I can still remember the days when my dad would take me to the nearest HMV to sift through all the latest pop hits. There was this feeling of wholesomeness that would wash over me when I’d stare at these shelves full of albums that I could pay for and own for the rest of my life. This was back in early 2000, when all I wanted to listen to was Britney Spears and ’N Sync. I still have those CDs in my room.
Since then, I’ve gone from listening to my music with a Sony Walkman to several different iterations of the Apple iPod. But the one thing I kept doing was purchasing my music.
Why? Because it is one of the most important things you can do to support an artist and not enough people are doing it. And to go right ahead and clear this misconception, subscribing to a music streaming service does not count as purchasing music.
I say that because we are currently in the streaming era where services like Spotify and Apple Music are easily taking away album sales and becoming the main sources for people to listen to music. Heck, if you didn’t already hear, HMV Canada announced that they are officially closing their doors for good.
In July 2016, Billboard published an article stating that album sales had gone down 16.9 per cent. The compact disc fell 11.6 per cent, while digital album sales fell to 43.8 million compared to the first half of 2015 when it was moving 53.7 million.
The decline of the compact disc was inevitable ever since the introduction of the iPod and other portable devices, but the decline of digital album sales comes from Apple’s decision to discontinue the production of iPod classics and help usher in the new era of streaming.
The iPod is slowly becoming a rare artifact and is only owned by people who either got one when having one was cool or got it when they announced they were discontinuing them. Me, I jumped onto the Apple store website as soon as I heard the news. It’s now one of my most prized possessions and has my entire iTunes library on it.
There’s about 12,500 songs on it and I can proudly say that the majority of it was all purchased for and is mine. And that’s the difference between actually purchasing your music and simply being subscribed to a streaming service. You don’t own anything when you use Spotify or Apple Music, you’re simply paying for a service so that you can listen to whatever you want. Whereas when you purchase albums or songs, those are yours and a major percentage of the money you pay actually goes towards the artist.
When it comes to streaming services, not many people realize how little money artists actually receive. In an article published by The Verge in 2015, it was reported that depending on the contract the artist has signed with their label, they receive between $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream for one song. Some artists earn even less than that. To understand how royalties are allocated and broken down, you can refer to a recent Forbes article written in October 2016.
This is another reason why purchasing music is as important as ever and it breaks my heart to see HMV go. But if I’m going to be fair, this is not entirely the consumer’s fault. A lot of this has to do with the way these tech companies continue to impose their view of the “future,” the same way they discontinued the iPod Classic and are now manufacturing the latest iPhone 7 with no headphone jacks (for wireless headphones with Bluetooth capability). Slowly but surely they pick away the options and leave you with what’s left.
When it comes to storage options for the latest iPhone 7, the consumer can choose either a 32 GB, 128 GB and now 256GB. Since the 256 GB iPhone is bloody expensive, many people can only afford a 32GB one, which realistically leaves you with barely enough space for music when it gets filled up with all that other useless memory. It’s then that the streaming music option becomes more convenient for listeners.
The way I see it, streaming music is once again a service that is catered towards us being a lazy generation. Instead of purchasing an album, spending time with it and appreciating the art for what it is, you can listen to an album you don’t actually own and have the freedom to mindlessly listen to whatever else is available. There’s just no connection anymore between the listener and the artist. People don’t have to go through the process of deciding whether to spend money on an album or not. They listen to something, get tired of it and then move on to the next thing that’s available to them.
In a recent interview with The FADER, Peter Sagar of Canadian indie band Homeshake expressed his opinion surrounding streaming. “It devalues the art having all this music under one umbrella that you can listen to at anytime,” says Sagar. “Suddenly you have access to every song in the world? Maybe it seems like those songs don’t matter as much anymore. But that could just be a problem music has in the digital age. It’s similar to all the news that’s out there, this overwhelming abundance of information. That’s why we’ll turn into androids or whatever eventually, right?”
And that’s the point. I’ll always remember the day I purchased Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs and listened to it from front to back, nonstop on the way to school. Purchasing music is more than just a way to support an artist, it can also work as a bookmark in your life. The day you purchased an album and listened to it will be a day that you’ll surely remember. I’ll always be able to connect a certain album with a time in my life.
In the words of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, “Books, records, films – these things matter.” People need to appreciate the art that they listen to and give the artist’s the money that they deserve. They work bloody hard for it and you should too.