Streaming: why is it so unsatisfying?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Ernold, Nov 14, 2019.

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  1. Ernold

    Ernold Look up the number Thread Starter

    This, basically. Buying a download or CD doesn't give you different music - it's the same listening experience. But buying a product, even if it's a FLAC download, feels infinitely more satisfying.

    How do you feel on this?
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  2. HotelYorba101

    HotelYorba101 Forum Resident

    Different strokes for different folks. Some people prefer having a tangible product to incorporate with their music rituals, or the idea of having it on their hard drives and "owning" it

    For me, I get enjoyment out of streaming just as much as any other format - to me it is all music and it is all good

    Streaming themed threads rarely go well here, three recently got locked so I am just waiting for the usual suspects to show up here lol hopefully they don't
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  3. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic

    I don’t know about the experience and process itself, but I do know that if I have invested some money into a piece of music, I’m far more likely to give it a fair shake.

    I’ve lost count of how many albums I’ve checked out on streaming platforms and lost patience before getting to the end- whereas if I’ve bought something on vinyl, it’s getting played all the way through at least twice, even if it’s not grabbing me immediately.
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  4. writteninwater

    writteninwater Forum Resident

    I like a body of work, and I want to pay the artists as much as I can, it's part of what I like about physical records. It's what I can do for those who make music for me. I don't want it as cheap as possible, I want to support musical talents so they can do music.
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  5. juss100

    juss100 Forum Resident

    Heeeeeeere we go!
  6. carrick doone

    carrick doone Whhhuuuutttt????

    Vancouver, Canada
    I approach streaming like I used to (and now less so) approach radio. I get to enjoy different types of music, listening to an artist that comes to mind and even the commercial breaks because it reminds me more of radio. I love the variety I can have between audio documentaries, specific artist music and a specific time / genre frame. Instead of access to what only local radio throws at me I have access to the whole world. There is no downside on streaming for me. And then I buy music I want.
  7. Trixmay 988

    Trixmay 988 Demere's Dreams

    Perth, Australia
    Can't say the same for me but I do get why some would feel this way. The instant access, for example, to every new Beatles boxset worth $150+ for the super deluxe for no extra cost is a whole lot more satisfying for me than having to scrimp and save to get enough money to buy it physically.

    My ONLY complaint about streaming, and it's barely an issue given how superior streaming is to every other method of accessing music is in my opinion, is that you don't get to explore the awesome album covers and inside stuff. I'd love to have more than a tiny picture of the front cover to see. I want to read all the books and see all the pictures and whatnot, but I understand that'd be a lot of effort so it isn't exactly feasible. I still couldn't tell you what the back covers of most Beatles albums look like even tho I'm a Beatles obsessive and have known them for years because all I get to see is the front cover.

    Very true. When you put money into something specifically, instead of everything like streaming, you'll likely want to spend some more time with it or/and trying to get to like it to get your moneys worth.
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  8. Kingsley Fats

    Kingsley Fats Forum Resident

    To me streaming supplants radio rathers than physical product.

    Yes streaming is a factor in the decline in sales of Cd's, vinyl etc but it is only one factor among many.
  9. Phil Tate

    Phil Tate Miss you Indy x

    South Shields
    I don't think of streaming as unsatisfying, it serves a purpose and I find it pretty convenient if I just fancy listening to something I don't own physically. I would find paying for a download incredibly unsatisfying however. As I've said before, if I'm paying money, I want a physical product. Paying for a streaming service is different, it's like paying for Sky TV or a phone contract.
  10. Freedom Rider

    Freedom Rider Senior Member

    To me, streaming is very satisfying for the purposes I use it for.

    Just as buying physical product is hugely satisfying... just in a different way.

    I don't have a dog in this "fight" of formats - the 'best of both worlds' approach is the route I've naturally gravitated to, and that's where I currently stand.
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  11. douglas mcclenaghan

    douglas mcclenaghan Forum Resident

    Waiting for the heavy artillery to open fire.
  12. JayB

    JayB Senior Member

    For me streaming basically replaces the radio (as someone mentioned above) with the major difference being I can control what's played and what I want to check out. Who want's to sit through the same old "classic rawk" songs over and over and over and over..?

    It's also great for checking out artists or albums that I may have interest but not a lot of background in prior to actually buying a physical product. I've discovered some great music through streaming I could never have done otherwise.

