Why I Still Buy Music in the Age of Spotify

A Vinyl Record & Player

Whenever anyone walks into my house, they generally notice one thing: the huge record collection that takes up an entire wall.

I’ve been collecting for around ten years now, and it shows.  Not only on my shelves—on my bank account.  According to my Discogs account, my collection is worth somewhere around $15,000 (to my wife’s chagrin).  I probably spend anywhere from $50 to $200 a month on records.

But, I also spend $10 a month for Spotify Premium.  This subscription service gives me access to almost every record on my shelves (except for So by Peter Gabriel, which is a crime), plus millions of other songs.  And I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t really tell that big of a difference between analog and digital sound.

So why do I do this to myself?  Why do I waste all of this money on a clunky outdated medium when I can already listen to that music through my Spotify account?

A few big reasons.

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First, it connects me to the music.

Vinyl is a physical experience.  Unlike CDs that just store data, records actually have the music carved into them.  You can hear the music coming from the needle even when the stereo isn’t on.  You can even play the music with your fingernail (not recommended, unless you want to damage the record).

How to Play Your Vinyl Records Without a Turntable

That also means that a record can only fit so much music on one side.  Typically, one side of a vinyl record only holds twenty-two minutes of sound.  If you want to keep listening, you’ll have to walk to the record player and flip it over.  Oh—you also have to be where the record player is.  Turntables aren’t very portable.

Sound inconvenient?  Maybe.

But it forces me to pay closer attention to the music.  I’m more engaged when I’m sitting in my living room than I ever am while listening to Spotify in the car.

Plus, holding the full-size album art in your hands beats seeing it on a screen any day.  The record jacket is part of the album rather than just an avatar associated with it.  And the fact that I have a pretty boss stereo doesn’t hurt.

It’s just cool.

I will not hesitate to admit that the coolness factor plays an important role in my vinyl purchases.

There’s something about the aesthetic of a turntable that screams style.  Not to mention how much more satisfying it is to flip through records than to type into the search bar on Spotify.

And let me tell you: a sizable record collection does wonders for your credibility.  I have become something of a music guru in my circles, which is great for my self-esteem.  It’s even leaked into my daily affirmations: “You are valuable. You are loved. You have a kickass record collection.”

But most importantly…

I want to pay the artists.

I’m a musician myself.  This past year, my band SPACESHIPS (shameless plug) put out a new record.  And, like any musician in the 21st century, we put that music on all the streaming services.

We paid $50 to a distributor to put our music on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Rdio, and whatever other streaming services are out there.  To date, that investment has gotten us a whopping $8.20.  $6.30 of that was from someone purchasing the album on iTunes.

And to be honest, we don’t expect to make that $50 back from Spotify this year.  We look at it like an advertising cost.  We make more than that selling a single CD.  When we sell a record, we make double.

Indie Band Gets 79,000 Streams In a Month, Spotify Bans Them for Life

I pay for music because I value music.  I know what goes into creating an album.  I know how hard touring is.  When a band puts out a record, it’s worth more than the change in my pocket.  They deserve more than $10 a month split up among the rest of the bands I listen to that month.

The vinyl records on my shelves represent more than just a music library and cool points.  These records are filled with the sweat of the men and women who worked to create my favorite music.

And honestly, I’m not sure I’m paying them enough.

 


 


22 Responses

  1. Remi Swierczek

    Spotify and any other all inclusive streaming service in Ek mode is UNCALLED FOR INCINERATOR of music goodwill!
    FAN ASS KISSER with total disregard to CREATORS!

    Music CAN BE & HAS TO BE LOCKED UP in virtual space so everyone can enjoy ad and sub free streaming. Than we can START TO CHARGE for addition to PERSONAL PLAYLISTS as we create $300B music industry by 2030.
    You Tube would be THE SINGLE predictible loser of discovery moment music monetization model.

    Reply
    • Reality

      You sound like the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the music business. The reason the industry attempted to sue P2P sharers instead of developing subscription streaming to modernize the consumption paradigm.

      Fortunately nobody listens to your whiny entitled bullshit anymore.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      You’ve literally been saying this for like 8 years. Do something about it.

      Reply
  2. Swan

    Of course it’s the best way to listen to music. I was using streaming for almost 4 years: no artwork, no credits, no emotions, no value. I absolutely don’t remember what artists I was listening to.

    Reply
    • Reality

      Of course. Since 2010, I’ve used streaming platforms for music discovery, convenient listening on the go, and playlisting/sharing with friends.

      I buy the best albums on vinyl for listening at home, and I go to my favourite artists’ shows whenever they’re in town.

      Before this (1997-2009) I downloaded music for free and burned CDs because buying music on CD was complete bullshit.

      As a consumer, I’m going to do what’s in my best interest, not the artist or the record company. Fortunately for the business, what’s best for me these days supports the artists. If only they realized this 20 years ago.

      Reply
    • Another music fan

      Modern smartphones are also a disaster. I remember usung old style landline phones – warm voice, feeling of a real conversation sitting in a nice chair back home under a warm plaid. These new smaller than palm phones have no warmth, no dignity, no value.
      Sarcasm if you do not understand.

      Reply
  3. MartinC

    If only more music lovers were like you.
    For independent artists such as myself things were much better when piracy was rife. I knew many people who would download for free any music they were interested in and then would make a point of buying the music they liked.
    Now those same people pay their $10 a month to Spotify and feel that they have paid for the music. My income from downloads and CDs bought online when pirated downloads were the norm was about 10x what I now get from streaming and online downloads.

    Reply
    • Nathaniel FitzGerald
      Nathaniel FitzGerald

      For sure. I used to Torrent with the best of them, but if I liked anything, I bought it. I pay the $10 to make that process easier (and legal), but I know that thousands of people think that’s all they need to do.

