Why it’s full stream ahead for the future of music listening
Like it or not, the concept of consumers 'owning' music is a dying dream. The likelihood is that the next generation in your family will never buy a CD or spin a record. There will be no walls in houses dedicated to music collections. It's on the way out and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Nothing.
There are many reasons for the decline of physical media formats, but it comes down to a few key causes. Availability, convenience and piracy are the key ones if you'll excuse us boiling down a highly contentious subject into three words.
So, given that physical formats are on the way out, should you be buying MP3s online or paying for a streaming, from the likes of Spotify or Napster?
We reckon it's time to step into the cloud and go for streaming. It's economical and brings with it delights never dreamed of in the analogue music world. Let's say the average conservative music fan buys one album a month, with an average cost of £10. That £10 nets you as many listens as you like of those - let's say 12 - songs. But pay £10 a month to Spotify or Napster, and you'll bag yourself streaming access to tens of millions of songs in high quality, and as many times as you like.
Of course, with these services you don't actually own any music, you're merely renting it on a monthly basis. But if you're spending £10 a month anyway, why not have access to as much music as you can handle instead of one album?
With Spotify you can still download any songs you like, so you'll still have access to your favourite music when you're offline. But of course, if you end your subscription it'll all disappear, so you're making a commitment when you sign up.
There are other issues to address, such as sound quality. Audiophiles will be buying CDs until the very last second they're available, but sound quality matters to us regular folk as well. With a Spotify Premium subscription your music can be streamed and downloaded at 320kbps, which is about as good as it gets for compressed music files. Napster on the other hand has a slightly larger catalogue of music, but the streaming quality is significantly lower (just 64kbps is you're on a mobile device). It's noticeable even to the undiscerning ear.
So make no mistake, in 10 years' time, we'll all be streaming music to our mobile devices, to our homes and to our cars. The cloud is where music will be stored in the future. In that future, you're going to pay a subscription, so you might as well start now. Any album you pay to download today will be available on those future streaming services, and we can't think of a single reason to pay twice.