    I still buy tons of physical product some of which I discovered directly through the streaming services.
  13. Daven23

    Daven23 Forum Resident

    Hyde Park NY USA
    Streaming is great for when I’m in the car. But if I want to own it I’ll buy it. Renting streams can result in not having access to the music at a later point in time (possibly) but not worth the risk to me
  14. bvb1123

    bvb1123 Rock and Roll Martian

    Cincinnati Ohio
    I tend to treat streaming in two different ways. The first is to sample new (or new to me) music to decide if I want to buy it. I will usually give the album a couple listens before deciding. The other way I treat streaming is like I used to treat my Walkman and listen to playlists that I've made while I'm walking or working out. I don't think either is devalued in listening as opposed to listening to physical product. Although, if I'm sitting around listening to music I like to listen to CDs instead of streaming so in that way I think physical media beats out streaming but that's just strictly personal preference.
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  15. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Essex, UK
    It's a conundrum. It also plays into psychological factors.

    I think streaming - almost synonymous with writing "Spotify" - is for me like drinking a can of soda. There's a huge spike in sugar levels, with an inevitable crash later. There's a sense of being completely out of control, out of equilibrium. At least when it comes to the kind of listening I'm interested in, which is complete albums, and never singles/individual tracks, or Greatest Hits compilations.

    I think streaming doesn't scratch the itch because it's unbridled, uncurated, and is an exercise in wild abandon, which feels good at the time, but leaves you empty later.

    Here's my own feelings, which may or may not apply to you. I've always bought my music on physical media. I've been doing this since the 60's, so you can take from that it's a well established pattern of musical development. This has had both positive and negative impacts. To start with the negative, there is a limit on how much I can afford to spend on music. This finite resource meant I had to be selective about what I got, and what I passed on. I certainly couldn't get everything I wanted, when I wanted it. Add into that pot the vagaries of the pre-Internet world - some titles just weren't available internationally, or if they were, they were on import at twice the price. It limited what you got to listen to.

    Now, this can be seen in two ways. On the one hand it's a tragic loss of music I'd likely of loved. On the other, I carefully curated everything I got. What I got was for good reason, which is not to say I didn't take risks and sometimes shoot in the dark, but if I did it was in some kind of knowledge I might enjoy something. Once bought, the money now gone, it behooved me to give the album some of my time. No 30/60 second sample, no trying one track and running for the hills, no creating a huge pile of unplayed titles I swear I'm going to get to one day - this was real money on a specific title, a commitment.

    The curation is the key, I think. It goes deeper than just deciding what one likes or dislikes. Because buying an album hit the bottom line, you were more careful, and I'd wager more successful in finding albums you enjoy.

    How does this work in the age of streaming? As I've written before, streaming essentially gives you the keys to the record store. You can listen to anything you want, at any time (albeit limited somewhat by the catalog your service has). It's unbridled. It doesn't care if you're playing Rhianna one moment, and Stockhausen the next. Click click click, whatever you want, whenever you want, how often you want. Curation, as I defined it, is relegated to secondary, and often is handed over to an algorithm that we don't truly know the inner working of (I've never seen an algorithm offer a better recommendation that a friend who suggested an album to me, but perhaps that's just me).

    In the early days of usage I found Spotify amazing. I created a "want to listen" list that was obscene. It was going to take me a year or more to listen to everything I wanted to hear. What was missing was some kind of controlling mechanism, beyond time itself. These are times of a flat rate payment, the cost - at least in money terms - of listening to one thing didn't affect my ability to listen to something else. Now, of all the things I know the value of, it's the pound in my pocket. I've personally found that the trepidation of spending hard-earned on music is actually a useful tool to combat an unfocused parade of new music (new, as in new to me) hitting the ear drums. There's a distinct difference between buying something on an individual basis, and paying a subscription and clicking.

    Streaming has many advantages. It's cheap. You have access to more things than there is time for you to listen to. It's available on the move and on many different devices. It's easy to use.

    Streaming also has disadvantages, which are less acknowledged. You can become unfocused in your listening. The amount of time you have to listen to music is finite, and you squander that time on things you only want to hear once rather than developing a real connection and love for something. You have to be connected to the net - with associated costs - to make it work. You own nothing.

