How I Finally Came Over to the Dark Side — Streaming
Streaming still annoys me…but I submit
I’m not proud. And I’m not an advocate. My phone is memory challenged. That’s the long and short of it.
But I have to explain…even if it’s to myself.
So here’s my justification.
I make playlists. I used to make mixtapes back in high school and college which was an art unto itself. My tapes didn’t have five minutes of space at the end nor did they have songs cut off mid verse. It was an art I tell you. I would make tapes that had one side — all Hip-Hop. You flipped the tape, and song for song, I would have the samples that those Hip-Hop songs were made from.
Because of that (art), I was slow moving to the whole CD world. It actually got ridiculous, being one of the last cassette hold outs, asking if they had something on tape — pitiful. But if I couldn’t take my favorite songs and make my own playlists, I ain’t see the point.
As soon as they made it possible to record on CDs, me and the CD-R became fast friends. I’m sure you remember the days of carrying around, first cases of cassettes and then cases of CDs, right? Well, my cases exclusively had my playlists — maybe a Pure Garage CD here, an Elbow CD there, but for the most part, just my playlists.
But then Sony introduced the Minidisc. I was elated. It was a hassle, trying to get music from CDs, unto the computer, and then on the Minidisc — Sony always has to do things their way (see: their incompatible video codec) — but once I got it on there, it was beautiful.
No more scratched, skipping CDs, more memory, all that — and those Minidisc were easy to carry.
Sadly, much like the Betamax (which flourished in the professional world), the Minidisc never caught on with the public. There was a new dog in town.
I know, I know — Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player…but they sure did make it cool…and like all things Apple — expensive.
So, although I was a fan, I was not a member of the cult early on. I stuck with my Minidisc until I replaced it with a…gasp…Sandisk MP3 stick.
That was all kinds of inconvenient. First of all, not only could you not see the songs on the computer when you loaded them on, once you had them on the actual stick, you couldn’t see the songs (in order) there either.
I appreciated the size and weight of the Sandisk, enjoyed carrying around 250 or so songs, but it wasn’t the solution. As soon as that iPod Nano was introduced in Sept. of 2005, I was there.
Much lighter than the original IPod, (and much cheaper) the Nano was my speed. I rolled with it for two years until the launch of the iPhone.
I won’t go into the debacle that had me trade in that first iPhone for the first generation of the iPod Touch — but I did it, (You do what you have to sometimes) and, while I’ve gone on to have iPhone after iPhone, my means of transporting and listen to music has remained the same.
I make playlists.
I don’t know the first Streaming site…nor do I care (I’m sure it was Rhapsody but the only Rapsody I recognize just signed with Roc Nation). The first one I even dared to try was Pandora. I was turned off immediately.
Supposedly, you’d pick an artist and this service’s algorithm would play you music based around that choice. Sounds nice. Sadly, it was anything but.
Pick Run DMC, ten minutes later “Bust a Move” is playing. Huh?!?
It was a free trial but that’s been the general M.O. of streaming services. Their algorithm based and maybe some programmer who thinks they know music assists. I don’t know. But as anyone who’s listened to those Fios’ streaming services knows, the fake-out is universal.
Not to mention, that limit on skipping songs was/is asinine. You don’t want me to skip songs, do like Shadow Henderson and play the shit that I want to hear.
Again, Apple stepped into the race, supposedly to bring some clarity to the situation…and they had a 3 month Free Trial…so why not? Right?
Despite the excellent explanation of my brother, Sayyed Munajj, who said to look at streaming in the same light as I would cable TV, I still wasn’t down with the stream team.
My sole interest in Apple Radio was Beats 1. The talk was that it was going to be live radio and that various selectors/DJs would have their own show. For example, Q-tip would have his own show and I learned that one of my favorite Soundcloud mix shows, Soulection was getting up’d.
It was exciting to know that people all over the world would be listening to the same radio show at the same time, closest thing to a water cooler event that you could get.
That first day, I tuned in and I continued to do so for the first month. After awhile, the novelty wore off and it was just a feature on my phone that I never used.
