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Haven’t I been here before? Downloads vs. Streaming vs. Vinyl January 7, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This piece, oddly enough, ties in with IEL’s post on televisions during the week. He writes:

It really is astonishing how much Television , the technology, streaming, channels, pay TV and so on has changed in my own lifetime….

And then we come to this. For those of us who have grown to (had to?) like downloads this piece in the Guardian will come as unwelcome news.

It appears that vinyl is back again with a vengeance as has been noted previously on this site.

More than 3.2m LPs were sold last year, a rise of 53% on last year and the highest number since 1991 when Simply Red’s Stars was the bestselling album. This was also the first year that spending on vinyl outstripped that spent on digital downloads.

Well that’s good. But wait…

She said the trend towards streaming – which has rocketed 500% since 2013, with 45bn audio streams over 2016 – had led people back to vinyl as a way of tangibly owning music and because streaming had encouraged music discovery.

But for those of us who download that’s bad. I’m signed up with Emusic, have been for over a decade and in that time have had the pleasure of literally hundreds of albums to listen to.

Streaming though? Not sure I’m keen on that. Paying a flat fee of 10 euro for everything – or rather everything that the streaming companies offer, seems to me to be a bit, well limited. Part of the enjoyment of music for me is not the availability of everything all the time immediately but instead the filtering process. I like getting a few albums a month that I can listen to intensively. Add in a number of tracks – particularly in electronica, and away I go.

Moreover, my tastes are sometimes (but not always) a bit off the beaten path. Or can be. Emusic and sites likes that are perfect because they deal with smaller labels. There’s always band camp and fair enough that would have to do. But on foot of a piece by music blogger Mark Mulligan that the iTunes store will stop offering downloads…

Since Mulligan’s article was published, rumours have been swirling about plans to kill off iTunes downloads in the next two years, but an Apple representative has since denied this report to news website Mashable. Other analysists are convinced that downloads will eventually end, or at least diminish significantly, but they envisage a longer timeline. “Transitions like this take years and years,” comments Dawson from Jackdaw Research in an article published by Computer World, “there will come a point where Apple will turn off the lights because no one is in the store, but it will be a very slow transition.”

Perhaps because there are some listeners, who albeit with different tastes to those like myself have similar attitudes:

Trawling through platforms like iTunes and Spotify, it quickly becomes obvious how unsuitable the current set-up is for classical music listeners, who may want to identify tracks by work, composer, ensemble, conductor or label rather than simply artist and song ­– not to mention those who want to read well-researched and written liner notes. Classical music enthusiasts, perhaps more than other groups of listeners, are often collectors as well as consumers, and for those listeners the download model may remain more attractive than streaming.

So, peering ahead a few years I can see a situation where I’ll not be streaming because frankly I like my iPod, but I’ll be back buying CDs and vinyl. But hold on – haven’t I been there before?


1. sonofstan - January 7, 2017

One thing that I realised this year, and hadn’t grasped before thanks to the anglo-/US centric media is that the picture is NOT the same everywhere – the Japanese and the Germans for example, never stopped buying physical product – CDs, rather than vinyl – and have little interest in streaming. Spotify’s business model still isn’t working very well in terms of revenue, for either the company, and, a fortiori, for artists.

Outside the ‘developed’ world, the picture is even more complicated, and weirdly exciting; in North Africa, for example, few people have computers but most have phones, but patchy coverage so DLs optimised to phone storage seems to be the standard. However, in Africa and in most of Asia, IP law is nowhere is evidence, so the chances of an artist getting paid for recordings is close to zero.


sonofstan - January 7, 2017

by ‘this year’ i of course mean ‘last year’


WorldbyStorm - January 7, 2017

I had no idea about the situation in Germany/Japan. That’s amazing. Is there a reason given for that? Interesting too re Africa…

I still love vinyl as a format, but DLs are handy for being on the move and I listen to a lot of podcasts so that also is a factor for me, and I don’t use my mobile to stream or DL.


sonofstan - January 7, 2017

No reasons that i’ve heard that are particularly convincing. But then ‘industry analysts’ tend to be rather simple-minded and short termist. Another way of framing the question might be to ask why the UK/ Ireland/Scandi-countries are so streaming friendly?

Either way, given the supposed homogenising tendencies of globalisation, there remain huge differences between markets.


WorldbyStorm - January 7, 2017

Short termism is it. I’ve got to say I’m glad classical fans are such an obstacle!


RosencrantzisDead - January 7, 2017

I am going to take a stab and say that demographics play a role in this. A higher proportion of older people means a greater likelihood of having a CD/Vinyl collection. These consumers will be slow to switch to a new format unless they absolutely have to.


WorldbyStorm - January 7, 2017

That could be true – so European demographics would tend to tilt to those in the 35 plus range?

The interesting thing to me is how, and 6to5against makes the point below re curation, how streaming doesn’t feel like a format as such in the sense that CD/Vinyl and even downloads for all their obvious faults do.


sonofstan - January 7, 2017

I think that may be true; the other factor is that japan and germany both produce a lot of music of their own and spotify etc. are slow to conclude deals with local companies – and local companies in those countries are reluctant to cede market share to outsiders. Meaning listeners don’t get the tunes they want through a single streaming channel


Michael Carley - January 7, 2017
sonofstan - January 7, 2017

That’s really interesting, thanks. A student of mine -Italian- is doing a dissertation on the interface between italian pop and anglo/ american i fluences so right up her street and timely.


Michael Carley - January 8, 2017

Who is she looking at?


sonofstan - January 8, 2017

Too much, is the short answer. Everything from 60s canzone d’autore (not sure about the plural there) to san remo stuff to contemporary bands, as if there were a short list of structural issues that would explain the differences between the music industries in the UK and italy through the ages. Doesn’t help that i know very little about italian pop apart from the few randomrecords i’ve picked up over the years


Michael Carley - January 9, 2017

Will the dissertation be available somewhere? The way Italian popular music has absorbed and re-used Anglo-American influences is interesting, especially in Naples.


2. 6to5against - January 7, 2017

Loosely linked to this….I don’t stream much, but recently discovered mixcloud. Theres some great music on there, essentially in the format of specialist radio shows with minimal DJ patter. Two I really recommend are Donald helme, late of lyric fm and the Jazz Pit.
What they offer over Spotify play lists is decent curation.

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