Why Subscription Streaming Sucks
by Quinton Sheer
One of my most vivid memories as a child was exploring the shelves that housed my parents’ 8 tracks and records. Every item was a brand new world to explore, in sound, sight, and even smell. I remember 1st feeling like I alone had discovered these artists. Elvis. ABBA. Joan Baez. Marty Robbins. Through this discovery I was exposed not just to new (to me) artists, but to ideas and attitudes I might never have come to without them.
Exploring my parents’ music collection gave me a connection to my parents outside the traditional parent/child bond. If I liked what they liked it solidified my feeling of belonging to the family. We like the same – we are the same. My family has a past and I am now part of it. And if I didn’t like what I heard, that helped me realize that my parents were not just my parents. They were individuals; Actual people beyond “Mom & Dad” with distinct tastes and preferences.
Some records belonged just to my mother. Peter, Paul, & Mary. The 5th Dimension. Some were just my father’s. Johnny Cash. Patsy Cline. A third section was the music they had bought together. Soundtracks like West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar. Looking through their music collection taught me they had pasts as individuals, a future together, and in letting me listen in, I was meant to be a part of it. They even made space for my music which at the time consisted of Golden Books stories on .45.
Now, I’m not saying that old mediums of music are better or should be preserved for nostalgia. Although, digital recordings can’t give the listener the warmth of silence between notes. I eventually bought my favorites from their collection on cassette and CD. I ripped those to my external hard drive where I add on to my collection with digital downloads. I access my music from any room in the house with my Apple TV. But I am in possession of my music and put it on various mediums – TV, computer, iPod, etc. If someone had an interest, they could still go through my music collection and get the same experience as I did as a child minus the dust smell.
Whenever I hear Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass I hear my dad playing along on his trumpet and teaching me to play. My mom pulls out the old music to remind her of the good times when we were all together and smiling.
Music is the soundtrack of our lives. When we think back on our childhood and youth there is a song that goes with it. What I put in the tape deck when I took the family car for the 1st time as a licensed driver (Steppenwolf); what was playing during a car accident (Blue Suede); the first time I got all the way naked with someone like those diagrams in health class (Dépêche Mode); and the list goes on. 1st dances, 1st kisses, break-ups, and make-ups.
With the passage of time, we can forget our life’s playlist. Nostalgia may lead us to spend more time scrolling through our collections but if we did not physically posses our music (even digitally) then we’d have to remember the song or event and seek it out, which bypasses the discovery/rediscovery experience.
That discovery/rediscovery experience is not available if we buy into (literally) subscription streaming. People pay a monthly fee to be able to stream any song they want. On the surface it’s a great idea but the benefit is not worth the price. Hot today. Gone tomorrow. Subscription streamers live in the moment. They are the Zen monks of music fans. Music is non permanence. But the subscription model does not take our musical past into account. To go down memory lane we are required to remember and it is the music that triggers the memory in the first place.
Subscription streaming does not consider that music fans might want to share that music in the future. How will our children discover the great artists of our time if they can’t stumble on it like we once did with our parents’ music collections? With subscription streaming there is one less way for children to get to know their parents outside the child/parent dynamic.
Subscription streaming assumes music is disposable. If you took the time to read this, you know music is never disposable. Music is the ultimate green product. It can be recycled for new listeners or remixed. It can keep entertaining long after the original writers and performers have passed. Even old pop music by one hit wonders can be our own personal time capsules. But if we don’t possess the music in hard copy or digital format those moments of rediscovery will be few and far between. There might be huge gaps in our memories if the soundtrack that triggers them is considered disposable and forgettable.
There is great value in possessing music in whatever format. It is not a disposable product. The songs aren’t. The performers aren’t. The listener’s aren’t either. The music cheers us up, helps us celebrate, and gets us through life’s sadder moments. It reminds us of our past and makes the present tolerable. If subscription streaming is the future it will prevent us from easily accessing our past.