Steve Albini’s Face The Music Keynote / More on Beats and iTunes

Reading this I’m beginning to believe things could be getting better in the recorded music industry.

This past weekend I started playing with Beats Music again and have begun questioning the care and meticulousness of my own iTunes collection. I can’t think of a better example then last weekend when I was updating Elton John metadata, hunting for the right year, trying to get high-quality artwork. Then it dawned on me. “Wait a second, I don’t even really like Elton John that much!”

In a single $10 a month payment nearly all my music collection is available, as are all the new releases I’d be paying $10 each for anyway. Sure, if I stop paying it all goes away, but has there ever been a month where I haven’t paid at least $10 in iTunes downloads? No.

So after years of using iTunes, updating ratings, organizing smart playlists to help me wade through tens of thousands of songs, I’m coming around on the idea that I don’t need to own and organize this stuff anymore. I probably haven’t listened to most of my collection in years. These digital music files may as well be like the boxes of CDs I have in a storage room. Except they show up in smart playlists and are often skipped over.

…I still wish I could just login to my Beats Music account using iTunes on my Mac.1

I’m also liking the idea that a new band can get the ears of millions of people in as little as two days.2

Maybe this right now is the golden age of music.

I know that goes against other things I’ve written here, about how the streaming model is unsustainable…but that was before reading Albini’s address and his deconstruction of “We need to figure out how to make this digital distribution work for everyone.”


  1. Spotify has been real buggy for me. I think I’ve hit a collection limit. 

  2. $19.99 a year for unlimited releases using DistroKid means you don’t have to wait to release a CDs worth of material. 

“Some Thoughts on Streaming Music”

Kirk McElhrean’s “Some Thoughts on Streaming Music“:

Streaming music encourages detachment from the music; ownership encourages investment. When you flit around from one album, one song to another, you experience the music as mere entertainment. But when you own music, you’ve invested money in your purchase, which causes you to invest time in it as well. Instead of seeing the music is ephemeral, it enters your life, and you listen to it to see how it can change your life.

I agree with a lot of what Kirk says – there are some albums that are important in my life. In cases like that, music is timeless.

On the other hand, I have albums in my collection I regret buying because I bought them on a whim. It was part of the current pop culture trend. Music is not timeless for these.

Music is timeless…

I still think it’s fair to listen to an album once on Spotify – then if it’s something I want to add to my collection, to my life, buy it. But that could all change if some music streaming company finally gets it right. I think I’d like streaming to feel like ownership. I don’t want my music choices limited by who has set up distribution for Spotify and others.