Author Topic: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?  (Read 1577 times)

Julio Di Benedetto

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Came across this eArtical....seem to touch on some concerns and possibilities....Discuss

Music rarely exists in a vacuum. From classical concert programs and 12-track albums to DIY mixtapes and personal record shelves, we imbue songs with new meaning by connecting them to each other, by treating them as elements of a wider, self-constructed narrative

We are music collectors by design and by necessity—an identity threatened by the rise of streaming.

In previous decades, physical formats like CDs, vinyl, cassettes and 8-tracks required us to limit our music consumption, if only to keep our wallets in shape. We didn’t just throw money and time at music left and right, but rather invested more wisely in a handful of albums and artists, with whom we developed intimate relationships through repeated listens and colorful liner notes. Filling our binders and shelves with these records also facilitated a more positive, aspirational side of our aesthetic identities: we set tangible, attainable goals for our collections, and could show off these works in progress to our friends and family whenever they visited for dinner.

The three recent stages of digital disruption in music — which can be bookmarked by Napster, iTunes and Spotify — have made our collections more public, more granular and more abstract, respectively. Napster is known not only for making recorded music available at no monetary cost, but also for motivating users to share their musical tastes with each other (it’s called file-sharing for a reason). iTunes unbundled the standard album into its individual tracks, enabling users to handpick their favorite songs and assemble a wider-reaching collection with a higher concentration of artists over the same amount of [virtual] surface area. Spotify not only has made musical shelf space infinite, but has also made the term “shelf space” irrelevant: its users own nothing. Instead, they pay for access, shelling out the rough cost equivalent of 12 CDs per year ($9.99 a month) to peruse millions of songs at their fingertips.

More significantly, to an extent, streaming services do all of our tedious music collecting work for us. With playlists as our framework, we can think of each streaming service as a unique “collection of collections,” using a distinct philosophy of curation to unpack an otherwise noisy music catalog. Spotify, for instance, touts its algorithmic prowess, pushing fresh, tailored and automated collections like Discover Weekly and Release Radar to its users on a weekly basis. Apple Music prefers to market its “human” curational talent, frequently recruiting celebrity guests like Alexander Wang and Clare Waight Keller to fashion [no pun intended] their own playlists for clout-hungry listeners. Tidal takes pride in its limited reach, snagging exclusive distribution deals with masterpieces like Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

Any effort on our part to seize control of our music collecting habits away from these streaming services ultimately feels burdensome and futile. Exclusivity clauses à la Tidal make it difficult to consolidate one’s entire online music collection into a single platform without paying for multiple streaming accounts (back in 2009, Eliot Van Buskirk suggested that the music industry build a global, universal, public database of songs to ease this friction between services, a vision that has since fallen through the cracks). The constant push for “discovery” — for maximizing the explorative opportunities enabled by data science — leads more and more streaming users to consume music like the average internet user consumes news: as brief sound bites that barely have time to breathe before being engulfed by new content.

All of these factors lead to a new type of digital music fan and collector: one who prioritizes breadth over depth, who sees collecting as performative rather than inquisitive, and who defines their tastes more by the how (the streaming services) than by the what (the songs). This profile presents a challenge for the music business in drawing attention away from music creators, the very lifeblood of the industry. Indeed, while streaming makes it easier for artists to reach potential new fans, it also makes it even more difficult to retain a group of loyal listeners.

After all, it is important to realize that we mourn music not when a song falls off the charts, nor when a streaming service fails to break even, but when we lose an artist. In 2016 alone, we said some of our most painful goodbyes as a collective music community to prominent figures like George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Prince and David Bowie. Unfortunately, deaths are the only opportunity many listeners have to dive deep into an artist’s background and life story. In contrast, artist profiles on streaming services remain sparse, providing no context or biographical information aside from their discography and a list of related artists. While music streaming is better for the consumer from the perspective of time- and geography-based access, convenience should not erode connection.
"Life is one big road, with lots of signs, so when you ride to the Roots, do not complicate your mind, ... "  Bob Marley

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cvac

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2017, 06:38:24 AM »
Interesting article.

As a lifelong music fan, I've never felt the need to give up physical product entirely. The only time I have was when my budget was tight. I have over 4,000 CDs, around 1,000 LPs, and a decent stack of cassettes to prove that. Paid FLAC downloads are something I've been purchasing more of in the past couple of years but those make up a smaller portion of my collection (a little over 300 albums from Bandcamp, maybe a couple hundred more from other sites).

