Throughout my life I’ve gone through a series of various philosophies on music listening, performance and consumption. As a kid, I was REALLY into music. I started playing guitar at about 13, went on to be in various “Battle of the Bands” and other concerts, etc. and was a voracious consumer of rock and metal music. Ironically, my guitar teacher had introduced me to “neo-classical” music which is basically Bach, Paganini and such mixed with metal. So, I was routinely spending a few hundred bucks a year on various albums, sheet music, going to concerts, etc.
Then college hit and with it, the internet was evolving to include Napster and Kazaa-type services. I’ll admit it; I dabbled. As a musician myself and a proponent of intellectual property, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite, but everyone else in my circle was doing it and it did seem kinda stupid paying $13 for an album when I only like 2-3 songs. While that was my self-justification, it was wrong. Teenagers do dumb stuff and fortunately, I was never made a poster-child by the Music Industry and sued for $1,000 per song or whatever some of those ridiculous court cases highlighted.
Once out of college, I was no longer buying albums, but listening to music primarily through my Sirius satellite radio and online streaming. I then transitioned into Pandora and have finally found the “holy grail”. Here are my opinions on the various options I’ve utilized and why I’m done searching:
- Downloading: There are still various ways to get free stuff online, but there’s the ethical piece (as I get older, I tend to view this option as less and less attractive) and then there’s the hassle, viruses and such. At one point, a friend of mine showed me how he was using Newsgroups, decoding RAR files on his desktop, etc. which was a “safer” route to avoid detection, but the bandwidth was like $12/month. As you’ll see below, that’s not even necessary.
- Satellite Radio: When I first got my Sirius satellite, I thought it was the best thing going. I primarily used it to listen to CNBC and Bloomberg on long drives, but the music stations introduced me to some new bands here and there as well. It had this record function too which I thought was great. As it turns out, I basically NEVER use the unit like I could have, in recording shows or music and then listening to it later. Now my iPhone and lack of time render that option useless. I still pay for Sirius but I could probably do without. The occasional 2 hour drive for work would be rough without some real-time news access, but there’s always podcasts and music.
- Pandora: I was real excited about Pandora last year when I discovered it. I loved the idea of constant streaming music anywhere I was working, the ability to recommend new artists, bookmark them, etc. What I soon realized was that like any company going public, they had to show an improved financial picture before the IPO and they loaded it up with inane commercials. Next, the same 5-6 bands kept cycling through the same channels, rendering the “discovery” piece of Pandora as kind of useless. I barely use it now.
- Spotify: Spotify is my final solution (I think). Basically, the music catalog is much larger than Pandora (hence why my stations kept cycling through the same artists) and with the Premium version, you can basically pick any song, artist, album you want – ANY TIME. There are a ton of other features and this isn’t an ad spot for the service, but I’ll just say it has it all and I no longer feel compelled to buy music through iTunes, CDs or otherwise. I pay a flat fee forever and that’s it.
At $9.99 per month, it’s less than the cost of an album a month, less than the monthly bandwidth charges for using newsgroups, less than satellite radio and less than the cost of a latte a week. It’s totally worth it!
How Do You Buy Music?
What Works for You?
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