I’m a huge contradiction. I complain about the way in which streaming sites are impacting the music industry, and yet I use Spotify on a daily basis. In fact, I’m using it right now to listen to my playlist which holds 28 hours and 39 minutes of songs.
Online music streaming has become a part of my daily routine, and I’m kind of angry at myself. I create Spotify playlists every other day. I also purchase physical albums, as well as vinyl. I take enjoyment from buying music which I can hold and pass down to my future family members and friends and watch spinning round and round on a turntable for hours. It’s the pure ease of Spotify, the ability to make playlists available offline and listen to tracks whilst 30,000 feet in the clouds that appeals to me. The simplicity of being able to listen to an album the minute it’s released, over and over. Usually, after I’ve discovered an artist or album that I love, I’ll seek it physically, and aim to support the musician in any way possible. This is not the norm. I know many who stream music with free accounts or listen illegally and have no interest in ever forking out a few extra pounds for a 3 minute track.
I often wish I was around when the only way one could listen to their favourite band was by purchasing a 12″ or cassette. I often wish that listening to music today was more of an intimate and special experience. Love or hate her, Taylor Swift has tried to make a positive impact within the music industry by removing her most recent studio album ‘1989’ from streaming sites, encouraging her fans to purchase before listening. Swift has also been making headlines recently by refusing to stream her album on Apple Music until the company were willing to pay all musicians during their 3 month trial period. “Music should not be free”. Yet, within about 3 clicks on google, I’ve managed to find a Deluxe Edition of 1989 to save as MP3 files to my laptop for a hefty 0 dollars. As rich as Taylor may be (she’s reported to make a Net Worth of $240 million dollars per year), I agree with her message completely. I don’t believe she’s pulling her music to simply benefit herself (which of course, purchases will), but to globally spread the message that music is much more valuable. Think of how many struggling singers and new bands are benefiting from their small Apple Music payments, when they would’ve received nothing if Taylor hadn’t used her voice. Maybe she’s done some controversial things in the past, but this is something I admire.
When I was around twelve, my local independent record store, One Up, closed its doors for good. Sure, I was upset because I couldn’t stroll around looking for used My Chemical Romance CD’s anymore, but I didn’t realise what it meant. I didn’t realise that the physical music industry was slowly dying. I just wanted my CD’s. The store opened in 1979, and several years ago, One Up’s co-owner, Fred Craig, stated that “economics are the issue, sales have been steadily falling for the past few years and places like Fopp, Zavvi and Virgin have been closing, along with the independent stores”. Now, I’d do anything to visit that store again and spend hours flicking through vinyls. I just wish I’d taken advantage of it while the doors were open. In 2013, high street chain HMV, which specialises in music and film, revealed that they were to go into administration. Whilst Hilco UK agreed to aquire 141 of the stores, 66 remained closed. I’m so thankful that my local HMV stayed open, otherwise there would be literally nowhere in my city to purchase music. Unless, of course, you were looking for generic top 40 music (which I am sometimes partial to). The supermarkets have you covered for that one.
I’d love to have a steady career within the music industry, and whilst it is possible, it isn’t looking great for the future. I can’t say I’m overly drawn in by Spotify’s payment of $0.006 to $0.0084 per track play. I have one friend who still purchases physical music, and even then, it’s maybe once every two months. But hey, let’s not focus on the negatives. It seems that vinyl has made a big comeback. Sales have increased by 260% since 2009. It appears that many people I interact with online are proud owners of a record collection, and I’m excited about that. I’m just not excited about what the music industry will look like a few years down the line. I’m not against music streaming. I appreciate it for what it is. It’s easy, accessible and allows for high quality music on demand wherever you are. I just want physical music to be more popular.
I wish everyone could get that feeling I do when sliding a 12″ out of its sleeve for the first time, placing it on the turntable and escaping for thirty minutes. I wish everyone still bought CD’s so they could open up the lyrics sheet, read the artist’s acknowledgments, feel like they’re supporting musicians that little bit more. I wish the world still valued music the way it used to. I wish.