Renting music

When I was a teenager I bought records. I still miss the sleeves and the pride of ownership. I held out against owning a CD player for a long time. In the end, I relented. The only way I could match the quality of a record was to buy a top end Arcam transport and DAC. As CD players improved, I bought an AVI one box player. The next step was to buy an SACD player. SACD was a bit hit and miss. Some SACDs were superb, others indifferent. SACDs never really made the mainstream, though.

Then I progressed to a Denon player that would play every kind of disc from CDs through SACDs to DVDs, although I routed the digital feed through the DAC of my Lyngdorf amp for decoding CDs. The next step was to go network server based distributed through a Sonos wireless network. It took ages to rip about 700 odd CDs. I carried on buying and ripping CDs, though. All this time I owned the music.

This year I started subscribing to Napster. For £100 a year I could stream as much music as I wanted plus store tracks on three mobile devices to play offline. I was now renting music. However, I still bought some CDs as the 128k bit rate on Napster is a bit low for decent HiFi. It’s ideal for the rest of the family who are not so bothered but not quite good enough for me.

I was going to try Spotify as they stream most (though not all) at 320k. Unfortunately they require a Facebook account which I don’t have and don’t want. Along comes Deezer. For £5 a month, they stream at 320k. The difference between 320k and 128k is noticeable to my ears, but the step up to CD ripped FLAC files is subtle.

320k services are going kill the CD market. For most people the quality is more than adequate. Even for people like me with expensive HiFis, it’s pretty good. For me it’s a huge paradigm shift to rent music rather than buy it. The only downside to Deezer is the catalogue is more limited than Napster (and probably Spotify) and it has very little classical music. Other than that, it’s great and you don’t have to sell your soul to Facebook. Buying a CD is likely to be a rarity for me from now on.

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8 thoughts on “Renting music”

  1. Hello,

    My hi fi system is in need of updating and I am/was thinking of something like a Denon. I still have a good amp, but everything else has basically stopped working! I often just plug the iPod through the amp and speakers and it’s fine.

    I’m not that bothered about actually having the product to look at, but my wife hates that idea.

    We also have a fair number of albums which I occasionally transfer to digital. And still have loads of tapes which are never used and will have to be disposed of.

    Things move too fast the older you get!

  2. I’m still not 100% happy with streaming, playlist disappearing when labels/spotify pull them and lack of transparency about bitrates in particular. Certain things which I fall in love with, I usually seek out as FLAC. I’ve opened discussion with the SO about removal of optical media from the living room 🙂

    One source of FLACs which may interest you is: http://boomkat.com/

    1. I’ve been impressed with Deezer. Seems to be very stable and it’s all 320k. The catalogue is not as extensive as Napster and because Deezer is French, there are a lot of French albums. For £5 a month, I think it’s pretty good. Napster has been bought by Rhapsody, so there could be changes afoot. I’m surprised that Apple haven’t got in on the act. Thanks for the link. I’ll have a look.

  3. Its already happened Robin. I have been teaching ‘music production’ aka how to make records at degree level for the last 6 years, after running a label, engineering mixing and mastering records for 10 years…its a spurious business at the best of times but that’s another argument for another time. Now, even my co-teachers are using MP3’s to do critical listening tests with their students. How do you develop the acute hearing needed to work at top level if you use recordings at 1/20th of their original resolution to practice on? 320 is OK but its not 16/44 and even thats not analogue. And don’t get me started on the loudness war! Anyway, I’m outta here. Games as good as done. Thankfully there will still be musicians making fabulous music long after a careless fame and money crazed industry has vanished up its own synthesiser. Bah humbug! :0

    1. I still prefer CD quality but I’ve got (two) good HiFi’s. For most people on iPods etc quality is a secondary consideration even if it can be heard. It will be interesting to see if a truly high quality streaming service emerges especially for classical music. The problem with streaming is that I fail to see how artisits will be rewarded properly. I also can’t believe that streamig services are truly financially viable. In a similar vein, I’m concerned that the book world is about to go the same way with Kindle.

      1. the percentages from spotify are not healthy – they are still making a massive loss year on year. Investors are hoping for long term payback presumably. I have serious concerns for any cloud based data, music or otherwise – servers can be shut down or data removed. In the meantime revenues for live music went down 180m last year. At the same time there are more courses promising more careers in creative industries that don’t have the capacity to support young people’s ambitions in these areas. Its pretty disheartening.
        As I did more teaching I started talking about minstrels and the history of musicians (not just music, the output, but the people behind it) more. The history books tells us that recorded music is only a blip and most musicians, like most artists, have been vagabounds and wanderers thoughout time. Be prepared to be itinerant hustlers is the broad theme…that and darn your own socks.
        As for publishing, I know a few folk in that trade and its happening the same, right now. Epub and even blogs like ours are restructuring the industry. Publishers aren’t taking on new work. None of this will stop people creating though, thank heavens…its only the business that’s dying on its a**!

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