Why we should be wary of music streaming services
Is it possible to have too much choice when it comes to music? Our old apartment had a room that was pretty much dedicated to wall to wall CDs. I remember standing, staring at the wall thinking something on the lines of “what the hell do I want to play?” My solution to this was something that Ruth always loved about me. OK, she thought it was mental but was prepared to put up with it. As the CDs were organised on shelves in alphabetical order (what do you mean weird – how else would you do it?), I started with he top shelf (let’s call it shelf one) and picked a CD. There were around 80 CDs on each shelf so there was always a choice depending on mood etc. but not too much so that you felt overwhelmed. The next choice came from shelf two and so it went. Result – contentment.
Since moving to a smaller, city centre apartment, the music is accessed from my Mac rather than physical CD or vinyl. However, I kept a virtual version of the CD racks, with content organised in shelves (OK, starting to sound peculiar now I am writing it down but it works). As a result, we (even though Ruth ignores the system when I am not around) listen to a decent mix of new music and stuff that could potentially have been forgotten.
I am not sure whether to be delighted or horrified at the thought of Apple Music, due to launch at the end of this month. The very glossy ads that are already building the hype, suggest that, for a £10 a month family subscription, I can access all the music in the world ever – brilliant! But, hang on minute. I suspect I have a reasonably big music collection (around 45,000 tracks and growing) and, without my fiendishly clever system, I would be totally overwhelmed and unable to choose. I am all for a challenge but putting 30 million tracks onto shelves (even virtual ones) is a bit much. However, all is not lost. The clever people at Apple have thought of this and will offer to select music for me. Err, isn’t that called a radio station? There seems to be plenty of those about for free, especially since the launch of Mixcloud, which I recommend highly (especially my shows!). But Apple have Beats 1 (erm, radio station again). They have Zane Lowe based in LA, somebody else in New York and another in London – OK, a radio station with three people choosing music from a catalogue of 30m songs.
Now, I am assuming I have missed the point here and everything will be wonderful. However, a word of caution. Your £10 per month will get you access to all of the music in the world ever. But, as we have seen already, there is nothing to stop individual artists pulling their music from the service. Taylor Swift has recently done exactly that by withdrawing from Spotify. With many other huge companies in the market (Deezer, Napster, Google, Amazon and Tidal to name a few) the market will be very competitive. What is to stop one of those companies signing the next big thing to an exclusive deal? Let’s say you like five bands. It is quite feasible that those five bands could sign to competing streaming companies. At that point, instead of £10 per month to access all of the music in the world ever, you are paying £50 per month.
It happened with TV sport
Couldn’t happen? It did in the world of televised sport. Twenty years ago I accepted into my heart that if I wanted to watch live sport on TV I had to subscribe to SkySports. A few years later, some bright spark politician decided that the market needed competition . As a result, if I want to watch all of the Premier league games I have to subscribe to Sky (which didn’t get cheaper) and BT. I also got rugby league coverage thrown in but now I get to pay for Premier Sports as well. It is great to have the choice – just bloody expensive.
I may sound like I am moaning. Probably because I am. I just feel that it is too easy to get manipulated by big business. After all, in the eighties they told me vinyl was dead, CDs were the perfect reproduction of the live music sound and the definition of modern living. Now CDs are dead and vinyl is making a comeback at around £25 for an album.
Maybe Apple could concentrate on working out why my devices keep dropping off the network rather than setting up radio stations.*
*Several hours later I appear to have fixed the network problem. Apple may be innocent on this – looks like it was BT’s fault.by