Streaming music: People just don’t get it

I saw a good quotation that sums up wrong-headed thinking about the false dichotomy between streaming and downloading:

“Streaming is the future for listening to music. No more time consuming downloads and using up space on your hard disk trying to store all your music,”

This comes from Jesper Theill Eriksen, senior EVP at Danish telco TDC, quoted in an article here. I don’t know his background, but I’m assuming from the context that this is someone who ought to know better.

Let’s take the misconceptions one at a time. Firstly, far from providing “no more … downloads”, streaming actually causes you more downloading by making you transfer the song every time you listen to it. When you “stream” music, all that’s happening is that the file is being downloaded to your computer in the background. The same file in the same format travels across the same internet connection as it would if you downloaded it. The only additional step a streaming player takes is to discard the data after playing it.

Which brings me to the disk space issue. The cost per gigabyte of modern hard disks is tiny, and few people have a collection that takes up more than a couple of percent of the space on their disk. If you need more disk space, it can be purchased for far less than the cost of most streaming services.

As I’ve said in more depth here, streaming is nothing to do with convenience to the user and everything to do with trying to defend a business model: if the songs are on their server, they control them rather than you, and have more leverage to demand money from you on an ongoing basis. Myself, I’m happy to let the market decide, but let’s see streaming for what it is: a business model that operates by taking away your ability to control the music on your devices.

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