I’m a collector. So is my husband. We’ve both acquired massive collections of all sorts of things, but the one thing that is common to both of us is that both of us have always collected music. We both have huge collections of vinyl, CDs, even tapes. A lot of the CDs are actually downloaded classical music, in Joseph’s case. I also subscribe to various music streaming services. I watch bands and musicians perform on YouTube, on social media.
I’ve always thought that there was a problem with art forms that were relegated to “the cloud.” I first started thinking about this when digital cameras (and now smartphones) became the tool of choice for taking photos.
This really had an impact on me and my family personally when Katrina submerged my parents’ home in 10 feet of water. All of our family photos were a total loss. That was well over a half century documenting the members of our immediate and extended family. It was heartbreaking. We’ll never be able to reclaim that history in those photos. We can’t talk about our family from long ago with our kids and grandkids.
Now you could say that that’s true, but photos are not the same as music.
Music, in all of its many genres and forms, is art that has persisted and become part of human history because it was available in a physical, solid, non-cloud format. People who love music, and who actually collected it, literally have preserved and promoted music since recording began. Music can only be preserved and passed on to future generations in a physical format (not digital). And I hate to be apochryphal about this, but what happens if you lose the electrical grid? Or your “devices”?
Obviously, times have changed drastically as we move into a digital universe. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) estimates that in 2015 that streaming and digital downloads produced 68.3% of all music revenues, while physical products was 28.8%. In 2018, those numbers were 87% digital and 10% physical products. That’s a pretty stunning change.
I recently viewed a video by musician and writer, Ted Gioia, that is absolutely crucial for all musicians and music lovers to view. I promise you, this video is important for you to see and consider. It’s about 10 minutes long, but please take those few minutes to listen to Mr. Gioia speak on “Does It Matter Whether We Own Music?”
It might change the way you feel about how you listen to music. Is music disposable? Because it’s now experienced more as a digital artform, will music begin to possibly die?