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.
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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.
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Any effort on our part to seize control of our music collecting habits away from these streaming services ultimately feels burdensome and futile.
Link to the rest at Medium
PG was interested the the similarities and differences between streaming services and ebooks. He notes that music embodied in some physical form that is sold to listeners has become mostly irrelevant to the music business.