My Apple Music trial ends today, andâ€”to the surprise of nobody who reads my work regularlyâ€”I will not be signing up as a paid customer. Why? Well, aside from the one feature of Apple Music I wanted most, iCloud Music Library, eating my library for lunch, and demanding seconds, streaming music is antithetical to the way I relate to music.
Maybe Iâ€™m just preternaturally old. Iâ€™m approaching 32 years old, after all, and for mostÂ of my life, music has been a physical thing. I owned an LP, Pac-Man Fever (donâ€™t judge me) when I was barely old enough to know what a record was. I would listen to CDs on my parents sound system as a kid, typically movie soundtracks. Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II were favorites, but I also had thing as a child for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Go figure. As a teenager, I would buy CDs, when I could, but I also embraced the world of Napster and piracy. Iâ€™m not proud of it, but so much of the music I know and love, I discovered because I downloaded it illegally.
I buy most of the music I listen to now. I prefer to buy direct from the artist, when available, typically on physical media. So far this year, Iâ€™ve bought albums from Holly Herndon, Eskimeaux, DEVO, Dweezil Zappa, Listening Center, and CHVRCHES on a variety of formats: vinyl LP, CD, and even a cassette tape. I donâ€™t even own a cassette player! I wanted a physical artifact of the music, and cassette was the only way to get it. But even the music I buy digitally has a certain physicality to it. There is an external hard drive on my desk that holds my 200GB-plus iTunes library. I sync a portionÂ to my iPhone. Back when I started downloading music, I would burn albums and custom mixes to audio CD, and even burned MP3 CDs to play in a pre-iPod MP3 CD Player. The music may exist asÂ zeros and ones, but they have a physical container.
The thing about files from the iTunes Music Store, about LPs, ripped CDs, and downloaded musicâ€”legal and otherwiseâ€”is that they are mine. I can do what I choose with them, maybe not legally, but thereâ€™s no easily enforceable restrictions on what I do with the copies of the music I own, regardless of format.  They wonâ€™t go away (assuming I back the files up, which I do. Religiously.) Streaming is ephemeral, and that worries me. If an artist or a label decides it doesnâ€™t like the deal Apple is playing, whatâ€™s to stop them from pulling their music? Remember Taylor Swift and Spotify? Prince pulled his music from everything but TIDAL. They wonâ€™t be the last ones. Anyone who grumbles about needing membership to a bunch of different video streaming services to watch the shows they want, yet is happy to sign up for a streaming music service, is just asking for the same pain down the line.
I would pay to keep all the music I own in a place where I could be sure I can listen fromÂ anywhere I have connectivity. This seems fair, but unless Apple raises the limit on iTunes Match (or, for that matter iCloud Music Library), and ensures that I when I listen to the live concert recording of DEVO from 1977 that I bought on CD, legally,  and ripped to my iTunes Library, I wonâ€™t get studio tracks instead, Iâ€™ll suffer with having to sync the files to my iPhone. The cost of ownership is a small amount of inconvenience and a huge degree of freedom. Itâ€™s worth the price. If you value music, donâ€™t wonâ€™t stream itâ€”buy it.
- Remember, iTunes dropped DRM for music purchases back in 2009. Â â†©
- Said live recording is not available as a digital release, only on vinyl and CD. Â â†©