subjects that warrant some investigative attention? What do you think?
© Chad Jackson 2018