Photo: Pixaby

Weird About Music: My Obsession With Buying vs. Streaming Music in a Digital Era

I have this irrational fear of forgetting the songs that I love—of losing them in the entire music collective and never being reminded of them again. I’ll obsessively make playlists of songs that move me, the ones that I never want to let slip into the background. The most frustrating feeling is having a part of a song stuck in my head and not knowing what it is—artist, lyrics, title—nothing. I want to cement the songs that I love in my head, but I don’t trust my memory to this task. So my iPod is my backup.

iPod Classic

I realize that now, with streaming music services, you basically have access to every song ever recorded without having to download them, but there’s something comforting about having a device that can only do one thing. With my iPod classic, I can’t be distracted by social media or text notifications. I don’t have to worry about having Wi-Fi or using data because the music is mine. It’s catalogued in this boxy little mp3 that transports me back to my childhood.

I feel like I have a stronger connection with people who share my taste in music. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed scrolling through people’s iPods. And I guess you can still accomplish that by noting the artists that someone follows or the songs in their public playlists, but somehow that feels less personal.

The difference lies in physically holding someone’s music player, rather than accessing their publically shared music on your device. Although, I’m sure that people felt that same distant coldness when music albums transformed from tangible discs into invisible digital files. I have this image in my head of a collection of CDs stacked next to a portable Walkman CD player, a slice of a memory. With the invention of mp3 players, my world of music expanded beyond the albums I could carry in my CD case.

Sony Walkman CD Player

There have been so many changes (and improvements) to the way that people can listen to music over the years. However, I think that there will always be a part of every one of us that is partial to the method we grew up with. It’s why people still treasure their record players or cassette players or CD players. It’s why I continue to use my outdated iPod. And while I love the idea of preserving old ways of enjoying music, I also don’t want to discount innovation.

I’ve had my qualms about streaming services in the past, but I’ve recently subscribed to Spotify and gotten the chance to really embrace the streaming life. More music has become accessible to more people and that is a wonderful thing. Streaming services like Spotify allow a greater opportunity for exploring new music. I like that algorithms are used to recommend similar artists or tracks based on the ones that you already enjoy.

As someone who actively seeks up-and-coming artists, I appreciate the fact that I can listen to all of them without having to purchase each individual song. After all, paying $10 a month for an almost unlimited collection of music can save a lot, depending on how devoted you are to music, and if you’re a student like me, you only have to pay half that. And, of course, streaming can just as well be done free of charge (or at least only requires the patience of sitting through ads). So there are a lot of benefits with this option, but as someone who doesn’t like to limit herself, I enjoy my music on several different platforms.

Spotify playlist digital music

Using Spotify to Stream Music

I use Spotify to make public playlists and explore new or previously unknown music. I use YouTube to watch music videos or performances. I use iTunes to remind me of the music I cherished during different periods in my life. And when I get really lazy, I turn on the radio to hear old hits, new hits, and obscure tracks on college radio stations.

Even though I can essentially enjoy all music for free or for a low cost every month, I still purchase albums and individual songs that I grow to love. For some reason, it gives me satisfaction to finally have a song in my personal music library—like now it’s really mine to enjoy, and not just some loan that I’ll have to eventually return. I get these disaster scenarios in my head like: What if the entire Internet crashes and all music disappears forever except for the CD collection I own and my iPod? Would I be satisfied with what I have? It’s ridiculous—I know—but I like to err on the side of caution!

Stack of CDs for digital music

Maybe it’s all the same to someone else, but I like to think my particularity about music speaks to a certain kind of dedication. Believe it or not, I could spend hours just browsing music collections and creating playlists for different moods. I think it’s incredible that music has the power to transform our attitudes, to unite a group of individuals under a common sympathy. And I don’t care how someone else cultivates their music. Streaming or not, music is music and I’m just glad more people get to enjoy more of it.

