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I bought a lot of CD’s when I was a teenager. I frequently made use of the Columbia House style deals where you could order 10 CD’s for free while paying for just 1 and then canceling after a few obligatory months. The 90’s were a beautiful time for music-on-media and I adored the books and books of CD sleeves that I’d collected in a short time span. I loved displaying all the CD cases on a wood rack in my bedroom and then dorm room. One of my friends made a wall hanging of his collected CD booklets and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.
My college didn’t get high-speed internet until my Junior year, but once it did we were rapid adopters of Napster. The campus (at least those of us who collected music) changed almost overnight. Gone were the random runs to Best Buy, Circuit City, the mall or even Wal-Mart to pick up a new album and all night downloading sessions of mp3’s on Napster quickly replaced those adventures.
My friends and I felt like we were on the precipice of something new… for the first time music was “freely” available at our fingertips and just required enough bandwidth and patience to find what you were looking for at any particular moment. We would have conversations about the future of music and how that future would include music at our fingertips via our bulky desktop PC Clone computers, ZIP drives, and 3.5-inch floppies. Little did we know we were just a few years from the iPod and ultimately the iPhone and the promise of that vision was just a decade or so away. Little did we realize we wouldn’t have to carry a desktop tower halfway across campus to get our playlists going at the Fraternity house.
Even in 2010, it seemed like something as audacious as Spotify was futuristic. I’m an early adopter. I bought way too much music on the iTunes Store, via Rhapsody, have a Pandora account going back to 2004… I was ready for on-demand streaming of any song or album I wanted. At least I thought so.
Just checked the receipts… I’ve been a paying member of Spotify since July 2011 (shortly after this post was published evidently… and Klout?? Ha! Forgot about that abomination):
To join Spotify, you’ll need an invite (the first batch are being dished out by online influence tracker Klout). You can skip this tedious step, though, using that old fashioned universal lubricant – money. Sign up for either the monthly Premium or Unlimited plans and you can walk straight in the door. Premium, priced at $5 per month, gives you as much ad-free music as you like. Unlimited ($10) adds offline storage of tracks and lets you use the Spotify client on your mobile device (the Spotify iPhone app is now available in the U.S App Store).
Little did I realize how much the paradox of choice would really impact my passion for music. There was a time I had to think deliberately about whether I wanted to spend that $12-15 on a Thelonious Monk or Wilco or U2 album or if I wanted to try out another genre. Now, that’s just a literal tap of my finger. It has taken me almost 7 years to wrap my head around that paradigm of choice and my music intake has suffered as a result.
I wrapped myself up in the cozy arms of “Dad Rock” and Bowie and The Beatles as I approach 40. I listen less to new artists and I have no idea what is even happening at the Grammy’s anymore. There was a time when I’d pour over the Billboard rankings or Rolling Stone reviews to determine what my next CD purchase would be. Now, I just click play on my Spotify playlist for the day and am made comfortably numb by Pink Floyd or Ryan Adams without much thought as to what I’m missing.
Maybe that’s one of the side effects of getting old. You stop wondering what else is out there and you relish in the sounds that rocked your 20-year-old head. You celebrate the bridges and riffs of “You Never Give Me Your Money” and stop trying to stay on top of the latest Kendrick Lamar album or what might be happening with post-rock.
The 30’s are a time to grow into your jeans and start becoming comfortable with yourself, right?
Screw that. I’m using Spotify to listen to what else is out there as I grow into my 40’s. It’s time.
Here’s to the next ten years of whatever delivery mechanism we make for music we love and music that challenges us.