I constantly have some sort of music playing. In the background, in the foreground, in another room, it doesn’t matter, I want something playing at all times. Considering my Last.FM account passed 80,000 scrobbles recently, I’d say I have some pretty high demands of my music.
In September of 2014, I decided to fully ditch my offline music library.
By that, I mean I purged the music on my phone, the music on all of my computers, and didn’t even bother making backups of those files. I went all in, in the name of a grand experiment: what would life be like when relying completely on online music streaming services?
Specifically, I went whole hog with Spotify. Which was great timing, because it had just come out in Canada.
TL;DR: It’s pretty great, and I only have minor setbacks once in a while.
Internet Always Required
One of my biggest reservations was that I constantly needed an internet connection to listen to music. Meaning if the internet were to go down for an extended period of time, or if I were out in the boonies with no reception, or if I’m commuting on the subway, I would have no music. I’ve been in those situations several times each, and frankly, there is no easy way out of it.
Spotify has a feature for Premium members to make their music available offline. I haven’t had the chance to try it, but I assume it will just be music downloaded to my devices, similar to filling my library.
A persistent internet connection will be the largest problem with making the full leap into online music streaming providers, and there’s no way around it. However, living in Toronto means I will have a persistent internet connection about 98% of the time, and so this is really only a once-in-a-while issue for myself.
The Latest and Greatest
Another reservation about making the switch is that the latest releases from artists may not make it into your platform of choice, for whatever reason.
As an example, when Taylor Swift’s 1989 album came out, I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, so I typed in “Taylor Swift” into the search bar and found nothing. I mean, absolutely nothing. After some digging around, I learned that Taylor Swift and her record label didn’t want anyone on Spotify to listen to any of her music at all. End result? I didn’t give it a chance, at all.
As a counter-example, however, Drake recently released his new album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. He released it during the evening, something like 11PM EDT, and I read about it in the morning. While it wasn’t attached to his artist page on Spotify yet, a search for the album name brought it up and let me listen to it within seconds.
So what’s the end result? Well, the latest albums and singles from artists won’t always be available, and there are alternatives to listen to them (cough, YouTube, cough) but it’s going to depend on the artist and the rightsholders.
For the most part, this will hardly be an issue. At least not on Spotify thus far.
The Oldest and Greatest
One of the benefits of having access to hundreds or thousands of artists and their full musical library is that you can feel like listening to something, and have it play within seconds.
Just this week, I felt like some old school hip hop on Monday, hard hitting trance music on Tuesday, lovey-dovey indie folk songs on Wednesday, indie electro on Thursday, and 90s R&B slow jams on Friday. Within seconds, I was able to find a playlist, an artist, or start a Spotify radio station and jam along to my incessant musical wants and needs for the day. No sweat.
Discoverability is Now a Thing
The lovely thing about finding random playlists or starting radio stations off of songs you like is that you sometimes run into artists that just resonate. It’s been happening non-stop since I made the switch, and I don’t think it would have happened as organically if I were listening to my offline collection.
As I write this post, I started with a featured playlist called “Indie Pop Chillout,” and I’ve already saved a few of the songs from artists that I have never heard from before. Call me a bit slow on the uptake with new music, but it has never been this easy to listen, discover, and save new music, going back to the days when I would record songs off of the radio using tapes.
Different Experiences by Device
Speaking only about Spotify, I’ve found that I get a different listening experience based on the devices I listen to. Because I’m not a Premium member, I will have ads playing between blocks of songs, and that’s fine. They’re unobtrusive, they can be informative, and the gentleman has a rather pleasant voice.
However, on my phone, I can’t pick and choose which songs to play. It’s forced shuffle play, apparently unless I have Premium. On my iPad and desktop PCs though, I can pick and choose whatever I like.
I’m not sure if that’s because a lot of people listen to Spotify on their phones and that’s the best way to encourage upgrades to Premium, but it can be a bit jarring at times. Like when I’ve shuffle play’d on a specific album, only to have it play things from different albums or different artists altogether.
I should probably take the plunge into Premium, but I really haven’t found a burning desire for it, and the annoyances are minor enough to ignore. I hope that doesn’t change any time soon.
Was it Worth The Switch?
Before I streamed entirely from Spotify (or any other music service,) I kept up a library of about 50-60 GB of music. I’d continuously feed it new releases and singles, and go through the work of maintaining the labels and metadata to make sure that I was looking and listening to the right thing. The library was constantly growing and would not fit into any phones or devices I owned in its entirety, so time was also spent picking and choosing what was the flavour du jour. And don’t even get me started on creating backups of this library.
Now, I don’t even think about these files that I used to collect and maintain. If I feel like listening to Stars tonight, I just type in Stars and away I go. Sure, it won’t always be available and I won’t always have the latest releases, but the accessibility and convenience sure are one tough offering to beat.
It’s pretty darn exciting to see what Netflix and Spotify have done to change my consumption habits with regard to movies, tv shows, and music. To think that these companies are creating such great offerings, that even the most fearsome pirates (arrrrgh!) have curbed their old behaviours.
I, for one, welcome our new cloud overlords.
Have you made the switch? What were your reservations before making the switch, and what did you end up experiencing? Let me know in the comments!