Yesterday evening I was listening to music on Spotify. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, basically it’s a program which lets you listen to any one of its huge archive of songs – for free. The thing is, you don’t download any of the songs to your computer: it’s all done by streaming.
The upside is that you can listen to pretty much any song or album you want, without having to pay. (You do have to listen to an advert every few songs, but if you can deal with that it’s fine). The downside is that you must be at a computer to listen to music – which is no good if you want to listen to music on the go.
But it did get me round to thinking though: are we moving to a model where (eventually) no-one owns their own music – i.e. people pay a subscription fee and then can listen to it whenever they like? There is something in me which rebels against that notion – I still buy CDs because I like having a physical product. Buying an MP3 seems a bit wrong somehow, because MP3s are so… ephemeral. It just doesn’t seem right to pay for something which could be gone in a second (i.e. a hard drive crash or something like that).
This problem wouldn’t exist with Spotify (or something similar) though – if your hard drive crashed, you could presumably just re-install and get back onto Spotify and it would be as if nothing had changed. Functionally, if Spotify were available wirelessly (on, say, a portable music player like my iPod) then would there be any difference at all between buying music and leasing it? As long as it’s available wherever you want to listen to it, what difference does it make?
The other thing is, there is waaaaaay too much music out there for me to actually own. I was listening to a couple of bands on Spotify last night who I like, and would quite like to get the albums… but if I bought every album I heard and liked from there, it would bankrupt me in short order! So actually having a Spotify style model is useful – they can provide far more music than I would ever be able to afford.
But this led me onto another related subject: is the concept of ownership in general going the same way? – for certain things at least. Apparently it’s quite popular these days to lease a car: the lease company is responsible for servicing the car, and you pay a monthly fee and drive it. I haven’t looked into pricing but that actually sounds like quite an attractive prospect – having a car is expensive, and it may actually work out cheaper to lease a car.
I don’t think the concept of ownership is going to go away any time soon – obviously a lease model is only going to work for a certain subset of things – but it did make me ponder how much we’re going to move in that direction. And whether we’re going to lose anything because of it. There is some satisfaction in having your own car … but at the same time, would I be prepared to sacrifice that for the convenience of having someone else look after it? I think I just might.