Before there were recordings, there was live performance and sheet music. In order to hear your favorite piece of music, you had to either show up at a public concert where it was being played, or learn how to play the notes.
When radio broadcasts became available, you could listen for hours until you heard your favorite song being played.
In the days of records, you could purchase a recording and play it in your home any time you liked.
When the cassette recorder came out, you could personally tape record your favorite individual songs either from your records, your friends’ records, or off the radio, and play them on your home stereo, your car player or battery powered portable player. Freedom at last!
CD’s became just a high tech version of the LP until the CD recorder came out. Then it became a high tech version of the cassette recorder.
And now the internet turned our favorite song into 1’s and 0’s that we could share with our friends in a data stream, wherever they may live.
Concurrent with that is the history of audio data storage. LPs were 1/8” thick and 12”x12” square. Cassettes were smaller but thicker. CD’s in jewel cases are about ¼” thick and about 5.25” square. MP3 files have no physical dimension, but they take up digital storage space as measured in megabytes – about 1MB per minute of music.
Who wants to devote an entire room to a collection of 1,000 LPs, cassettes or CDs? Maybe you can devote an entire hard drive to your music collection, but you wouldn’t have access to it while you’re at work. Maybe you can put some of it on your MP3 player, but you wouldn’t have it all. That’s where the cloud comes in.
The cloud is nothing more than a huge cluster of computers to which you are granted access.
And so our model of recorded music is shifting from ownership to access. We, the media consumer, want everything all the time, because it’s now possible. The control of access is where the money is. You pay Comcast every month for access to hundreds of channels that you don’t watch because that’s the only way they sell it to you. You pay Netflix every month for access to thousands of movies that you don’t watch because it’s cheaper than one night at the local movie theater. By the same token, every now and then you stumble on something cool while channel surfing and become a fan, or you’ll read a movie synopsis presented by the Netflix “Because you liked this..” algorithm and decide to watch it instantly.
In our field, the big three access models are Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify. Each allows you to join for free, provided you don’t mind the ads.
Pandora is built on the old radio station idea, where you build a channel based on the style of your favorite artist. You’ll hear the artist about one in every ten songs, but you’ll hear a variety of music and musicians that have similar styles.
Grooveshark is a personal playlist engine. You do the work of finding the songs and create your own playlists. The site will present you with suggestions of similar artists.
Spotify incorporates both ideas. You can listen as your own custom radio channel, build your own playlists, use playlists generated by other users, or any combination thereof. In addition, by default it shares what you are playing to your Facebook or other social network friends so that they can see what you’re listening to. If you don’t want to share, you can set your session to be private. Also, you can use music found on your desktop or mobile device in your playlists and access it anywhere.
None of these applications take up much room on your desktop or your mobile phone. The music you stream comes from the worldwide cluster of computers in the cloud, not your personal and limited storage. You are free to stumble upon as much new and interesting music as you like, provided that it is available on the service – which is why I write this.
If you’re not represented on a streaming service, it’s time to think about it. Each service is interested in both signed and unsigned artists. You may have to go through a middle man ‘aggregator’ like CD Baby or Tunecore. You probably won’t make much money. But you will be represented, people will have a chance to discover you, and you can make some money.
The requirements for each service can be found in the following links:
Pandora | Grooveshark | Spotify