The pros of music streaming outweigh the cons for many
By Camille Condrey
Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Camille Condrey is a senior in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media and the University of Mississippi.
Humans have always been the type to collect. Whether we’re collecting clothes, books, or wacky lawn ornaments, there is something sentimental about having a physical collection of the things we hold dear. Something we may not have seen coming was the evolution of collecting music. Over the years we’ve downsized from turntables to tape players and from CD players to MP3s, and now from all of those formats to something so small it comes out of thin air: music streaming.
Although digital album downloads are at an all-time high, the fastest growing sector of the music industry is actually music streaming, thanks to on-demand services such as Spotify and Pandora, which have raised global streaming revenues by 40 percent in the last year.
With this new opportunity to listen to unlimited music for practically nothing ($10 a month via Spotify or free, with ads, on Pandora), some humans are starting to break their beloved album-collecting habit for the sake of easy, accessible and limitless tunes.
Turning the Tables
Not everyone is after cheap and easy, however. Many people, such as David Swider, manager of local record store The End of All Music, find that quality reigns supreme when it comes to listening to music.
“There’s a lot more to music than just hitting play and listening to it on crappy headphones,” Swider said. “There’s nothing better than leaving the record store with something you bought and opening it, looking at it, and putting it on the turntable and listening to it. I think there used to be an argument with what sounds better, CDs or vinyl or MP3s, but I don’t really think that it’s even an argument anymore. I think people just know vinyl sounds better,”
When it comes to vinyl versus streaming, Swider’s not worried. Vinyl sales are the highest they’ve been since 1991, and Swider thinks they will continue to grow.
“I think records have withstood the test of time. I mean we’ve seen so many different formats come and go and somehow records are still around and they kind of always have been,” Swider said. “There have definitely been peaks and valleys of popularity as far as vinyl goes, and right now we’re at a peak, and it seems to be kind of rising more and more.”
For 21-year-old Natalie Morris, a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington—who counts on music to get her from point A to point B no matter how she is getting there—streaming is a dream come true.
“I love Pandora,” Morris said, “because when I’m on a road trip, I can plug my phone in the car and set a station I like and then not have to worry about it until I think of a new station, and it’s totally free. When I get out of the car to walk to class, I just plug in my headphones and continue to jam. The advertisements can be annoying, but they’re way less often than on the radio, and they’re definitely worth it.”
Stream of Consciousness
Strategy Analytics, a research and business consulting company, predicts in their Global Digital Music Report that global spending on digital music, which includes streaming, downloads, and mobile sales, will overtake spending on physical products such as CDs and vinyl by 2015.
David Ott, a 23-year-old senior at the University of Mississippi, uses music streamers such as Pandora as a catalyst for digitally downloading music of his own.
“I use Pandora a lot for studying or just hanging out with friends,” Ott said. “When I hear a song I like that I’ve never heard before come on, I usually just take note or screen shot the app and download it later so I can have it on my iPod for the plane or something when I don’t have internet.”
Schaefer Marks, a 24-year-old avid music listener who prefers Spotify to Pandora, thinks $10 a month is a small price to pay for all of the ways it makes his life easier.
“Before I used Spotify and I wanted to share some songs with a friend I would have to make them a CD which would then get scratched like five seconds later. Now I can make a playlist on Spotify and share that with anyone I want and I don’t have to worry about fitting all the songs on one CD which is always hard,” Marks said.
While consumers are happy to be paying less and listening more, many artists are complaining that the royalties that music streaming companies pay them to play their music are not enough. In an effort to show how little artists such as herself get paid for their music, cellist Zoe Keating released her earnings in a public Google document that reported she was paid $281.87 by Spotify after the company played her songs 72,800 times. Other artists, such as Adele, however, whose songs are played by the millions by music streamers, make a huge profit from music-streaming sites, according to reports.
Some artists may complain that Spotify is not paying them enough, but they will be happy to know that their bigger enemy, music piracy, has been on the decline since the Swedish streaming company’s arrival in the music scene in 2009. The Swedish Music industry released data that shows that the number of people who download music illegally in Sweden has decreased by 25 percent over the last three years and 9 percent in the last year alone.