As an avid lover of popular music, and faithful follower of the US and UK music charts since the later part of the 90’s, I have observed with fascination and interest the upsets that have taken place in the recorded music industry since the advent of Napster – The file sharing software that made it possible for computer users to swap music files directly and freely without having to make returns to the owners of intellectual property. Following the legal mud-slinging that ensued between record companies and Napster, two mediums seem to have stood the test of time (so far at least) in terms of the way people consume and access music over the internet. These are downloading (legally or illegally) and streaming.
Five years ago, music consumers had to choose between buying a CD or downloading the album. Nowadays, thanks to the rise of music-streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, that choice is becoming whether to download music or just stream it online.
Most young music fans seem more and more inclined to stream music instead of downloading it. After all, why pay for music when you can summon almost any song you want, at any time, for free? The growth of music apps, online radio channels, and music-streaming platforms raise an even larger question: Do we really need to ‘own’ music anymore?
For me, there is more to owning music than simply the convenience that digital media provides. I still want to own a physical memento by an artist I love, whether it’s a CD with artwork and liner notes or just a few lines of digital ones and zeroes on my iPhone. Owning a No.1 hit song or album for me is like taking a picture or capturing a moment in time, and the experience is simply not the same as streaming it online. For this reason I am not in any particular hurry to get rid of the huge stash of CD’s I own. Going by the steady double digit decline in the sales of physical music CD’s between 1999 and 2013 (according to Billboard Magazine) I guess I am a dying breed.