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I am a student at UC Davis, currently working toward a B.A. in English (with an emphasis in creative writing) and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. I especially enjoy the works of Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare. My affinity for the arts is evident in my support of local bookstores, museums, and theaters. Besides reading and writing, I live for discovering new music and revisiting classic jams from the 70's, 80's, and 90's.

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Weird About Music: My Obsession With Buying vs. Streaming Music in a Digital Era

I have this irrational fear of forgetting the songs that I love—of losing them in the entire music collective and never being reminded of them again. I’ll obsessively make playlists of songs that move me, the ones that I never want to let slip into the background. The most frustrating feeling is having a part of a song stuck in my head and not knowing what it is—artist, lyrics, title—nothing. I want to cement the songs that I love in my head, but I don’t trust my memory to this task. So my iPod is my backup.

iPod Classic

I realize that now, with streaming music services, you basically have access to every song ever recorded without having to download them, but there’s something comforting about having a device that can only do one thing. With my iPod classic, I can’t be distracted by social media or text notifications. I don’t have to worry about having Wi-Fi or using data because the music is mine. It’s catalogued in this boxy little mp3 that transports me back to my childhood.

I feel like I have a stronger connection with people who share my taste in music. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed scrolling through people’s iPods. And I guess you can still accomplish that by noting the artists that someone follows or the songs in their public playlists, but somehow that feels less personal.

The difference lies in physically holding someone’s music player, rather than accessing their publically shared music on your device. Although, I’m sure that people felt that same distant coldness when music albums transformed from tangible discs into invisible digital files. I have this image in my head of a collection of CDs stacked next to a portable Walkman CD player, a slice of a memory. With the invention of mp3 players, my world of music expanded beyond the albums I could carry in my CD case.

Sony Walkman CD Player

There have been so many changes (and improvements) to the way that people can listen to music over the years. However, I think that there will always be a part of every one of us that is partial to the method we grew up with. It’s why people still treasure their record players or cassette players or CD players. It’s why I continue to use my outdated iPod. And while I love the idea of preserving old ways of enjoying music, I also don’t want to discount innovation.

I’ve had my qualms about streaming services in the past, but I’ve recently subscribed to Spotify and gotten the chance to really embrace the streaming life. More music has become accessible to more people and that is a wonderful thing. Streaming services like Spotify allow a greater opportunity for exploring new music. I like that algorithms are used to recommend similar artists or tracks based on the ones that you already enjoy.

As someone who actively seeks up-and-coming artists, I appreciate the fact that I can listen to all of them without having to purchase each individual song. After all, paying $10 a month for an almost unlimited collection of music can save a lot, depending on how devoted you are to music, and if you’re a student like me, you only have to pay half that. And, of course, streaming can just as well be done free of charge (or at least only requires the patience of sitting through ads). So there are a lot of benefits with this option, but as someone who doesn’t like to limit herself, I enjoy my music on several different platforms.

Spotify playlist digital music

Using Spotify to Stream Music

I use Spotify to make public playlists and explore new or previously unknown music. I use YouTube to watch music videos or performances. I use iTunes to remind me of the music I cherished during different periods in my life. And when I get really lazy, I turn on the radio to hear old hits, new hits, and obscure tracks on college radio stations.

Even though I can essentially enjoy all music for free or for a low cost every month, I still purchase albums and individual songs that I grow to love. For some reason, it gives me satisfaction to finally have a song in my personal music library—like now it’s really mine to enjoy, and not just some loan that I’ll have to eventually return. I get these disaster scenarios in my head like: What if the entire Internet crashes and all music disappears forever except for the CD collection I own and my iPod? Would I be satisfied with what I have? It’s ridiculous—I know—but I like to err on the side of caution!

Stack of CDs for digital music

Maybe it’s all the same to someone else, but I like to think my particularity about music speaks to a certain kind of dedication. Believe it or not, I could spend hours just browsing music collections and creating playlists for different moods. I think it’s incredible that music has the power to transform our attitudes, to unite a group of individuals under a common sympathy. And I don’t care how someone else cultivates their music. Streaming or not, music is music and I’m just glad more people get to enjoy more of it.

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