Written by 4:29 am Digital

Are Paid Streaming Services Really a Bad Value?

Steven Stone looks at the costs of streaming compared to a physical collection…

Probably the most often-seen negative response to any pay-per-month streaming service is “I refuse to pay that much for music!” That response got me thinking, “How much do I pay for music? And “Is ‘ownership’ more important than cost?”

AR-stream1.jpgWhen I was much younger I needed to have a monthly budget for music and recordings, because if not, I could have easily found myself upside down at the end of the month. Even now I do have a number in my head that I allow for new music acquisitions. Much of that goes to Kickstarter or other crowd-funded musical artist projects, but some could easily go to a monthly service given that TIDAL monthly HiFi service is three dollars more than I spend for one CD sourced directly from an artist.

Let’s do a little math – Let’s say I buy a CD for $15, rip it to my computer audio system and put the CD away, where it sits until I die (or my hard drive crashes without a back-up) at which point my heirs sell the CD for $1. The sunk costs to my estate was $15, the recouped value, $1, the loss on the exchange $14. Multiply that by a 1000 CDs – that’s $14,000 spent on music.

That money would have bought 2100 months of TIDAL. That is 175 years worth of TIDAL.

roon1.jpgAdd a couple of lifetime licenses to ROON for another $499 each and as long as you have Internet service, you have a complete music library with sufficient metadata to allow for intelligent searches. Based on purely math it would seem as if streaming is a far more cost-efficient and modern way to have a music library.

But can we audiophiles relinquish ownership of physical media enough to embrace streaming as our primary source and location for our music libraries? Our distant ancestors collected shells and colored stones for no reason that anthropologists can fathom other than they LIKED to collect stuff. This physical collection thing could be deeply imprinted into our DNA. I suspect that many audiophiles are loathe to go the all in for music in-the-cloud because, the minute the technology fails, to steal (and misapply) a phrase – there is no there, there. I think that makes us primates uneasy.

roon2.jpgPersonally, I’m on the fence – I do more listening to music files than I do to physical media. And while a larger proportion of these files are sourced from physical media than were downloaded or streamed, streaming has become my primary resource for hearing newly released commercial recordings.  But if I had shaky Internet service, obviously I’d be listening to more self-sourced than cloud-based music, and be far more leery of embracing “the cloud.” Conversely, if I had a gig that involved a lot of extended stay traveling from one urban hub to another, I’d think seriously about going all-cloud.

The next time someone comes up with “Paid streaming costs too much money!” think about my math, your own predilections for acquisition of physical stuff, current and future residence lifestyle options, and then forge your own path.

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