Hi-Fi to Wi-Fi: Let the Music Play…err, Stream

While the debate on streaming music vs. downloads rages – a stupid and fruitless discussion in my view – I decided to “digitize” my already digital CDs so that I could have access to them 24/7 and stream the music whenever I wanted….

As I loaded some thousand or so discs onto spindles to send to the service (come on, you didn’t think I was going to do it all myself!) I marveled…great word that…over just how many music formats I had used in my life and how many I still own and use.

We own a spring-motor-driven, 78-rpm acoustical (nonelectronic) gramophone and have a small collection of vinyl records to go with it.

The device belonged to my grandparents (RIP) and as kids we spent hours winding it up and listening to the likes of Bing Crosby, Caruso and Al Jolson. All the records were only one song to a side. They were very thick…very…the beginning notes would usually start off a little fast as you released the spring; by the middle the timing was good, and often by the end it began to slow down. But who cared! It was music and magnificent.

To be clear, we were a modern family, leading edge – in our own home we had a hi-fi. We could load up a bunch of LPs – the growing standard by that time – which stood for long playing and required not our hand-turned spring but an actual motor that played at 33 1/3 rpm, and it was controlled – beginning, middle and end all sounded perfect.

OOPS…I missed the 45 rpm, a better version of the 78 – still a single song to a side, but popular for promoting specific songs from an album…we had those too.

We listened to music for hours and hours and by the way we would sometimes bring our favorite LPs and 45s to the grandparents’…crank up the gramophone and belly laugh for hours as we listened to our favorites of the time sounding like they had just ingested tanks of helium.

Then came my first transistor radio. I think I was in second grade. I remember it was red and had a beautiful brown leather case. It was a novelty – few had them – but I listened to music under my covers (news too) at night and that was magic too.

As I teened, I became obsessed with Stereo and speakers and amplifiers and such – in fact, got so crazy I used a manual turntable so as to better preserve my record collection.

And then 8-tracks hit the market and I had a car and that became my new music obsession and I fastidiously transferred all my LPs to 8-tracks…yet another collection of music that I curated carefully every time I used my car, changing them depending on time of day, passengers expected or when I was on a date.

Wasn’t long before cassettes replaced 8-tracks and I rerecorded all of my music again, and continued the same routine.

Then it was CDs – but this time I rebuilt my entire collection, hence, tonight’s hard work – opening close to a thousand jewel cases, as they were called.

I jumped on iTunes, quickly replacing all of my Walkman-like devices with an iPod, and you can guess the rest.

And today I use my hard drive, cloud collection, Pandora, Spotify, satellite or other radio service and stream through whatever device makes the most sense, including my phone, smart TV or outdoor SONOS system, to name a few.

Look, I don’t mean to give you a history lesson or bore you with my routine – my point is simple…the debates around format or how people listen are foolish and wasted…follow the music…

At the end of the day, the only issue is to make sure that artists get paid for their creations. If they don’t, we will be stuck with the garbage that some thought was going to replace everything, which thank heavens quickly slips into the netherworld of really bad stuff…in fact, I find it fascinating that, in a recent study, 13-year-olds and 60-year-olds had a correlation of 40% in liking the same music…so much for most UGM.

I have written about Taylor Swift and I respect her position; I have written about the cynical performers who create launch buzz around their releases through gimmick after gimmick, invoking the digital gods and leading edge – don’t be fooled, they are paid well…it costs somebody money…

The music industry is wallowing in digibabble and plain old-fashioned whining.

Just take a look at Spotify’s vision for growth. It’s Back to the Future:

“Spotify is a celestial jukebox. But, for Spotify to continue its rapid growth, it must bring in the “lean backers” Pandora caters to. Spotify tries to do this with playlists…the album of the streaming world. Spotify is working on getting its service into car stereos, and is negotiating agreements with automobile companies…” —The New Yorker

If you love music, like me and so many others, you will flow – not even evolve – from one format to the next, seamlessly, so long as you get your music and can play it where and when you want.

Let me quote one of my favorite musicians (no not Jim Morrison) whose music will still be listened to thousands of years from now…listen:

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”  – Ludwig van Beethoven

And let me paraphrase – a higher revelation than any technological DIGIBABBLE….

The current debate will end and a new one will begin, and I for one will still be listening to the magic and happy to do so on whatever device, through whatever service, via whatever means, just so long as I can hear it, as it should be listened to…

What do you think?

And P.S. – had we only known to call “radio streaming music” back in the day….

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