Streamed Music or The Loss of Musical Control

In my life, I’ve never felt more artistically cognizant than when I am listening to music. The only thing that has ever come close was the painting portion of my Design 1 class in College and when the majority of the work I was doing at one time was photography, which is to say when I am being creative in those mediums. But even then, they are all several stories down from music.

Music is all around me. It connects me to events, to memories, to feelings, to God and spirituality and it does it in the most direct and best way that I still don’t properly know how to describe. Nothing has ever mattered so much to me, until my wife and eventual children entered my life. It is the construct that makes me how I am, even beyond the books of history, philosophy and movies I’ve consumed over the years.

Perhaps it started at five years old, when one of my cousins gave (or maybe forgot, I am not sure) two cassette tapes at my house. This was in the year 1991 and these tapes were of two recently released (and now infamous) albums, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Metallica’s Black Album. I am not sure if my mom tossed them or gave them back to my cousins, but I listened to both of those cassettes through my one speaker clock radio that I had as a kid, over and over and over, on top of the top 50s, 60s, and 70s, rock radio station and the classical music station I still listen to today.

By the way, I still have that radio and even when it dies, I might keep it just to point it out and say “this is where music started for me.”

Around six or seven years old, I began to realize that I can hear colors in music. I can listen to a song and see a color in my mind. This became a game to me because I’d listen to everything and flow through different pieces of music, especially with classical music and movie scores, but it still happens with any type of music I come across today. At that time, I came to the decision that musical interests were partially based on color preference. I started to see a consistency in the colors my friends, who were also discovering music on their own, color choices in clothing and their rooms. I also began to notice that album covers often reflected the colors I’d seen. Second-guessing myself, I’d often have my brother bring one of my mom’s records to me out of the sleeve to see if I could see a color that would end up being on the album cover. It didn’t happen every time and I didn’t ask him why I was saying that, but it was a fun little game I played.

In Junior High, Napster came around. Man, what a time. The years of making recording mix-tapes off the radio or my friends purchased cassettes changed. Now I could make mixed CD’s. CD-rewriteable discs were coming available and my Dad had brought home a CD-RW drive for my computer. Later in high school, iTunes came around and I stopped downloading songs because I wanted to support the artists. iTunes did a pretty good job of getting me music I liked, at a consistent audio quality, but a poor job when it came to telling about new music. Moving songs to my newly purchased iPod wasn’t difficult, but I hated I couldn’t carry my music everywhere. (At this point I had digitized all of my music, which made my library larger than any iPod available at that time could hold.)

Then Rdio came around.

Rdio created an experience that combined some of my favorite aspects of music and added the social experience as well. Now, this technology wasn’t new and on the surface Rdio was nothing more than a combination of several different things that multiple services already did. It was the execution of these services together that made it so great. Playlists, discovery of new music, social features that were subtle and not harsh, and reviews. Rdio also focused on the album more than the music.

When Rdio announced it was being purchased by Pandora, this threw my musical world into a bit of a craze. I’d been looking at other services because of more and more outages that kept happening with Rdio. Spotify, Apple Music and Google Music all had their pluses, but Apple Music ranks high on the worst of the bunch. Even still, I didn’t want to leave Rdio, I just wanted to see if the grass is greener on the other side.

It isn’t.


Suddenly, instead of going back and forth between albums or artists and utilizing my searches or related suggestions, I found myself jumping between services. Worrying about who had better uptime, audio quality, or even user experience/interface. This had to stop – I was focusing on technology to much and not enough on the music. I had lost my way after Rdio and instead of being sad I had to settle. What I had to settle on was a future of focusing on music, afterall I had floated from cassettes, to vinyl records, to CDs, to vinyl records again, digital MP3s, streamed music and still vinyl records today! Why couldn’t I feel comfortable with the flash in the pan of digital that Rdio had been?

Because it was the only place that kept coming back to music.

The music isn’t dead and the journey isn’t over yet, but here’s to hopping to the next place and the next, listening to colorful music and enjoying the ride.