You ever heard that saying “too much of a good thing won’t be good for long”? Well, whoever said that, must have known Streaming was coming down the pipes. Look, I LOVED cake when I was in middle school, I once thought it was a good idea to eat cake for every meal for 2 days straight and my dad let me, not only did I have a mean stomach ache for 2 days, but I rarely eat cake now as a result. In 2006, I hardly ever went more than a day without playing Mood Muzik 2 in its entirety, that is until it got stuck in my CD player and I was forced to listen to it for a month straight. I still can rap every lyric on that mixtape but I cannot listen to it even 10 years later.
How do those random anecdotes play into streaming? Well, simply put, there’s too much music available to the general public and no effort involved in obtaining it. If you spent $10 on a CD or a digital album from iTunes you were going to give that album spins. Even when piracy was rampant, you still had to go through the trouble of obtaining a link, hoping it wasn’t a virus or a Rick Roll (and that it was actually working), then waiting on it to download. The effort involved makes you want to listen to it multiple times, creating memories and a bond to that music, and you are more likely to revisit that music.
Streaming has put (in most cases) the entire libraries of almost every artist ever at your fingertips. You are a click away from listening to damn near any song you want to and thus, you have less time to spend making memories to the same songs or albums over and over. Yes, I know the quality of music, especially in hiphop, has played a role in this decline, but I don’t think that role is as big as you might think. Think about it, unless you’re in the top 1% of artists, your music has a 2 week window before it’s overshadowed by another release and that’s being generous. Knowing that, an artist may not be inclined to pour their best into a project knowing it’ll get overlooked as soon as a new project drops by somebody at or above their level.
I was staunchly against streaming and for the longest time, refused to partake. I like owning my music. I am proud of my library of obscure stuff from my favorite artists and those rare versions of songs that won’t see streaming apps. Streaming has taken the ownership out of the hands of consumers. You are basically renting songs for a monthly fee and the same way you won’t put a ton of effort or thought into a rental car, you won’t do that with rented music. I have given in and gotten with the streaming movement, but only so I can determine what albums I want to actually add to my own library. It’s a way to weed out music that isn’t worth my time without having to search for a .zip file or paying. But even that has made me realize that I am not giving songs that I might like over time enough of a chance to make its mark.
I know, streaming isn’t going anywhere, any time soon. This is the generation of microwave babies who want everything, now, with as little hassle as possible. But as a musician and a lover of music, I hate to see something so important reduced to being a modern day Blockbuster.