A vaguely tech-related philosophical-ish thought-piece.
Tedious irrelevant tech challenge #7582: I still buy music. On physical media. CD mainly.
Tedious philosophical quandry #29: are streaming services eroding our emotional connection with music?
I don’t know why I still buy physical media. The economics of it don’t really make sense when compared with all the kool-kidz streaming stuff that is available nowadays. I can buy one album for around a tenner. I can buy a month’s streaming service of near-infinite music for around a tenner.
I have a collection that goes back years and there is something about me that means I *know* that if I don’t own (in a real sense) an album – and merely stream it – then I will merely stream it for a while and then move on.
And I think about this considerably. I greatly enjoy those moments – after time has passed – when, by looking back through archives / backups / hard drives / storage boxes / etc. – you get a glimpse to what things were like.
And my music collection is a huge part of that. All of the physical media is stored ingloriously in the loft – it has long since been digitised – but I do, nevertheless – still have it, a physical substance that bytes on a hard drive will never replace. And I can, look at it and think – ‘oh yeah, forgot about that.’
Tech Bit (ish)
Well, as with most of my typical tech challenges I have a setup which none of the major tech suppliers considered.
For starters, I have an iPhone which means that I must use iTunes / Apple Music for syncy-syncy of physical media. I’ve no doubt that were I to subscribe to a full-fat cloud music service then it might offer me a pseudo-copy of my stuff for me; but, no. I’m not paying additional pennies per month to repeatedly buy the stuff I already own. Sorry.
For the mostpart this works well enough. I buy stuff. Amazon Autorip of actual CD-in-drive-copy gets it available. It syncs to devices. But the consequential issue is that physical media / non-streaming music libraries don’t really work at home, unless you’re able to centralise them and stream them, somehow. We have Sonos at home – and whilst I am still grumbling and bitter about the so-called obsoletion of my nothing-wrong-with-it Sonos Play 5 earlier in 2020, it does, nevertheless, work pretty well.
Obviously Sonos nowadays encourages you to subscribe to streaming services as well. But should you be stubbornly refusing – as I am – then it will index a media collection and play that over your system. Hurrah.
And therein lies the issue. My music collection is in Apple Music, which is physically on one of the various Macs we have in the house. For Sonos to work, it needs a permanent connection to that collection. Which for computers which cannot be guaranteed to be on / available 24/7 just doesn’t work.
And so; for some time – far too long – I have maintained two copies of stuff; one, stored physically in the Apple Music library that is used exclusively for sync to iOS devices, and another, separate copy – on a NAS, which Sonos can access whenever. But this has been (a) a cut-down section of the main music collection, and (b) duplicative and annoying. When adding new stuff, it needs to be added twice – to both Music and Sonos. Annoying.
This is one of the situations that simply ‘arose’ – it was neither planned nor particularly loathed – it worked at the time, until it became an encumbrance. And working from home during Covid-y lockdown over the last 12 months made it become an encumbrance. I just want to listen to my shit on Sonos – but I can’t.
I finally took the plunge and – crumbs – it was mostly painless. I don’t know if the tools just work – or if I just got lucky – but simply telling Apple Music to change the location of the Music library from local to NAS storage, and then forcing it ‘organise media’ was enough – it merrily copied the couple hundy gigs of data from my desktop to the NAS, and updated itself to know where to find it. And with that in place, I told Sonos to index that location for a music library – and, with virtually no issue, it’s resolved. Cool.
And to celebrate I’ve been reliving some classics. (Classics to me, that is.)
Alanis Morrisette. Ben Folds Five. Counting Crows. Live. Matchbox 20. Jurassic 5. The list goes on.
This stuff is amazing. Is this just a generational bias? How good is this stuff from the 80s/90s? Maybe just because it’s what I know. Modern stuff can be good too.
But, this is the stuff that the music streaming services, for all their algorithms, would never ‘think’ to play for me?
Do kids who grow up nowadays have a similar emotional connection to music? I hope so.
But. Streaming services would have no idea why these songs mean something to me. About how I first heard a band called Ben Folds Five in my best mate’s white Fiat Uno as he picked me up from a garage where my car was in for a service, when we were around 18 in the 90s and were just experiencing that first real independence.
How could they know?
I messaged him on WhatsApp after listening to ‘Whatever and Ever, Amen’ today. Just to say hi. Just to say what’s up. He lives on the opposite side of the world now with his own family and life and Covid-related issues.
I wanted him to know this stuff made me think of him and I hoped he was well. He replied, and appreciated it.
I strongly believe that music has magical healing powers. Not in a hokey-cokey druid sort of way; I simply mean if you can find the jam that you can lose yourself in, you will benefit.
Seriously; even if you think you listen to music, ask yourself: when was the last time you *really* listened? None of this on in the background. Or earphones in while I do some vacuuming.
I mean, full-on, volume up, stop doing anything else, eyes closed **listening** to it. Hear the music. Let it envelope you. Doesn’t matter what it is – classical, jazz, thrash metal, cheesey pop nonsense – something that gets in your ears and makes you listen. When did you last do that?
Music has power. But it has to do something for you. An experience, a connection, a memory or a feeling.
I fear that without the permanent copy (whether that’s the physical media or even a digital copy) – if it’s just a fleeting, streaming deal – then these memories, that still bring me such great joy – will not persist.