Is the music collection headed for the dustbin of history?

When I first started making money (delivering the San Jose Mercury News), I put together a hifi system (old components, amplifier, and turntable) and started buying music.  I was addicted to the extension of my collection, which ran to hundreds of LPs, including some rarities, and bootlegs. I remember the thrill when I first got a car and was able to drive to Santa Cruz, not to visit the beach, but to visit the huge used record stores on Pacific Grove.

Then the Compact Disc revolution started (1983, I bought a very expensive for me, Technics CD player).

Fast forward 27 or so years. I no longer have the LP’s (they were sold during a move, sadly), but I still have hundreds of CD’s. Of course, I have jumped on the digital bandwagon, and have bought a few thousand tunes from the ITMS and Google Play store.  My collection runs to some 18K tracks, spanning many genres, as well as some rarities.

But that is at risk of becoming obsolete. I have found that a 150G music collection is formidable to keep sync’d across all my devices and computers. It is just too big.

Fortunately, the Google Play and iTunes Match means I can stream it to my devices as will. But even with that convenience, I find that I am using itunes or google play less and less.

This is because of my subscription to Spotify. Their streaming is so good that I don’t miss my tracks. And the selection of music is wide.  I have discovered some great bands that I would never have taken a risk on buying a track (Panzerballet is one).

Of course, there are some downsides.  Some artists are absent (AC/DC, Paul Gilbert, and Led Zeppelin come to mind), so I will need my catalogs of these songs. As the licensing deals are reached, I expect those gaps to lessen, and while they won’t disappear, it will become much less annoying.

I welcome the change. Managing and preserving a 18K track, 150GB music collection takes a lot of work. But for everyday listening, Spotify rocks. I do worry about the economics. While getting the major labels less pivotal to the music distribution game, I fear that the remuneration for artists will remain low (An excellent piece in the NY Times in January highlighted this), and thus make them less likely to open their catalogs.

I still buy tracks from the various stores, and occasionally a CD when the tracks aren’t available (Paul Gilbert’s band “Racer X” comes to mind), but Spotify has disrupted the music market for the better.

Leave a Comment