      Reply
  4. D0wNl0aDeЯ

    You should have written a “Why I Still Download Music” article… Because people (including me) still do, and are not gonna stop! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Luke Sassypants

    Another hipster extolling the virtues of the album. I have many records collected from late 1970’s through the mid 1990’s. I stopped buying them due to the frailty of the product and that insipid pop or scratch that would ruin the song for me. Albums are heavy, bulky, hard to store and require much more upkeep than a compact disc. Not to mention having to maintain a record player/cartridge. How many articles are going to lament the “good ole’ days” when you could hold record cover in your hand and immerse yourself in the music? Unless you are at a concert, music is meant to be heard. My cd collection blows away my records, and when everybody and their brother have finally discovered what I did many years ago, those $30 albums will just be another item in your life that your significant other will demand you get rid of because they are taking up too much space. It will eventually happen. That’s when the vultures come in and pick up your collection for pennies on the dollar, just like what happened to records in the 1980″s, and what’s happening with cd’s today. CD’s are the future collectible and the music will still be there when the apocalypse comes and you lose your digital library. While I love sharing music with others, I couldn’t give a crap about being seen as cool, just give me a good Rega and get off my lawn!

    Reply
  6. asdf

    I’ve also been a buyer of albums for over 25 years, even though I’ve also had a Spotify Premium account for about five years or so. I used to buy combination of CDs and vinyl (I was a professional DJ for a long time so that paid for itself), but I’ve almost completely switched to buying hi-res digital files.

    A few reasons, but “connection” and “cool” don’t factor in at all.

    It’s all about cost, quality, convenience, and ethics. Hi-res files are generally cheaper than physical, sound much better (sorry, vinyl sounding “better” is an absolute myth), fit on a small hard drive, are immediately available to me at home via my laptop to my home stereo through “air play” (no audio degradation – better than bluetooth) or my iphone, and artists get a larger payout for a purchase than for a stream and I never have to worry about a streaming service going out of business or a label pulling their catalogue.

    Reply
    • Sergei

      Hi-res files are surely the way to go (24-bit/96 or 192kHz FLAC files from analogue masters or digital masters). As a producer of ultra-hi-res concert recordings in DSD128 format and a records’ collector and high-end LP’s replay system owner, I must prepare an article that covers the whole subject of high-quality audio from its peak in the early eighties when digital revolution hit us up to now when we have the technology but largely do not use it (portable true high-end DACs with built-in headphone amps – several amazing products from £130 to £550). Perhaps several 15 min. podcasts or video blog entries? Do you think that people would like to know how they can take their hi-res audio enjoyment to its logical limits and not rely on an average or worse quality that laptops and smartphones offer? Do drop me a line if you are interested to get some serious ultra-hi-res material and comments on equipment. Regards. S. [email protected]

      Reply
  7. JimD

    Two Questions:

    1. How much did it cost to produce your records and have you sold them all?
    2. How much do you think Spotify should pay to a band with 18 monthly listeners?

    Reply
    • Nathaniel FitzGerald
      Nathaniel FitzGerald

      The pressing alone cost $1,300, which didn’t include the mixing and mastering. We’ve sold about 30 or so, but between those sales, shirt and CD sales, and the cut from the last few shows, we’ve paid for most of it.

      Reply
  8. Sergei

    Hi-res files are surely the way to go (24-bit/96 or 192kHz FLAC files from analogue masters or digital masters). As a producer of ultra-hi-res concert recordings in DSD128 format and a records’ collector and high-end LP’s replay system owner, I must prepare an article that covers the whole subject of high-quality audio from its peak in the early eighties when digital revolution hit us up to now when we have the technology but largely do not use it (portable true high-end DACs with built-in headphone amps – several amazing products from £130 to £550). Perhaps several 15 min. podcasts or video blog entries? Do you think that people would like to know how they can take their hi-res audio enjoyment to its logical limits and not rely on an average or worse quality that laptops and smartphones offer? Do drop me a line if you are interested to get some serious ultra-hi-res material and comments on equipment. Regards. S. [email protected]

    Reply
  9. Jack Deckard

    Quote ‘Vinyl is a physical experience. Unlike CDs that just store data, records actually have the music carved into them.’

    Let me tell you about Jesus.

    Reply
  10. Shawn

    I used to have about 1,000 or so LP’s and 12″ singles. But the records became difficult to manage after a while. The sound quality on some of them deteriorated with pops and scratches. Some records started to warp a little. So if I wanted to hear a crisp, clean version of the song I had to buy the album or CD all over again.

    Record labels should provide a link where people who bought the record can go online, punch in a code, and have a digital version as well for the same price. That way you can listen to it on the go as well as experiencing the coolness factor of having the album notes, cover, etc.

    Reply
    • Christopher

      A lot of new LP records also include a download code, I have seen (like on Amazon) but I don’t bother with vinyl at all myself.

      Reply
  11. Marcelo

    Hi

    I buy music, but some years ago a was tired to buy something (cd or vinyl) and found that the songs were sucked. So what i do now? i download music o listen stream from someone artist and if is really great then i buy it, simple. So i do too for know some band first i download o stream his music and if i convinced then i do my best to buy his cd (not vinyl because i was boring to keep attention with all factors to have a good sound). So that is my contribution with great music.

    Reply
  12. Christopher

    This makes me feel better about my own music purchasing. I didn’t get into vinyl but have a large CD collection, as well as a hard drive of music I bought (and admittedly scavenged some of it). I still like having shelves of albums, because i can’t see what’s on the hard drive. I do find value in buying downloads as well.

    For me, putting money towards an album, whether a download or physical CD, is part of the experience (though I still enjoy the free music I find) of being a fan.

    Reply

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