In the last couple weeks I finally broke down and started using Spotify. And I have to admit, the depth and breadth of the catalog is pretty impressive; only twice have I been unable to find what I was looking for. But there’s something about it that I still find somehow lacking, and I think this has to do as much with ingrained mental habits as anything.
Any music fan old enough to have significant memory of the 20th century grew up on records, maybe eight-tracks or cassettes, and then later CDs. With physical media there was always this concept of, I have acquired it now; it is mine. And for a certain type of mind, which many of us have, this was very satisfying. We went along from year to year, slowly building our collections, which of course came to reflect our very personalities.
With streaming you don’t have that; you don’t own the music, you’re just renting it. You can spend as much time as you want curating your playlists and whatnot; but if someday Spotify (or whatever service you use) goes away, or decides to radically jack up prices, you can easily find yourself back at square one.
From a forward-thinking and enlightened point of view, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Maybe we don’t need to own music; maybe we should be practicing non-attachment and accept the fact that everything is provisional. I suspect that younger people have an easier time of it, though the growing popularity of vinyl suggests that the desire for physical media is still going strong.
Ultimately, though, I feel like it will be necessary to make the leap to a purely electronic world of music, simply because the continued manufacture of physical media is so wasteful and inefficient. The collector’s mentality will become a thing of the past, and probably that’s just as well.
Having said all that, they’ll take my CD and record collection away when they pry it from my cold dead hands. At this juncture it feels foolish to keep acquiring more, but then again, I’ve always been a fool’s fool. We’ll see what happens.