Why now is really the best time for music lovers.
In my relatively short time on this planet, here are the many different ways I’ve purchased and listened to music. Oh, so many ways that the music industry has zapped us music lovers over the years.
- Vinyl 45 records on mono record player
- Vinyl LP records with high fidelity turntable and stereo
- Cassette Tapes and mix tapes on tape deck (Luckily, I avoided the whole 8-track tape thing) But my Dad’s 1968 Olds Tornado did have one in the dash.
- Recording cassette mix tapes from vinyl records and playing them on my first Alpine car stereo (I had arrived)
- Cassette tapes in a Walkman
- Compact discs on a compact disc player plugged into home stereo
- Compact discs and cassettes on a boombox
- Compact discs on portable Sony Discman
- CDs, Concert DVDs, cassettes and vinyl LPs with 6 speaker home theater surround sound system. (why would I ever need anything else to listen to music?)
- Six Disc CD changer in the car with cassette player and AM/FM radio
- MP3 Player (one of the early versions, can’t remember how I even got the music on the thing.)
- Using my laptop to “Rip” my CDs to iTunes and then sync them on my iPod
- iTunes on laptop with Harman Kardon surround sound speakers and subwoofer
- iPod with iTunes. Discovered the iTunes store along with everyone else.
- Burning CDs from tracks downloaded on Napster, LimeWire, shared with friends
- Streaming commercial free radio stations like Radio Paradise on my Mac with various desktop apps including iTunes, Chrome and Safari browser extensions
- XM satellite radio
- iPhone with iTunes
- Streaming music via apps on my iPhone, like Last FM, then Pandora
- Streaming music on Tivo, Roku and Apple TV with Surround Sound Digital Amplifier
- Streaming Music from Apps to Bluetooth car stereo and a Bluetooth HD home receiver
- Amazon Prime Music via Amazon Music apps
I’d almost be afraid to total up what I’ve spent on music, including all the gadgets, CDs clubs, and concerts. But the problem is, I love music. I basically listen to it all the time and I still use many of the items on this crazy list, including the vinyl records.
I am sitting here in my office looking at a very tall tower of dusty CDs.
What to do with all this stuff? There are many memories here. 20 some odd concert ticket stubs tucked into the matching CD cases. Neil Young, Springsteen, The Who, The Cure, U2, The Smiths, Cake….
During 90s when CDs sales were headed towards their peak, I was easily spending $75+ a month in record stores, and then using CDs to create mix tapes for the car, etc. I guess when you’re single, you have a good amount time to do this kind of stuff but the whole process was expensive and time-consuming. Based on a number of mix tapes I had, a lot of my friends were doing the same. There was also nothing worse than paying $14 for a CD that contained, maybe two good songs. The same was true of vinyl, and it was even harder to skip songs or record great songs from LPs onto cassette tapes.
Confusing times for music lovers
Unlike many others, I hung onto my vinyl records. I always felt they had a better sound quality than CDs, especially on a decent Hi-Fi. I was also busying myself putting some of those records on cassettes over the years. Spend spend spend. Stuff stuff stuff.
When digital music came along, I was an early adopter, but the sound quality was just not there on early MP3s. The iPod made this a lot better, but for those of us who are audiophiles, the sound was just not there yet, especially on larger home stereos.
A new age of low cost, portable, affordable and available music from every decade and genre
Over the last few years, things have changed drastically. There is now higher quality digital music available from price competitive sources including iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Mobile apps and streaming radio deliver music at higher bit rates like 192K (versus 16K when I first started listening digitally) there are a lot of excellent commercial free and legal music download options available.
The good news is that while it has been a long and expensive journey, I spend less money on music now than I ever have, even though I listen to it more. This has a lot to do how easy music is to access now and how streaming music apps with their high-tech algorithms seem to intuitively know what I’d like to listen to.
When I think about it, it really comes down to music apps. The music apps are available everywhere on phones, laptops, and inexpensive set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV that you can plug right into home and car stereo systems. Even old ones with Apple airplay or the right Bluetooth adapters.
Here’s how I do it now
I dont’t buy music anymore, I stream it, spending about four dollars a month. The music is all high-quality and sounds great, even on a full-size home stereo or surround sound system. And even if it’s 20 years old like mine is. Here is how I do it.
- Free streaming commercial free Internet radio via iTunes on Mac or PC. Go to – Internet button in iTunes, (not radio) for access to thousands of stations. I listen to Radio Paradise, an amazing commercial free station. You can also access them in your browser.
- I have a monthly subscription to Pandora, currently $4.00 per month. Pandora has a great desktop app and they also offer apps for Smart Phones, Tivo, Roku, Apple TV and more. The app selection allows you to hook Pandora up to any stereo you own without an extra fee like satellite radio.
- Amazon Prime which we use for all kinds of household items also includes unlimited free shipping, unlimited Prime Videos and now unlimited Prime Music. I’ve been using Amazon Prime Music for about a month but so far I’ve added 2100 songs to my account replicating a lot of what I had in my vinyl and CD collection. Amazon Prime Music is a “Spotify like” service that has over 1 million songs and is a treasure trove for progressive rock and classic rock fans.
- Enjoying all my old Vinyl and CDs at home. My kids know it’s going to be a long morning when I start queuing up vinyl records at 8 AM on a Saturday.
If you really want to simplify and only pick one I would recommend Pandora. Try out the free version then upgrade to Pandora One for commercial fee listening if you like it.