I have a streaming account through Tidal but I mostly use that to check out things I'm thinking of buying later. It's only a small part of my listening diet. Great service, but not a substitute for actually buying albums, at least not for me. Plenty of stuff I own or want is not even on there or any other streaming service.

Then again, I'm over 30, pushing 40, so my attitude about music is different than a typical teenager to early 20s person that was weaned on mp3s and streaming. Some of these young people are getting into vinyl now, which is good because they are actually paying for some music when they haven't before, but still do a lot of streaming and think artists that don't release on vinyl don't deserve their support. I've also seen these people buy bootlegs on vinyl where the CD or paid lossless download is easily available. Ridiculous IMHO. I'd like to see them take those bootleg LPs and ask the band or artist to sign them and see what kind of reaction they get. I also have to wonder if they will stop buying music entirely when the fashion aspect of vinyl dies and it goes back to being a thing for nerdy record collectors and audiophiles.



chris23

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2017, 05:41:12 PM »
Interesting article, but a bit all over the place.

I'm a collector too, and can resonate with the notion that digital collections don't "feel" the same as physical ones. I have the same problem with books: I don't necessarily need a physical copy to read a book, but I don't get the sensation of owning and collecting books unless I have a version I can pick up, hold, and place on a shelf.

Having said that: I welcome the digital age with open arms. I love having the ability to hear music from all over the world, to discover artists who I never would have even heard of previously, and to be able to browse various curated playlists. The platform has opened doors for me that I never knew existed.

Where the author of the article falls short, in my opinion, is in his or her assumption that these two worlds can't co-exist. The presence of Spotify does not prevent people from buying CDs or vinyl. The ability to create and curate digital playlists does not stop people from collecting albums. The ability to listen to music on our phones does not preclude us from collecting beautiful audio equipment.

It may be the case that many people in the younger generation will never have the opportunity to experience music the way we older folks did. Perhaps what we hold sacred about music has been cheapened over the last decade or more. But, to be frank, when I was growing up, I only knew of a handful of people who deeply appreciated music, the process of creating it, and the thrill of discovering and collecting it. Even then, music, for most people, was largely a disposable product. Why buy an album when you hear it for free on the radio? I'm not sure if people--and their relationships with music--have changed that much, even if the technology has.


cvac

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2017, 06:55:04 PM »
Chris, you touch on some good points.

I have no problem with the two worlds coexisting. I've also checked out and discovered tons of things I wouldn't normally be exposed to because of the options available now that weren't there 20+ years ago.

I also don't expect casual music fans who only like top 40 or whatever to spend money on a large music collection.

What I don't get is that people who claim to be "huge music fans" or whatever can't be bothered to spend a nickel on buying music. That is the cheapening effect you mentioned.




Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2017, 06:07:13 AM »
Very good post!

I have not listened to Pandora in more than a year but I did enjoy listening and creating various "station".  For me it was like listening to the radio though specialized to my taste and I treated it rather casually as background music.

I shared both of your approaches to streaming.....as a way to discover new music that I will buy hopefully in a physical format.

I wonder if "All Access" and the saturation streaming creates also diminishes the experience.  Too much to choice from is not always a good thing and we live in a world that succeeds by maximizing the amount of options.

Less is more or more is simply more and better.
"Life is one big road, with lots of signs, so when you ride to the Roots, do not complicate your mind, ... "  Bob Marley

http://digitalvoices.bandcamp.com/
http://databloem.com

ffcal

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2017, 10:39:07 AM »
Too much to choice from is not always a good thing and we live in a world that succeeds by maximizing the amount of options.
Less is more or more is simply more and better.

Yes, I agree!  Too much choice can be paralyzing.  Try choosing from 30+ brands at your your local supermarket.

I realized I am part of a shrinking demographic, but I still buy physical CDs and buy digital releases via Bandcamp, too, since I am space-limited.  The only streaming I do is the occasional track on YouTube and occasional streaming through Amazon Prime.  Streaming has had a largely negative impact on what artists can expect to realize from their releases (if you pay licensing fees art for your cover and have your releases professionally mastered. you can forget about even breaking even!), as micropennies for each stream do not offset the dollars and cents returns on CD sales.

Forrest

doombient

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2017, 03:50:38 PM »
[...] Too much choice can be paralyzing.  [...]

It makes people docile -- and hope for someone to make all the important choices for them because the world has become a tad too complicated.

