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I Don’t Buy Music, I Stream It

Over the past few years I have moved away from the industry standard of “owning” a copy of music produced by the artists I enjoy. It started with Apple’s iTunes. I started purchasing digital copies of music instead of CDs because it was cheaper. I didn’t necessarily want the whole artists album. I just wanted access to the songs I enjoyed most. To be honest, I can not remember the last time I purchased an actual CD album. I know that I have purchased CDs of music from friends of mine who are in bands to support them, but I haven’t walked into a music store to purchase a CD from a mainstream band in over 6 years at least.

Over the last few years, digital streaming services have become more popular. Rhapsody tried to do it but never really took off like the streaming services of today, Spotify and Rdio. When Rdio started a few years ago, I jumped on board. I loved the fact that I could have access to listen to music when I wanted. I had been using Pandora since it first launched back in 2000 but always disliked the fact that I didn’t have control to listen to exactly what I wanted to listen to. Rdio gave me more flexibility but they did not have a large library at the time. When Spotify came to the US, I was all over that. I joined immediately. I also joined Rdio again with the goal of figuring out which platform is best for me.

It has now been just over a year since Spotify opened up in the US. I have been a premium subscriber since launch and also a subscriber to Rdio. I use Rdio much more often than I do Spotify. I will outline the reasons below. Before I get into that I want to mention that I actually do still buy songs from time to time. As a Wedding Photographer and Wedding Videographer, I use music in my work. None of my finished client work is commercially resold, it is just for their private use. The Copyright Act of 1976 outlines use of authored material allowed for personal use so long as that does not become commercial or publicly shared on the open market. From time to time, if I can not find a royalty free alternative, I will purchase a few mp3s from Amazon to use in a project.

Ok, so Spotify and Rdio are the biggest players in Music Streaming right now. They both offer a large library of music on demand. You can create your own playlists, add music to your library for playback later and save the music for offline playing. You can not actually use the music outside of Spotify, Rdio or something that integrates with one of the two. Over the last year, both services have launched mobile apps, apps for newer TVs and DVD Players. You can easily get access to the music on these services anywhere. If you use a smartphone app, you can save your music in the app for offline use so you do not have to use your data plan to stream music when you are away from a Wifi connection.

Now I love music. I love finding new artists and enjoying their work. In the past this meant having to purchase all of these songs or albums which was expensive. On average, I find at least a new album every couple of days that I want access to and at least 5-10 songs per week. Think about how much that would cost me in CDs or even mp3s on iTunes? I used to spend over $150 every month on iTunes. I have the receipts to prove it. Now I spend $17.99 on Rdio for complete access for my wife and I. We each have our own accounts. My wife didn’t buy music often but only because she didn’t want to have a $150 per month habit like I did. Now she has access to tons of music for her own listening pleasure and to have fun stuff for my boys to listen to.

Are streaming services slowly killing the artists? No! Steaming services pay royalties to the artists in a similar way that a production studio would pay for access to include a song in a commercial or a movie. It is still a check in the hands of the record labels, who control the whole game anyway. Before Spotify and Rdio, I consumed a lot less music. This means that I listened to the albums more often that I purchased. My $150 per month only went to a few artists. Now that I stream music, I listen to much wider range of music and artists than I ever did before. Though I am not sure the actually amount these artists are getting paid, and was unable to find that data online, I am not sure now much supporting of each artist I am doing. However, I am continuously suggesting artists to people. I let Spotify and Rdio post to my Facebook and I have public playlists that I share with others also. This leads to artist discovery and more support for artists. Streaming is the way things are moving. I prefer to have access to something rather than to have racks of something stored at my home. I used to have over 500 CDs and over 200 DVDs. I don’t even buy books anymore unless the title is not available in digital format. How cool is it to have access to all of our media whenever we want it? Super cool I say!

