We’re going to take a little break from the traditional weekly playlists to explore an important topic: music purchases.
Back in my middle school days, when I filled my iTunes library with numerous Fall Out Boy singles, the concept of paying for online music simply did not exist. Why in the world would I do such a thing when I had easy access to torrents, the infamous YouTube-to-MP3 tactic and other questionable peer-to-peer websites. The options to procure music without paying a single penny were endless.
But then, around the age of 12, friends and family finally began to replace my sparkly Limited Too gift cards with iTunes ones. It was at this point that I realized buying music was actually a good idea.
Unfortunately, this newfound duty to buy my music also created a quandary. I could no longer go on sprees where I would download every Jesse McCartney and Britney Spears track that I desired. So, I devised a strategy to continue keeping my library stocked. I purchased the songs and albums of the lesser-known musicians, unsigned and most likely living off of ramen noodles in an effort to support their endeavors. I torrented big names, such as Beyoncé and Pitbull, whose songs received plenty of airtime, and justifying this method by telling myself Beyoncé probably bathed in goat’s milk, anyway. So what difference would my dollar make?
But that’s where I was wrong. My dollar did make a difference, regardless of how rich and famous the people behind the songs I loved were. My dollar paid homage to the industry as a whole, which has consistently uplifted, entertained and inspired me. It was my moral responsibility, I eventually decided, to support this industry in its entirety.
So soon enough, I stopped my petty torrenting and started purchasing every song. I didn’t waver from this stance, even when iTunes increased its prices from 99 cents to an irritating $1.29 per track back in 2009. I still saw immense value in purchasing my music. The sound quality was clearly superior to the often pitchy and slightly distorted illegally downloaded tracks.
Furthermore, I no longer had to add album titles and tags with a sense of guilt.
It was all there, beautiful album covers included, the very moment after I clicked “buy song.”
These days, I cough up a solid $9.99 a month for Spotify, a premium music subscription service based in Stockholm, Sweden. Founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzo sought to blend elements of Internet radio and social networking into one platform. Their product immediately made waves, and by December 2012, they had more than 5 million paid subscribers.
The benefits to Spotify are endless. But before I delve into the perks of music subscription, let me clarify that I’m not a paid Spotify ambassador. I speak purely from experience.
Where streaming services such as Pandora and Grooveshark fail, Spotify succeeds. Spotify provides access to more than 20 million songs; and this number constantly updates as artists release new albums.
Though Spotify has come under fire for the way in which it pays its artists, its executives continue to ardently support their business model.
“People need to transition from unit-based thinking to consumption-based thinking in terms of royalties. We feel the metric of success should be based on how many people are listening to your music over a period of years, as opposed to looking at how many units are shipping in one week,” D.A. Wallach, Spotify’s “Artist in Residence” told Hypebot. “People are used to seeing big numbers from a unit-based model, but that’s really front loading what is happening … The bottom line for us is that we have paid out nearly $200 million in royalties and we feel we are making a real contribution back to the music business.”
The most creative feature of Spotify, arguably, is the ability to “follow” your friends. Once you follow a peer, the tracks they are currently playing will start to scroll in an activity sidebar. Though it’s a little creepy that you can tell when your friends are studying as opposed to partying, it’s yet another fun way to discover new artists.
The advent of services such as Spotify has also signaled the death of thoughtful mixtapes and burned CDs. It’s easier than ever before to hastily put together a playlist to send to a friend or loved one via the web.
If you’re not prepared to pay for your music just yet, try the free version of Spotify. A fair warning: Your homework grind will most likely be interrupted by obnoxious commercials. But something has to pay the bills, right?
So regardless of what you choose — iTunes or subscription services — there’s an affordable way to enjoy music legally.
Here’s to you, Beyoncé — keep on moving and shaking, because you have a loyal fan in both my wallet and me.
Rini Sampath is a sophomore majoring in international relations (global business) and is the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan. Her column “Traveler’s Tracks” runs Mondays.
Follow Rini on Twitter @RiniSampath