I bought my first album when I was in sixth grade — Wings Greatest Hits. I had saved up the money and went with my uncle to a record store to buy it. It was followed by The Beatles White Album and then hundreds more. By the time I was a teenager I had built a respectable collection of vinyl albums.
When the CD player hit the mainstream I was skeptical. I had a large collection of albums — I didn’t see the need for compact discs. And I preferred how the music sounded coming from a needle pulled through the grooves in the vinyl. But CDs didn’t scratch, they were smaller and more portable. Once cars started having CD players I was all-in and switched. Over the next 15 years, I built my CD collection and my old vinyl albums were sold to fund my CD collection.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the true game-changing impact of CDs was the digitization of music — storing music in zeros and ones was the big deal.
The first iPod was released in 2001 but I didn’t see what the big deal was. I had a CD player in my car and a portable CD player that had “skipless protection” that was so good that I could run with it. I liked listening to entire albums and saw no need for an mp3 player. Then in 2004, my wife bought me an iPod with a really meaningful inscription on the back. So I tried it out and realized what all the fuss was about — it could hold 7,500 songs so I could have most of my music library with me at all times. I spent weeks importing my CDs into iTunes and I don’t think I bought another CD after that. From then on I bought music as digital downloads. All the music on iTunes was intoxicating. You didn’t have to drive to a record store and buy a CD – you could just download whatever you wanted whenever you wanted. Like a junkie, I was hooked, and it was expensive for me — I usually spent over $600 a year on music downloads.
By 2011, my iTunes library was over 20,000 songs. iPod capacity had grown so that I could fit nearly all of them in a single iPod. I could plug my iPod into my car and listen to whatever I wanted. No longer did I have to switch one CD for another. I figured we had reached the pinnacle of music consumption technology.
Spotify, the music streaming service, was founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, and was introduced in the U.S. in July of 2011. Not long after Spotify launched in the U.S. a friend said “Spotify is amazing, you should use it.” I read about it and wasn’t interested. I had a huge iTunes library that had cost me thousands of dollars to amass. Why would I want to switch? And I liked the idea of owning my music – not renting/streaming it. I didn’t think that Spotify would put a dent in iTunes — I was sure it was a novelty.
Then in January of 2013, I tried a free trial of Spotify. After a few days of using Spotify, I was dumbfounded. Nearly all of the world’s music was available to me. And for just $10 a month! In a typical year, I listen to over 1500 different music artists. Much of the new music I discover is through the Spotify algorithms suggesting to me what I should try out. I rarely listen to the radio because I find that Spotify is a completely immersive experience. Once again, I feel as if we have reached the pinnacle of music consumption. LOL.
You young whipper snappers have nothing on me. I remember going to church when I was about 5 years old and hearing organ music for the very first time. It was mesmerizing and I stile enjoy listening to the organ and singing the songs that I learned oh so many years ago!
Streaming as a means of delivery is super efficient and scalable so is probably here to stay for a while. As you mentioned up front, there is a slight trade off in audio quality when you convert to digital, and I do believe there is a potential shift in the next 10 years from binary to Qbit storage that can help address quality without exponentially increasing the memory space required. Quantum compute technology seems very far off but I think it’s closer than we give it credit. so many people around the world are innovating in this space. It changes the game on data storage, data processing, and AI capabilities. Thanks for the great article and for getting all of our mental gears turning this morning!
Curious why Spotify and not Apple Music if you were already in the Apple ecosystem?
Apple Music didn’t bring until like 2015 or 2016. By that time I was fully hooked into Spotify.
Makes sense. Not often that Apple doesn’t get early adopters.