Enjoy the Music.com
The Absolute Sound
Issue 252   April 2015
The Streaming Juggernaut: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Editorial By Andrew Quint

 

The Absolute Sound Issue 252 April 2015  Take "Nikita," an Elton John song I'm fond of: Released on his 1985 Ice on Fire album, it's nicely played (David Patton on fretless bass, in particular), fairly well-recorded (in an early digital sort of way), and charted quite impressively around the world. I had the song on vinyl, but wanted a digital file so I went to Tidal, the CD-quality streaming service with 25,000,000 tracks that launched stateside last fall. "Nikita" wasn't hard to find, and the audio quality was good. I also noticed that listed below Elton's "Nikita" were nearly 50 other versions of the song. Seized by curiosity, I started sampling a range of them—from karaoke, instrumental (some featuring panpipes), and orchestral, to versions for babies—plus several with lead vocalists for whom English was clearly not a first language. All told, these cover versions lacked imagination: Everyone was played in the same key and at pretty much the same tempo as the original, with the same rhythm guitar lick, and the closest approximation to Patton's inspired bass line that the poor session musician could muster. It was pretty funny, but also strange: Why would you want a lame imitation when the original was easily available?

While I was on the Tidal site, I took a look at the availability of classical music, a genre I take more seriously. My favorite composer is Wagner, and there are plenty of legendary performances of his most influential work, Tristan und Isolde, that I haven't heard. I keyed the title in, and more than forty recordings of the complete opera materialized, including all of the most highly regarded ones—Böhm, Karajan, Furtwängler, Kleiber, and many others dating back to the 1930s. And these were just recordings of the entire four-hour drama. If I wanted to hear just the Prelude to Act 1 or the famous "Liebestod" conclusion, I had dozens of additional choices.

Wow. This is great, I thought. Or was it? The number of performances was so huge that the potential for a feeding frenzy seemed a real danger. Was this unbelievable bounty something that could undermine truly meaningful connections to music, whatever the genre? Would one get impatient and antsy, jumping from track to track in a new ADHD variant of listening, never giving an artist or composer a fair chance to make his or her musical argument?

Knowing that better-than-CD-quality streaming is certainly coming, I decided to check in with my friend David Chesky. A composer, performer, and record label owner, he also sells HDtracks downloads quite successfully, and would stand to lose a lot if people decided to stream high-resolution music rather than purchase his digital files. Speaking about streaming's impact on our relationship to recordings, Chesky says, "First of all, it devalues music; it totally devalues it. If everybody has everything, it doesn't mean anything. It's like a buffet. It's like the restaurant down the street saying, ‘Pay me $30 a month and you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all you can eat.'"

We've all heard that streaming isn't good for musicians—for most of them, at any rate. On the informationisbeautiful.net website are some fascinating calculations: If you're a musician aiming to make the U.S. minimum wage of $1160 a month, how much would you need to sell within various channels of music distribution?

If you hawk self-pressed CDs at a gig for $9.99 each, say, you'll need to sell 143 of them per month. If your record label is selling that CD at retail stores or online you'll need to sell 1161 copies a month (assuming you have a good label deal). An album download on iTunes? 1229 at $9.99. But if a buyer only purchases one song at $0.99, you'll need to sell 12,399 downloads. With streaming, it really gets tough to pay the bills. If Rhapsody is distributing your music, you'll need 849,817 plays per month. With Spotify, where the artist reportedly gets $0.00029 per play, you'll need 4,053,110 a month. Ed Sheeran, Spotify's most streamed artist for 2014 (with 860 million plays), does quite OK, but if you're trying to make ends meet selling covers of Elton John songs played on steel drums, well... good luck with that.

As the business model is structured now, streaming is not good for most musicians. Perhaps it's also not good for the most voracious music consumers. Although the prospect of being able to hear whatever we want anytime is tempting, it may ultimately dull our taste buds when it comes to meaningful listening experiences. I keep thinking about Chesky's all-you-can-eat analogy: We'll get lazy, ugly, and fat.

 

— Andrew Quinta.

 

Subscribe!
Click here
to subscribe to The Abso!ute Sound.

 

     
 

Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc

 

Superior Audio Archives
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

 

Videos
Enjoy the Music.TV

 

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Show Reports
New York Audio Show 2019 Report
Capital Audiofest 2019 Show Report
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2019
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
AXPONA 2019 Show Report
Zagreb AV Show Report 2019
CanJam Singapore 2019 Show Report
Salon Audio Montreal Audio Fest 2019
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2019
Florida Audio Expo 2019 Show Report
Warsaw Audio Show Report 2018
New York Audio Show 2018 Report
Capital Audiofest 2018 Report
Copenhagen HighEnd 2018 Show Report
Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show Report 2018
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2018
CanJam 2018 Denver RMAF Report
KL International AV 2018 Show Report
High End Munich 2018 Show Report
AXPONA 2018 Show Report
Click here for previous shows.

 

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty

 

Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

 

Partner Magazines
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
NOVO (CANADA HiFi)
STEREO Magazine
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

 

Social Media & Video
      

 

 

 

       

Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright©  1995 - 2019  Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.