Dear music industry,
You don’t know me, but I have been your customer for 35 years now. In 1980 at age 11 I purchased my first 45rpm single, “Ride Like The Wind” by Christopher Cross. A few months later I purchased my first album, “Son of a Son of a Sailor” by Jimmy Buffett. That one had been around a while at that point, but I needed to be able to listen to the full-length version of Cheeseburger in Paradise to my heart’s delight.
Over the next 6 years or so my vinyl collection blossomed to about 70 albums and 40 singles. At that point, the mass proliferation of cassette players and the age and condition of my turntable lead me to move my business to tapes. I proceeded to purchase at least 400 cassettes over the next years. Sure, I got my my audiophile friends to record albums (and later CDs) onto blanks for me…but that was motivated in part by how horribly you were mastering your own product onto tapes. Even after I had moved into CDs I found myself purchasing dozens more of your cassettes while residing in eastern Europe in the mid 90s. CD players were prohibitively expensive for me there, and you had greatly improved the mastering issue by that point, so I didn’t mind at all.
I had purchased a few CDs here and there in 1989-90, but 1991 was the year I well and truly embraced this format. The timing for both of us couldn’t have been better. I had just graduated from college and I was living with my parents while working a job, so I had LOTS of disposable income. You were pumping out new and catalog product like crazy, and had an enormous number of different types of retail outlets in which to hawk your wares. Between 1991 and 2003 I purchased at least 600 CDs (and about 200 more since then). New. Used. Rock. Grunge. Jazz. Reggae. R&B. Classical. Frank Zappa. I bought copious amounts of them all!
Late during this period is when file sharing came about, but I didn’t have a broadband connection until 2003. Furthermore, I actually ENJOYED owning my music. I am not going to deny it: once I finally had access to the vastness of pirated music online I did dip my toe in. However, this frequently lead me to seek out new music I discovered that way on CD! I do not for a moment imagine there were ever a large number of music fans using pirated files to find new music to purchase, but that was absolutely my experience.
This week Apple, your number one retail outlet, has announced its intention to make a big renewed push into the streaming market. I am an Apple customer who has been using iTunes for over a decade now (despite the fact each update is worse than the last) and I have probably purchased about 500 tracks from the iTunes store. However, after 35 years I am simply not along for this ride with you. I am never going to accept streaming music with regular commercials and I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NEVER EVER going to pay a monthly fee to listen to streaming music. Not $14.99. Not $4.99. Not $1.99. I would like to briefly explain why.
1) I have already purchased the vast majority of music I am interested in, and in many cases more than once!
Over the course of 80 albums + 40 singles + 400 cassettes + 800 CDs + 500 iTunes tracks, I have purchased a LOT of music more than once. I would estimate there are approximately 200 albums that I have purchased in more than one format. There are also over a dozen titles I have purchased THREE TIMES due to remastered or expanded CD releases. I feel fully entitled to enjoy every note of the music in perpetuity without remitting you a single cent more.
Yes, I am still discovering new music. However, this is down to a few times per year as opposed to a few times every month or two in my youth. I have yet to discover anything brand new in the past few years that was so amazingly awesome that I would be willing to pay a monthly fee in order to hear it.
2) I like to be able to listen to music in places that may not have a good internet connection.
Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy being able to go off the grid a bit AND listen to my favorite music. I took an overseas trip recently. The 9 hour flight to Europe was advertised as having Wi-Fi…but guess what? It was out of order. The flight home didn’t have it either. During my trip I spent about a week traveling around Slovenia, a country that is mysteriously excluded from the T-Mobile free international data plan. If I am to follow the advice of celebrated music industry blowhard Bob Lefsetz and delete all of my MP3s upon adopting streaming, I simply would have had to do without music on this trip. No thanks.
I would also like to be able to choose a gym based on its facilities and convenience to my home/work…not on its internet connection. Were it not for my ability to listen to my own music while working out, I would still be 100 pounds heavier!
3) No streaming service has everything I like to listen to.
This one is going to change over time, although there are STILL artists missing from iTunes, the worlds largest music retailer. However, I am not only a fan of artists who opt out of streaming for business reasons, I am also a fan of obscure and/or foreign language artists that are not likely to turn up on a commercial service any time soon. I would have to be an idiot to allow anyone to decide what I can and cannot listen to when I already own this music already!
4) YouTube is a thing.
These days when I am curious about hearing a piece of music for the first time, I don’t bother with downloading a pirated file…I go straight to YouTube. Yes, there ARE ads there, but they are completely unobtrusive and can generally be skipped after 5 seconds. There are sometimes embedded ads as well, but I can easily listen to the VAST majority of albums online without interruption once I get past the initial ad. The good news for you is that discovering music I like there is STILL cajoling me into purchasing CDs or MP3s, even at this late date.
I am well aware you don’t care about me. In the 21st century you have made crystal clear that you much prefer 9 to 14 year olds as customers, so I can hardly be shocked that we are headed for a divorce. Oh well, I will always have 35 years of memories. And the CDs. As long as there is still an operating CD player within my reach, I will keep playing them and ignoring whatever scheme you come up with to get me to buy the same music yet again.