1. I think it will be two distinct markets for many years to come. Even a download has some sense of ‘tangibility’ and ownership, some feeling of having invested in an artist. For some music fans that is important, others not so much. I’d guess streaming will replace downloads to a greater extent for mainstream music, where there tends to be much less of a connection with fans, and there’s often an assumption that it will no longer be relevant or cool in 6-12 months.

  2. For streaming to replace ownership, we would first have to see some major infrastructural shifts, aside from changing the cultural paradigm of “owning music”.
    It’s the simple question of where can I hear my music. As long as physical formats and downloads will offer a significantly greater measure of control with regards to the context (in my car, in my home, in a tent in the middle of nowhere), streaming will be a supplement, rather than a replacement for ownership.
    One other thing worth reminding ourselves of is the Kindle/Orwell snafu. Once you transfer to streaming, you are essentially exposing yourself to a scenario where your music collection – or part of it – may suddenly become inaccessible for one reason or another. While the casual listener (the kind who just leaves the radio on at work to have something buzzing in the background) probably won’t give this too much thought, it is very much an issue for the involved fan.
    To sum up – streaming may become the replacement for, or an extension of, music radio, but I don’t see it becoming the universal model for music listening in the near future.

  3. I think Doctorow isn’t anticipating the evolution of “streaming” in his conclusions. Of course access is spotty now, and delivery of streams can be unreliable – I get buffering issues sometimes using YouTube on my home PC, even when connected via ethernet. So if you look at how it works today, then yeah, streaming is a different product and a different experience than downloading. In some ways, downloading is superior.
    But let’s say the delivery issues get resolved, and streams can be reliably delivered in most places wirelessly (they can put wireless repeaters in coal mines, Cory).
    And let’s say the streaming product has a “download” feel to it: the music starts instantaneously, no buffering. You add songs to your library, but they aren’t downloads, they’re really tags or links to the content which sits in a cloud – one piece of content which many users access. So your device has a local library, which isn’t really actual copies of the songs, but links, and you can listen to them just as you would a downloaded file.
    One huge benefit of this vs. downloading is that the user (if we’re talking about a legitimate, purchased download) doesn’t actually have a copy, just a link – so there is no (or perhaps a much smaller) mechanical fee for the delivered stream.
    From an end-cost to consumer standpoint, streaming should undoubtedly win long term, because it costs a lot less money. If I’m listening to thousands of songs or 10 songs, my monthly fee from Rhapsody or MOG is going to be the same. If I download 10 songs from iTunes, that’s $9.99. A thousand is of course $999.
    Part of the appeal of collecting is discovery, and also, sharing that with other collectors. Not all collectors are the same – some will fork out 500 bucks for a rare Porcupine Tree CD, others are just happy to get an MP3 file of an unreleased track. You can’t put them all into one bucket, there’s a difference between having a fetish and being a completist. The latter group could (and should) be defined as hardcore fans, a much bigger group than the former.
    If I go to Europe for 2 weeks, I might get in the mood to hear something that I didn’t load onto my iPhone while I’m there. I might be walking in Paris and get a mad desire to listen to Edith Piaf. Now I could download the songs via my iPhone, but given the file sizes, it might take a while. I’d also have to know what Piaf record to buy. With a streaming service, I just hit Edith Piaf and shuffle. If I hear something I really like, I add it to my library. And the social features that are being integrated with streaming services, like MOG, where I can listen to Piaf songs that my trusted tastemakers recommend, greatly enhance that experience.
    It’s going to take a while for streaming to be “instant on” like playing back a download, the infrastructure isn’t there. But it’s still SO EARLY – digital music as we know it is barely a decade old. Ten years ago, how many people even knew what wi-fi was? It’s really short sighted to make predictions like “streaming will fail” when we’re in such an early stage of the development of all this stuff.
    If using a stream feels the same as using a download, and it’s far less expensive (because a user is accessing, not owning a file) then I don’t see how anyone can believe that streaming will fail.

