Young listeners opting to stream, not own music: This is really the future, I think.
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.
Interviews with college-age music fans suggest that more and more are choosing 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?
I pay for Spotify Premium, simply so I can stream to my mobile device (you can hook this up to a Bluetooth car stereo these days and thereby solve the vehicular audio problem too). Given that I can get about any music I want from Spotify (I rarely don’t find something I want), the idea of buying music, or even pirating it, has been rendered irrelevant. The idea of “owning” music seems absurd to me.
I discussed this for the first time five years ago in The Death of Ownership. I wanted to watch every episode of Scrubs, but didn’t want ownership of the physical media or the digital file:
I’ve gone from wanting to own everything to wanting to own nothing and actually being stressed out by the thought of ownership. Weird how that works.
Jeremy Zawodny came to the same conclusion three years ago when he switched from CDs to Pandora:
I feel like an idiot for the thousands of dollars I spent on CDs years ago, not to mention all the time and effort that went into digitizing that library multiple times (my own code, iTunes, WinAmp, etc.).
Music is an ephemeral thing for me (video too, for that matter). My experience of it is not heightened at all by owning it. So long as I “rent” it legally and the artist presumably gets some compensation for that, I will never buy media again, either physically or digitally.