The Future of Music

I've been the ideal music consumer for as long as I can remember.

Growing up I'd read about release dates in RIP and Metal Edge and then make my Mom drive me to Pop Tunes or Camelot Music to buy whatever records (and then cassettes) had come out that week. As I got older I'd wait in line at Tower Records at midnight to buy that week's new CDs. I've always loved owning music. Studying the cover art, reading the liner notes, the whole experience.

Someone's music was a window to their soul. You could tell more about their personality than a game of 20 questions ever could. The way they cataloged it, the care involved, searching high and low to find that one elusive album. Spontaneous trips to Louisville or Atlanta to score a Japanese pressing or a long out of print title. It was a labor of love for those of us who truly cared.

When music turned to MP3s it took me a few years to get on board. I slowly but surely ripped all my discs into iTunes and eventually began purchasing music that way as well. The last few years I've been pre-ordering albums on iTunes to get them the morning of release, just like I did with record stores before. Those albums that were seemingly impossible to find were now just a few clicks away. While it wasn't a physical product it still felt like you owned it.

Now streaming services are the next big thing. Practically the entire history of music at your fingertips for $9.99 a month. Similar to MP3s it's taken me a couple of years to test the waters. Spotify, et al are the antithesis of everything I wrote above. You don't own anything, there's no real artwork, no anticipation, no reflection of someone's personality. Musical elitism is impossible - everyone has access to everything.

Despite all of that, I've come to realize streaming is absolutely incredible.

I can listen to the newest Dwight Yoakum album and then switch to Talking Heads or W.A.S.P. with a couple of clicks. I've listened to more music, and more importantly music I'd probably never have listened to otherwise, in the last month than I have in years. It feels like being that same 11 year old standing in Pop Tunes, only now having the ability to take every single record in the store home. Curation has replaced record collections. Playlists are the new mixtapes.

All that said, none of the streaming services I've tried (Spotify, Beats and Rdio) are perfect. Ugly UI, confusing menus, way too many clicks to do the simplest actions.

The iPod wasn't the first MP3 player and iTunes wasn't the first online digital music store, but Apple were the first ones to get it right.

Tomorrow Apple is set to launch their own streaming music service. I have no idea what to expect, but I'll be watching the WWDC keynote with my credit card in hand ready to give them whatever they want to charge.

The future of music starts in just over 12 hours. I'm ready, are you?