I’ve seen quite a few discussions lately about the Spotify online music service. A few people said they didn’t get it; they wanted to own their music, not rent it. I saw a similar comment about the Amazon Kindle e-reader. That person was concerned that Amazon could take the content back at any time; he wanted to own it.
I’m not talking about people who like the experience of holding an actual book. I get that. Or audiophiles who get all squishy at the smell of a freshly-unwrapped vinyl LP. I mean, why do you care about actually owning the content?
For one thing, you don’t in fact “own” the content; the artist or author does. You’re just buying the delivery medium.
I listen to all my music through iTunes, XM Radio or the web (just trying out Spotify). I have around 500 albums and I haven’t had a functioning turntable in at least a decade. My CDs are in the drawers of my son’s dresser. (We’ll have to move those as soon as he discovers them or I predict they will turn into a thousand shiny projectiles.)
I don’t want to own content. I don’t even really want to store content. I just want it available when I want to access it.
I love using Kindle on my iPad. It syncs to my iPhone which means I always have the book I’m reading with me. There are some books I’ve re-read several times (Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, for one), but looking at my Kindle library now, I’ll tell you there aren’t more than one or two titles on there that I have any desire to “archive.”
For TV and movies, even fewer. Remember that Qwest commercial from about ten years ago? A haggard looking man checks in to a dusty motel and asks the bored teenage clerk if they have any in-room entertainment. She says something like, “We have every movie ever made, available at any time, day or night.”
Yeah, that’s what I want.
When I found out that Spotify let you stream whole albums for free, I thought, “Yep, that’s it. I’m done.” My favorite albums of all time are London Calling by The Clash, I Just Can’t Stop It by The Beat and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (yes, I went to college in the ’80s). I listen to them maybe twice a year, if I’m honest. Why do I need to buy them and hold them, if I can go online and listen to them whenever I want?
Yes, there’s lots of obscure music out there you won’t find online, and things do go out of print and disappear, but if you’re worried about that, I already covered you in my squishy LP-opener category.
I don’t want a closet full of storage devices. I don’t even want a hard drive full of files. It feels like clutter to me, and something that will endlessly have to be maintained, backed up and worried over. If I ever did make a full to-do list, there would be several items related to just the external hard drive with my MP3s on it (back up, eliminate duplicates, organize). I don’t need that.
Tommy Lee Jones, viewing a new piece of alien music technology in one of the Men In Black movies says, “I guess I’ll have to buy the White Album again.”
No you don’t! You just need to pay somebody who has the White Album online. And if a service like Spotify can supply both the archiving of old music and the discovery of new, that’s all I’ll ever need.
(Of course this all falls apart if the White Album isn’t available to stream. I should probably check that.)
If you like owning your music and books, I’d love to hear why.
image by me