All my music loving friends are building their digital collection of tunes, but we’re all doing it differently. Many of us have bought the same music over and over again in different formats. I’ve bought LPs, CDs, SACDs and currently pay for streaming rights. I know some people that have done LP, CD, and are now back to buying LPs again. Younger people tend to have only acquired MP3/AAC files, but they have a hard time maintaining them. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever had a computer go dead or stolen, or have gone from an iPod to an Android smartphone, or any other platform or hardware shift.
When Amazon Cloud came out the other day I bought “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” by Bob Dylan in the fourth format I’ve owned in since 1967 (LP, CD, SACD, MP3), and that doesn’t count the monthly fees for streaming that I pay to hear it.
What me and my music friends want is a place to collect our music so that we can organize it once and for all and have it for the rest of our lives no matter what kind of gadgets we own to play our music. On the surface Amazon Cloud looks very promising, but if I put my 18,000+ (117gb) songs in their cloud I’ll be paying Amazon as much for cloud storage rent as I pay Rhapsody to have access to 11 million streaming songs.
Obviously I think anyone who is willing to spend at least $9.99 per month on music gets their best deal at Rhapsody, and all other choices depend on spending less per month.
I very seldom listen to my CDs any more, and I rarely buy them. When I discover an album I really love and I’m afraid it’s going to go out of print someday, or I’m anxious to hear it in its highest form of sound fidelity, I buy the CD. But I can almost see myself giving up CDs and living with Rhapsody music for the rest of my life. If I only knew that streaming music will catch on and will always be offered in the future, I’d sell my CDs.
There’s one huge downside to streaming music – services like Rhapsody can only offer music that’s for sale. If an album or song goes out of print then it’s removed from the service. Maybe in the future nothing will ever go out of print, but for now I can’t trust that. If I really love a song I have to buy a copy. I don’t want to be an old man crying, “I’d give anything to hear that song one more time.”
Now, if I was as unethical as kids and willing to steal my music things would be different, because everything seems to be available for free online. However, there is a cost for stealing music that I think is pretty high. Building a collection of stolen MP3s take a lot of work and time. Rhapsody is easy and convenient. Amazon Cloud is easy and convenient too, but I’d have to always buy MP3 versions of songs I wanted to keep, and that means I’d spend more money than I do now at Rhapsody. First would be the fees for storing my old ripped CD songs, and second the price of any new songs I added in the future.
Also, if I switched to Amazon Cloud service, I’d have to give up listening on my iPod touch, and would need to buy an equivalent Android device, like an Archos 43, or start spending a lot of money and get a smartphone. Rhapsody works wonderfully from my iPod touch, but Apple might screw things up for Rhapsody in the future. Amazon seems to have no plans to offer their cloud service to the iOS devices.
I could go with Apple, but that would mean listening to a tiny fraction of music that I do now for the same money. iTunes is absolutely the worse deal of the bunch. If Apple had kept everything about the Lala streaming music service they bought, I would have probably given up Rhapsody. Lala was a fantastic social service for music lovers. Apple seems to have no plans to provide a streaming music service despite years of rumors.
Rhapsody.com and Audible.com are two Internet companies that I spend money on. Not only are they a commercial success with me, but I’d hate to live without them. Both work well with my iPod touch. Both have great clients for my PC. Both support a wide range of devices and smartphones in case I want to use something new. And I don’t have to worry about backing up any of my files I get from them.
Sorry Amazon and Apple, your model of owning music just isn’t practical, efficient or cost effective. I don’t know why all my music friends don’t use Rhapsody or other streaming music services. I think most of them started with Apple and just don’t want to switch. I discussed this with a woman at work Friday. She has 32gb of music in iTunes. She’d like to get an Android phone because they have physical keyboards, but she doesn’t want to deal with porting that many AAC files to MP3.
Now that is one advantage to the Amazon Cloud for owning music – if Amazon stays in business, is always trustworthy, and protects its cloud data 100% – because the cloud takes over most of the hassle of managing the files. If there was no subscription music services I’d definitely be going with Amazon. But like my friends stuck in iTunes, what happens if something new comes out in the future that doesn’t work with Amazon’s cloud?
So what would be the ideal music delivery system? One that offers every song ever recorded with the most convenient interface to whatever device I’m listening with at the moment with nearly instant and perfect search tools. Whether that’s based on buying songs or renting them, it would make listening to music the easiest possible outside of telepathic transmission of music.
But it’s not the best way to collect music. I’m reading The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett, about a rare book thief. The book provides a great insight into compulsive collecting, and I think it’s also a clue as to why some people will always want to buy music in a physical format. It also explains why LPs are making a comeback. Those big 12” discs in beautiful jackets are an art form that some people love. But if you love to listen to music, streaming music is to great to resist.
It will be interesting if I live to 2020 or there about, because I bet this music problem will probably be completely resolved by then.
JWH – 4/9/11