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Music for the masses

4 min read

Music is a staple of human civilization. Musicians are staples of music. Being exploited and undervalued is a staple of being a musician, especially if you listen to them long enough that they start talking instead of music-ing. Even in the early twentieth century when prerecorded music became a staple of movies, musicians were not happy with their lot. It is not a new concept, and the latest iteration of this argument has musicians battling music streaming services over royalties. If these problems have been around for so long, why can't anyone figure this out?

Growing up in the Napster age, I have a weird relationship with . Don't get me wrong; I love listening to music. It's just the discovering and buying and playing where my views are a little more fluid than the previous generation. For instance, I feel like there was probably a time when radio was relevant, and I keep hearing that MTV played music when Kurt Cobain was alive. Now, however, the interwebs bring meager fame to bands that would likely have never been in the MTV rotation, and in flyover country you are lucky to get anything on the radio other than just that: country.

History lessons

Let's go back to the beginning. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was by Chumbawamba, which I have come to terms with but realize I will have to acknowledge for the rest of my life like a bad tattoo. (For the record, I did marginally better on my first tape purchase with Space Jam) Then came Napster, which was shutdown by the time I tried to install it on my family's PC (75 MHz processors and dial-up had something to do with that). The local library really never caught on to the borrow-burn-return technique, though, so I got by. I finally found out about cool music around age 16, starting with the Strokes and a subscription to SPIN. My first MP3 player was a college move-in gift, which I soon flipped for the first iPod generation to have a color screen [1].

iTunes is all well and good unless you are (A.) a poor college student and (B.) that college has a fairly robust internal file sharing network. I would say my digital music collection increased by about 50% by sophomore year (we're talking double-digit gigabytes here), but growth has been stagnant since those halcyon days for several reasons. The low cost of entry back then is one, and the sheer difficulty to discover interesting, new music on the cheap is another. I gladly bought music from artists I enjoyed, but only because they were already on my radar. Thirty second previews never feel like enough to justify buying something I may not like -- I've been burned before (see Chumbawamba).

Interwebs killed the radio (star)

That is all coming back around now with the advent of music. broke the mold with an amazing engine of music association and recommendation, and and (and seemingly everyone else now)[2] has applied the Netflix model to music. This is the future of music, regardless of whether record labels will accept it or not. The barriers to discovery as they were even 5 years ago are non-existent. I have found more music in the last 6 months than I had in the previous 3-4 years using these services. My conscience is far cleaner than in my file sharing days, and I get the convenience of access wherever I want.

So, bottom line. If this reaches any music executives, heed these words: Ten dollars a month seems like the right price for all the music I never paid for in the first place. Make it work, and pay the musicians so they keep music-ing. I have pirated before, and taking that away will make me likely to do it again.
c/o the internet
dictated but not read

photo: Creative Commons License JD Hancock via Compfight


1. I would be remiss at this point if I did not mention my Audioscrobbler neé profile, which has chronicled roughly 80-90% of the music I have listened to for nearly 10 years. Probably not valuable information, but at least I can claim to have been a Kings of Leon fan back when they had beards and were cool.[3]

2. This is probably a blog post for another time, but right now my favorites are Rdio and Google Play All Access. Even though both those services are great, though, I feel like I could throw something together between Pandora and Plex that would do even better for a lower price (and I even got the early bird price on Play).

3. They are still kind of cool, but also kind of sold out. Another blog post for another time.