Streaming: Helping or Hurting Music?

I like Steven Wilson’s music. When I was starting to get into his music I noticed it was absent from Spotify. You could find it easily on Youtube, however. I started with the album Hand. Cannot. Erase. I can say that it was my favourite album of 2015. I was impressed and started listening to his other work. Great news for Steven Wilson, he has another fan and from there maybe even more because I and many other music fans love to share our favourite songs with friends and followers on social media. Just recently, Steven Wilson allowed his music on Spotify. Excellent! The only song you won’t be able to hear is a cover of the Prince song “Sign ‘o’ The Times”, darn it!
Social media is something that is hard to live without in today’s world. Sure you don’t have to be on every single social media platform, but everything seems to be on social media. Your family, friends, co-workers, entertainers. Faceless corporations turn to social media to use it for marketing and as a method of communication for customer service. You’ll find phone companies on Facebook and cable companies on Twitter. Sometimes it’s easier to get a response on social media than by telephone. Now what does music streaming have to do with social media? It goes hand in hand. On Spotify you can make a profile and make playlists to share with your friends. You can follow your friends and see what they’re listening to, which may be a good thing or an embarrassing thing. YouTube is a big place for music too and people make comments on videos, sometimes very nice praises and other times it’s just stupid trolling comments. From time to time you’ll see intelligent discussion about music on YouTube.
What can we draw from this? Part of success of musicians today is through a social media and internet presence. Image and marketing is an important thing. It’s not just about sound, sadly. Thanks MTV, and I guess TV in general. The whole image thing didn’t just start with MTV because bands would perform on TV before 1981, things like Ready Steady Go, Rockpalast, Top of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Midnight Special, Soul Train, the list goes on on and on. You can’t just sound good. You gotta have a stage presence in order to stand out and show the listeners why they should listen to you.
We don’t live in the 60s anymore and we gotta move beyond record labels, radio, and TV. Fewer and fewer people listen to radio and TV on a regular basis. While I am an aspiring DJ, I don’t have a radio in my room when I’m at university. In the student house I’ll be living in, we’re saving money by not having a TV in the house. Where do I watch TV and listen to music? On the same device I typed this opinion blog on, my trusty Macbook Pro. As a kid, I never thought it would be possible that a computer can do all of this. Those were the days of dial up internet access. I could barely play computer games online, so I couldn’t even think about streaming a movie or listening to music online!
For the most part I can find my favourite music and music I want to get into online pretty easily. But then there are exceptions. I really want to get into King Crimson more and as a broke (almost) 22 year old, I can’t go out and buy all their albums on vinyl. I have been meaning to listen to more of Prince’s music, but I can’t afford a Tidal membership! Perhaps I could get a library card and try my luck there.
I’m not a musician. I’m not an artist at all. To quote the Heart song, “I’m just a fanatic”. A classic rock fanatic. At the end of the day artists can do whatever they want, but I can disagree with it. I think art is something for all to enjoy and it’s something that unites people. I firmly believe in “the more the merrier”. It’s great to find other fans of the music and it’s easier to become a fan of something if you can listen to it or watch it. It’s never too late to appreciate good music. Being left wing, I believe that art shouldn’t just be limited to people with money. I also understand that musicians need to put food on the table and pay rent, but we need to find a balance and I think there needs to be some changes with how streaming services pay musicians. I can’t talk too much about that issue because I’m not too informed on it. Music should be affordable and musicians should be paid fairly.
I hope one day to find musicians and streaming services working together to find a solution that works for everyone. The expiry date of a song/band is when people forget and stop talking about it. There’s more than one way to listen to music and each way has its pros and cons. Records are cool to look at, fun to collect, and surface noise adds character, but it’s not portable like mp3s or CDs. Physical copies of albums wear out over time. mp3s can sound compressed and don’t sound optimal. For a nomad like me, I like to be able to carry thousands of songs with me wherever I go. Let’s stop the elitism and just live and let live. Music elitism is what gives the classic rock fandom a bad reputation and it may scare people away from classic rock in general. That’s another rant for another day.
Let me know what you think in the comments section!
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