The streaming music app, Spotify, changed my world last year. Instead of blindly buying albums on Amazon or buying music when I make my occasional trips up the St. Cloud, I can now preview an album (legally) before I buy it.
For 10 years I worked in record stores. I was on the in with the new bands, reissues of classic albums and was spoiled by having the ability to listen to new albums before they came out. The discounts were nice as well.
But after moving to Worthington, where there is not much for the music I tend to enjoy, I was kind of forced into blind buys and friends’ suggestions. Sure, it worked out some of the time, but when I throw down money and get a terrible album, it is not a great feeling.
So when a friend of mine gave me one of the first invites to use Spotify, it blew my mind. Sure, there are commercials and whatnot, but being able to preview almost any album when it comes out is pretty cool. I was able to preview Jack White’s solo album, cringe at the new Smashing Pumpkins, have mixed feelings for Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Americana” and was delighted to hear new albums by Nada Surf, Band of Skulls, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and many other groups.
While I enjoy Spotify, my wife Gina enjoys Pandora. I’ll give Pandora credit for introducing me to some old r&b Stax tracks I never heard of. Pandora is good in that you give it suggestions by typing in bands or artists, and while you hear said artists, the program suggests others who are in the same vein.
So I like both programs for different reasons, but what I like with Spotify is I can listen to the whole album. If I like it, I go out and purchase it. If I hate it, well, I save some cash.
Also with Spotify, I can make my own playlists or listen to what my friends are listening to with theirs, which helps open my musical palette even more.
Would I have been as glowing about these programs three years ago when I was selling music for a living? Oh, I’m sure this blog would not be glowing at all. It’d be me railing about how it keeps people from buying music (I’m sure it probably hasn’t helped record sales, but I no longer keep track of those things) and how digital doesn’t compare at all to vinyl or even CDs (which again, this is true, sans Neil Young’s new digital format that keeps most of the data from an original recording in high quality). I still enjoy owning music. The worst thing I heard over and over in my days selling music was kids saying, with all sincerity “Why should I buy music? It’s free online.” I’m not sure how much revenue artists make from programs like Spotify and Pandora, but it’s probably is not much.
But in the end, I do buy music. I enjoy vinyl over digital and CDs. Music has always been a large part of my life that even in my grown-up years, I can still get into new music, enjoy old classic stuff and everything in between. I mean, my record collection includes everything from Jay Z, Hank Williams, The Clash, Pink Floyd, B.B. King, Misfits and a lot more. So when people ask me what music I am into and I say “just about everything,” I mean it.