When the 3 month trial ended, I was done.
Fast forward to a year later — I’m ready for the new iPhone to come out because I’m going to get the maximum amount of GBs, that’s first. But second, I finally submit…I finally signed back up for a Apple Radio subscription.
And this is how it transpired…
I usually keep an eight hour playlist on my phone…seriously…that and several albums and apps. Approximately 3GB of music resides on my phone at all time. Generally speaking, that’s enough for me.
But this time, it was not. I wanted to hear Led Zeppelin I. It wasn’t on my phone and I sure as hell wasn’t about to buy it again, so I went to YouTube.
I’m sure I’m not exposing a secret by telling you that most albums that have been released, new and old, can be found in their entirety on the video sharing platform. Zeppelin’s debut is no exception.
Here’s the thing. Everyone is trying to suck you in with a subscription. Different sites have different selling points. YouTube’s is if you subscribe then you won’t have to suffer — yes, that’s how it feels, like sufferation — through their ads. I can’t do it.
And so I suffer. Which is one thing if you’re trying to watch a music video or a tutorial on how to dislodge your jacket fiber from the zipper but it’s an entirely other thing when you’re trying to listen to “You Shook Me.”
I was lucky enough to find an album posted without ads (some albums have ads after every song) but when I wanted to scroll back and hear, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” I did something wrong because soon a Geico commercial was blaring over my Bluetooth speaker. I had had enough.
I immediately went to my settings and signed back up. Then I iMessaged Sayyed in defeat. I crossed over to the dark side.
I’ve found some satisfaction in my choice. I don’t have to anticipate what I want to listen to before I step out into the world. For the most part, whatever I’m looking for, I can pull up.
Not to mention, I can listen to bands that didn’t make their way over in the great transition from CD to MP3. I hadn’t thought of Stereolab, Broadcast, or Lamb since I was trying to fill the void left between Portishead albums back in the late 90s early 2000s. And there are some albums I never owned, like Karyn White’s first, that I can explore.
Like I said, I make playlists and often times the volume fluctuates between recordings which I find to be annoying. Although Apple Radio doesn’t state what their bit rate is (it’s said to be 256kbps)whatever it is, it doesn’t change from song to song.
It ain’t all gravy either. Now, I don’t expect to find Junkyard Band Live at the Safari Club from 1990 on this jawn but if I click on Maze featuring Frankie Beverley and they have Live in New Orleans to Southern Girl, is it irrational to expect their debut album?
That’s only partially annoying. What was really annoying and almost made me reconsider this whole streaming thing came when I decided that I wanted to listen to a tried and true album.
Of all of Musiq Soulchild’s offerings, Soulstar still resonates with me the most. If I’m ever sick of listening to the music that I have on my phone, not in the mood for classics or anything new, Soulstar is my go to album.
I didn’t have it on my phone, but, “no problem,” I thought as I checked Apple Radio before making my exit.
Listened to De La’s latest. Cool. Listened to PND. Alright. Scrolled through my phone and nothing appealed to me. But “aha, I have Apple Radio.” Clicked on the album.
Strange, some songs weren’t “lit up.” Whatever. Clicked on the first song, “Soulstar” and got that above error message. What in the fu…Looked over the songs…damn if many of the songs that I wanted to hear weren’t subject to the same crap.
I hit up Sayyed, thinking it may be operator error. When he told me, “Agreement laws with the record companies,” I almost cancelled the service immediately.
But I calmed down and I’m still subscribed. I can’t say that it’s something that I’ll keep for now and forever but while I have it, I’ll continue to try to make it useful in my life. I’ll explore records that I normally wouldn’t listen to. I’ll travel down memory lane. I’ll listen to albums when they first come out and give them a trial run before I buy them. All of that.
What I won’t do though is this…I won’t ever stop making playlists because, man, ain’t no algorithm got the style and finesse that a human has and it has no idea that I like to follow up “Extraordinary Machine” with “Do U Lie?” That program might take me from Fiona to The Carpenters.
And if all that fails, there’s always podcasts.