Why is it so hard to buy music these days?

I’m going to spew out a few words exploring the transformation of music buying habits over the decades and how they’ve not necessarily changed for the better. From browsing cassettes in Woolworths to the rise of streaming services, I’m taking a look at how digital technology has reshaped the music industry. I’ll be telling you what I think about the impact on artists’ compensation and why some music lovers prefer buying tracks directly.

Is the convenience of streaming worth the cost to artists and consumer choice?

Personally, I don’t think so…

Yes, OK.  I admit it.  I’m old.

That’s probably part of it.  When I started consuming music, it was easy to go to a local high street and buy cassettes straight off the racks in Woolworths, or head into a major town or city to hit the specialised shops like HMV, Virgin Megastore, Our Price or even the likes of Crash Records or Big Tree.

Most of those are now gone thanks to the likes of Amazon and the rise of the MP3 file.

The changes in format aren’t really the source of this, though.  Up until very recently, it was easy to actually buy the CD, vinyl or MP3 files of a song or a full album.

Then along came the streaming services.  You pay a subscription and you get access to all the music you want.  That’s a problem.  You’re not paying the artist directly.  OK, you never really were, with a few notable exceptions over the years.  The artist was always the one who got least out of the share of each piece of music bought, irrespective of the format it was consumed in.

The streaming services took the model used by the record companies and managed to make it worse.  Not only are they paying the artists less than the old monolithic record companies were, they’re not having to pay to make anything physical, so they’re scooping up larger and larger profits.

What got worse recently is that I see more and more new artists are on streaming sites with no option to buy the tracks they’re putting out.  Personally, I’d much rather spend £1 to buy a track to download onto my phone than stream it.  Especially if I could buy it direct from the artist.  I don’t want to pay some faceless millionaire so they can pass on a fraction of a penny to the artist who actually did all the work.

I want my money to go to the person who did the work.  I understand (although I REALLY don’t like or agree with it) why the streaming services are doing it – they want to make more money, and selling subscriptions is better for their bottom line than selling files that can be downloaded as a one off.  Selling subscriptions and not letting you, the customer, download anything means you keep paying and keep coming back to the service.  They can also track the data and sell it on to make even more money out of you.

This may be an “old man shouts at clouds” rant, but is it so bad to want someone to be fairly compensated for the work they do, and that if I’m paying for it, the money should go where I want it to go?

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