The difference between Spotify and Rdio

Spotify and Rdio preform the same basic function. They give you access to new and old music on demand. Both have large libraries and it is not often that I cant find an artist on one service but can find it on the other. Both services allow you to create playlists and share them with your friends. The main differences between the two is that Spotify is more integrated with Facebook, so you can see what your Facebook friends are publicly listening to and have access to their playlists. Rdio has it’s own following system where you can follow people, see their listening activity and have access to their playlists. To me, Rdio is doing this better. I already know what most of my Facebook friends are listening to because they post it on their walls. I want access to people who have similar tastes in music whom I do not already know. It’s a big world out there. Rdio also allows you to add music to your collection, very similar to having music in your library in iTunes. With Spotify, you have to create playlists. When I create playlists I am creating a collection of artists songs that I like listening to together. I am not used to creating a playlist for an artist by name unless I am creating a playlist of my favorite songs by an artist. Most of the time this is not how we organize music. I don’t want 100’s of playlists, I want a dozen good playlists and then if I want to go to my library to listen to complete albums, I can do that. Nothing on Spotify or Rdio is more than a search away, so one can argue that there is no reason to need to have a collection or library anyway, but it is still faster to access artists in your collection than it is to do a search for them by name.

Making the switch:
Spotify and Rdio allow you to sync your iTunes playlist over so you can access the music you already have along with any new music you discover. In Spotify, you are allowed to sync folders of music as well, which is good if you purchased your music from somewhere other than iTunes. Rdio only gives you syncing ability from iTunes. This is not a big deal for me at this point because I rarely listen to music that I have in iTunes. Most of the music I listen to now is newer and something I had not already purchased. I was aware of my listening habits. I find new music all of the time to enjoy and then occasionally go back to artists I previously found. Most of the time, one or two tracks find their way into a playlist I create and rarely do I revisit an artists entire album. Because I consume music this way, it is much cheaper for me to subscribe to a service such as Spotify or Rdio than it is to purchase the music. I spend less than $30 per month on music streaming. If only the movie and tv industries would get on board in a similar fashion. Perhaps I will write about Hulu and Netflix next.

My music addiction:
I love music. It helps me concentrate. Different genres of music keeps me motivated while doing specific tasks. To get a good workout in at the gym, I need something loud and fast. To dance, I need something fast and hard hitting. To relax, I need something chill and melodic. On top of that, I love new music. I often over play a song but it’s at my own doing, not because the radio overplayed it. I am sure that some of you can relate. The amount of music that I consume now has grown so much that my monthly addition would probably cost over $300 now, if not more. If streaming services have done anything, it has allowed me to get passionate about more artists and given me a voice to share these artists with others who have not heard of them before.

One such artist discovery that I made in Spotify was The Wombats. If it was not for finding them in Spotify, I would have never fallen in love with their style and music. I would have never purchased tickets to see them in the Bay Area and drove all of the way up there to see them perform live. This has been the case with many other bands as well.

Spotify Pros and Cons (this is just my pros and cons, which may or may not be a pro or a con to you):

Pros:
Fast streaming, high quality streaming, playlist creation, artist radio (similar to Pandora), view Facebook friends playlists, ability to sync music from any folder, not just iTunes.

Cons: No easy way to discover popular music unless Spotify suggests it or a Facebook friend has it in a playlist. No way to add music to a collection, you have to add it to a playlist or favorite the songs or albums. No easy way to get to artist albums with out searching.

Rdio Pros and Cons:

Pros: Fast streaming, high quality streaming, playlist creation, ability to add artists to a collection or library. You can sync your iTunes playlist

Cons: Currently no way to view new or popular artists by Genre (I did email Rdio about this and it is a feature that is coming soon). You can not sync music from folders, only iTunes (sorry Amazon mp3 customers).

If you like Indie Rock and Alternative, you should checkout my Hill Media Group playlist, which is what we listen to mostly here at the office:
Hill Media Group Playlist on Rdio: Launch
Hill Media Group Playlist on Spotify: Launch

My profile on Spotify: Jerad Hill’s Spotify
My profile on Rdio: Jerad Hill’s Rdio

Here is a screenshot of my Spotify account:

Here is a screenshot of my Rdio account:

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