The end of music?

Technology marches onward. I’ve just invested in some wireless digital streaming technology by Sonos. I can now play CDs ripped to my computer in my study in the lounge through my stereo. CDs will be like records in ten years. Very few people will buy them. The majority of music will be streamed through computers.

I’m very impressed with the quality and simplicity of the Sonos system. I can control the whole thing from my iPhone, so my music library is at my finger tips and I can mix and match whatever I feel like.

Why is this the end of music? Well, bundled with the Sonos app on the iPhone is a free 30 day trial of Napster. The cheapest package on Napster is just £5 a month for unlimited streaming. Napster has 8 million titles!!!! 

Admittedly it’s not very good for classical, but it’s good for pretty much everything else. At the moment it is high quality MP3, not lossless FLAC, but it can’t be long until they improve the quality.

At £5 a month, there’s very little incentive to buy CDs if you don’t mind a slight downgrade in quality. I can see a lot of people not bothering with CDs in the future. It will change the way we listen to music as well. Instead of listening to an album from beginning to end, we’ll mix and match.

The problem I see is that listening to music will become so cheap (i.e. £60 a year), it could strangle new talent. I guess it will make live music more important as it will be the only way to pay the bills. The other thing it will destroy is the album cover. Arguably CDs have already done that.


10 thoughts on “The end of music?”

  1. £5 a month is still too much to my step kids. They cant seem to grasp the idea that music can be paid for. They have never paid for music. They have a lot of it on their IPods.

  2. I’ve had a Sonos system for 18 months. I originally bought two (expensive) Sonos remotes but now find the free iphone app easier to use. I have all my music on a NAS drive connected directly to my router so I don’t need to have any computers switched on to use it. Haven’t gone for Napster et al as I still feel the need to ‘own’ my music as I also download onto my iphone and various ipods used by the family, but I do suspect the end of CD’s is nigh!

  3. I dont think that I could ever give up my CD habit, admittedly I do download a fair bit of music but more as a taster to see if I like it enough to buy the CD. Have you noticed how cheap CD’s are getting these days? With shops like Fopp and the internet you never have to pay more than about £8 for a real shiny object.

  4. Having just invested in a high end CD player I really notice the quality between the two sources of music. The CD may be in decline but until they sort the quality issue I’m not changing format.

    All the iPods I’ve owned have all died and with them the music that was downloaded at cost. Which is another worry.

    1. Although MP3 is surprisngly good, I’ve ripped CD quality FLAC files. The real win will be studio master quality FLAC, which unfortunately you can’t stream through the Sonos. I also have some SACD and DVD-A discs. SACD is clearly the best. As bandwidth incereases and the quality of streaming improves, more and more people will use Napster type services. The majority of the population are not that interested in very high quality audio.

  5. I sense convenience will win out ahead of the purists not that I’m suggesting that’s necessarily a good thing. When I bought the Sonos I bought a high-end Amp and CD player for the lounge but I’m ashamed to say the CD player has never been used, I simply stream music via the Sonos into the amp. I agree the quality is not as good but unless you’re really listening and have good hearing (I don’t!) then there’s not a significant difference. Rip lossless and I’d be surprised if many can tell the difference. There is something satisfying about popping a CD into a player but since I ripped by collection the CD’s are now stored away. Like LP’s CD’s are destined to become history to the next generation.

    1. In theory FLACs are better than CDs because there is no real time error correction. In practise, there’s not much difference. It’s a shame that Sonos doesn’t stream studio masters.

  6. I’ve had a couple of Logitech Squeezebox Duets for a year or so – excellent; they can stream up to 24/48, and downsample higher resolution rips intelligently. There is a lot of beautiful classical stuff on the Linnrecords label – especially Mackerrass’ Mozart, which I was lucky to have been at performances of too, so (as I have an SACD player also) I’m in the position of being able to compare CD/SACD/hi-res downloads and the live performance! I’m working my way through rippping my cd collection to FLAC; still buy cds, but now often rip them and re-sell.

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