Stephen
"Honour thy error as a hidden intention." (Brian Eno)

stargazer

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2017, 11:21:15 AM »
A very good article from one perspective how the "streamings" can have an effect on us.
Otherwise I think there were always "mainstreaming" and that never changes or at least we are lightyears away from a change : )

I am old fashioned: I love to read books, I love to touch vinyl, still have my 20 year old tape recorder, I produce on hardware gear...
...but I love how people get musically ever more and more, music is the biggest and greatest connector in the world!
« Last Edit: March 06, 2017, 03:45:54 PM by stargazer »

Seren

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2017, 12:48:49 PM »
I agree in the ways that the internet has helped open things up - much more music, including my own, which would just not be available in any way otherwise.

I think there is a tendency to think it is all just a downward spiral - and although there is merit in that perception, I don't want to underestimate each person's ability to catch something new and have worlds open up for them - CDs, vinyl and cassettes have not disappeared, neither have hi-fi shops (although much reduced they all are [our local Tesco has started selling LPs - including Dark Side of the Moon and a couple of Bowie's albums!!!!]).

Some of the younger people listening to music on phone speakers will one day discover the depth of the sound from a real speaker - and technology is improving hugely, our new TV speakers sound so much improved I grudgingly admit the development.

What I do find upsetting is the continued pressure and assumption that I 'consume' music - I do not, any more than I simply consume the air I breath or the food I eat.
   I listen to music - savour, enjoy, anticipate, allow my emotions to swell and be moved. the music makes me think, touches my imagination, calms me, excites me, rouses me challenges me etc etc.....

cvac

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2017, 06:57:58 AM »
You hit on a lot of good points Ekstasis.

As you mentioned, portable devices are getting better all the time, but the problem is many are still stuck on crap $10 earbuds and lossy streaming. I can tell you that the cheapo $99 Sony CD/Tape/radio boombox I had as a teenager in the 90s sounded 100 times better than that. Same thing with the portable CD players and headphones I used at the time.

My thoughts are that the younger generation is being cheated here. Both in terms of what they get exposed to and the quality at which they are hearing it. It might not matter for disposable top 40 pop music but it does matter for a lot of other things and what we talk about here.

Even self-described music nerds are lazy nowadays. If a CD is OOP and not on streaming services, they won't buy it even if it's only $5-10. They'll either pirate it or not hear it at all. I think the latter is more common now, as young people get locked in to the streaming services.

cvac

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2017, 03:07:30 PM »
From a couple years ago, but just saw this article today:

http://fusion.net/story/182285/music-streaming-transparency/

Sounds like a nightmare for small artists and labels.

stargazer

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2017, 05:18:54 AM »
Streaming is the new radio: While radio decays, streaming grows. But necessarily both the radio and the streaming service need to be financed: By advertising, by public or privat sponsorship, and of course by the loss of money. Compare a CD to a simple streaming option and you have the different price ranges and thats in the difference the loss of money. Easy to understand. This is mainstream.

Well, the underground scene with its small artists and labels always functioned in an other way.  There was and is always a commitment and devotion by the artist or label without that there would not come any support. Money has only second priority.

Todays artists are loosing their "images", more and more we become human musicians. That is a good development.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2017, 12:00:21 PM by stargazer »

ffcal

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2017, 01:53:28 PM »
Well spotify is the opposite with underground.

Yes, you're absolutely right.  Unlike small independent labels, major labels have equity interests in Spotify, so they make money even when (and especially when) royalties from streaming are miniscule.  Streaming is lucrative for them, and they are making it partially off the backs of independent labels.  I don't consider it ethical to support that business model, so I avoid Spotify.

Forrest

chris23

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2017, 02:50:32 PM »
Streaming is the new radio

Great point.

Altus

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2017, 05:51:39 AM »
Spotify likely uses OGG to bypass paying MP3 license fees to Fraunhofer.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
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petekelly

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Re: How Has Streaming Effected our Identities as Music Collectors?
« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2017, 10:15:59 AM »
Perhaps I'm going slightly off-topic here, but I can see positives as well as negatives regarding streaming - from an artist's point of view.

I take Jana's view that it is here to stay, whether we like it or not. On the positive side, I'm all for as many people as possible being able to listen to my material and it does all that once you've signed up to them (via CD Baby etc.). On the negative side though, Spotify (in particular) takes a very large slice of the pie. Saying that, they are increasing their royalty payments significantly and recently, I've been getting more royalties from them than from Apple Music.

It appears bigger bands are suffering, in that people are streaming rather than buying CDs / downloads, but (perhaps) for more independent artists who never sold huge amounts of their material may do better out of it all and get more people to listen to their work (?)