  4. Again, if you really like the song/album you’ll want to keep it so you can take it with you wherever you wish.
    Everything else can be streamed for taste-making.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Doctorow. I have a lot of stuff in my digital collection that can’t even be found on the torrents. And I’m a fan of audio quality. Until streaming services can give me music 100% of the time (not even 99% of the time), at peak quality, without skips or buffering lag, and in subways, airplanes the beach, etc, then I’m not going to come on board. And what if I want to modify a specific track (remix it, mash it up, play with gain to fit a video, etc)?
    And why would I bother streaming? It’s easier right now to download than to stream. I can’t imagine it ever getting any harder to download data in the future.
    I can’t imagine ever trusting a streaming service enough to dj a party, for example, though I agree that it will replace radio for the average listener.

  6. Also, @Old Record Guy, the technology for streaming will mature, no doubt, but so while storage capacity. I have a big digital library over 200GB, but 10 years from now, who thinks that portable devices won’t have that kind of storage? You won’t need to stream Piaf because she’ll be on your phone. You’ll never forget your library because it will all fit on your device. And if speed and stability are good enough for streaming on your phone, it will be fast enough for downloads as well.

  7. this shows that common sense is not so common. this will not be the future of music. only an idiot would give up the freedom to own something. music is a personal part of peoples culture and lives. it will never make any sense to think that people would rather have a bunch of record company idiots RENT it to them. the record companies need to come to the very realization that there monopoly is fucking OVER. find another hustle to rip off the creative community.

  8. I’d have to agree with the folks who say it’s part of the answer. But for us fans of the obscure there will always be the need to own. The out-of-prints and the hard-to-finds will have to be purchased as a hard copy or downloaded when they can be found and kept safe so they can be listened to when the spirit moves.
    I’m sure there will be streaming available soon to portable devices and for most daily listening habits this will do very nicely, as long as the interface is appealing, the price is fair and the sound quality is high enough with no buffering issues. I’m already intrigued by the paid version of Spotify but am ready to jump ship when something better comes along. I suspect MOG could be it.

  9. SOME people are collectors and will want an ownership position with the music they consume, yes. But MOST people neither want to own music nor rent music – they just want to LISTEN to music.
    When near ubiquitous hi-speed access arrives, it won’t make a damned difference for the average listener whether the file is “theirs” or not – just as long as it plays when and how they want it.

  10. Thank you for your interesting thoughts on the subject. I am currently producing a television show in Nashville Tn USA. Care to interview on the subject? facebook.com/patricionashville

  11. I’m with Jesse. I don’t care about whether I own it, rent it, borrow it, or even “steal” it if I have to. The point is.. I want to HEAR music. And I think that’s the point that most of the “people want to own” advocates miss. “Owning” is what we’ve been conditioned to do. It’s the only way we’ve been able to secure access to what we want to hear. Digital delivery obsolesces that imperative. It is no longer necessary for individuals to “own” what they want to hear. Somebody else can own it, and deliver it on demand, and the technology required is only going to get better.
    I find it interesting that the results of the “own” or “access” survey here are, statistically, an even split. That tells me at the very least that we are approaching a tipping point where “access” will prevail over the illusion of “ownership.”
    The celestial jukebox is the ultimate destination of all this digital delivery technology. You’ll always have the option of owning units — purchasing products as merch (souvenirs, really) at venues will be the final vestige of physical delivery.
    The technology already makes it possible to access a virtually infinite library of recorded music, to hear (nearly) whatever we want to hear whenever we want to hear it, and with the advent of mobile, wherever we are. Its pretty hard to make an argument for everybody possessing their own small libraries in the face of such an enormous possibility, but somehow people do make the argument. These are not the most forward looking of observers.
    Paul Schatzkin

  12. The thing is, the libraries aren’t infinite — a lot of music on my hard drive isn’t available anywhere online. And access isn’t fast and easy — my internet connection at home occasionally goes out, and I can’t stream on the subway, in many buildings in NYC, on airplanes, etc. And what happens when music is just controlled by a dozen or so big streaming sites? If the RIAA decides a certain mash-up is used without permission, then nobody gets to hear it ever again if we’ve all switched to streaming. It’s a recipe for corporate control of music, and I don’t like it.

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