    The other thing is the Millennial "stuff" factor. Millennials don't want stuff, apparently. Fair enough, to a point. For me, not being a Millennial, I feel differently. If I visit someones house, I'll cast an eye about as one does. If I see a bookshelf full of books, books that have actually been read, then I get a nice warm feeling inside. When I see a Vinyl or CD collection sitting there, I love it. You see, these are things that are obviously important enough to someone to have on full display, and kept close to them. We tend to keep the things we love close to us, and in the case of music and books, it says a lot about a person, imo. You see, it's not about "stuff", it's about who we are as people. For me, there is no glory in a plain white wall, or the corner of a room with nothing in it. I don't care about brands of clothes, the car you drive, the jewelry you wear, the Wine you drink, or the plushness of your couch. They're all.... just there.

    Of course, you can read books on Kindles and the like. I've done that too, and will still do so time to time. I have a pretty good tablet, actually. However, it's no substitute for a paper based book. The words are the same, but there's no tactile feel. It's a bit like the difference between loving your wife and loving a stranger in a photograph.

    I think as humans, we need constraint. In fact, we're all constrained, if by nothing else but by time itself. Beyond that however are things like quality of time spent (however you want to define it), value propositions, and then the pleasure things give you when you're not actually using that thing (such as casting an eye across the spines of the discs in your collection and remembering every crack in a case, faded text, and title.) Buying music forces you to curate your experience more stringently that you do with Streaming, and that's not a bad thing.

    Of course, this alone will be a huge turn-off for many - why be constrained by what titles you can afford to buy, when you can get access to them for virtually nothing? I think the answer to that may well be, because the value we put on things is an essential part of our being. It is part of our enjoyment, the way we experience things. Who hasn't had that extra rush at finding a singed copy of an album you love, or a special pressing? It all matters. Perhaps that's just me, but if it is, it's wholly true, so it's all good.

    The question is, how much of what I think and feel on this subject is down to my age and life experiences, and what is relevant to Millennials who have grown up in a Streaming world? Not to put anyone down, but in the end I really don't care what Millennials think about me and all my "stuff", any more than they care about what I feel about their habits. Without a doubt, Streaming has changed the way people, generally, consume music. It can never go back to how it was. Even the labels aren't trying too hard to maintain the old model what with the killing off of CD, and limited releases of vinyl.

    But I suspect there will always be a group of people who think as I do. People who value a physical collection. Honestly? That's my group, and the only group I truly care about. If people want to pay $10 a month and consume all they want, that's fine - but they're not my people (without wanting to sound like a cranky old man).

    Which leads me to the conclusion that Streaming is less fulfilling - for some - because essentially you've valued the music less from the outset. If you won't give it house room, won't give it sufficient time (repeatedly), don't care about booklets, cover art, and credits (and no, reading them online isn't the same thing for the very reasons I've outlined), then you're simply in a different group than people to myself. We likely have some things in common - an interest in music - but we diverge from there. I value constraints. I know that lack of funds not only limits when I get to listen to, but has also sharpened my skills in knowing what is going to be a hit for me, and what's not. It's important.

    Streaming, downloading music files, reading on a Kindle - are all secondary experiences from the real thing. Cyber sex isn't actual sex, as it were. I just don't put much value into a file - even if it plays back the very same thing. It's just not the same. And in this (very very) long post, I think I'm only scratching the surface of why that is.
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  16. Eleventh Earl of Mar

    Eleventh Earl of Mar Somehow got them all this far.

    New York
    I like it for single listening/checking artists out

    If I'm going to listen to a record, I probably have it either physical or digital - I wouldn't stream an entire album with the amount of storage space which is cheap.

    I wouldn't call it "unsatisfying" if I was forced to, just less desirable at best.
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  17. coffeetime

    coffeetime Senior Member

    Lancs, UK
    Streaming is highly satisfying here, all part of my musical diet that also includes physical purchases & purchased downloads.

    Love my physical SDEs and the tactil flicking through books, ephemera and CD/BluRay sleeves (hello Abbey Road SDE and forthcoming Floyd Later Years box), purchased downloads (only other option for the Sony 2016 remasters of the 1977-1983 Star Wars soundtrack reissues was on vinyl and I don’t have a turntable) and my Apple Music account (get to explore new to me music, can listen to my existing 1500+ CD collection on demand without needing to rip, curate metadata and decant files on and off devices.)

    It’s not an either/or thing. Same with books. Love my hardbacks, especially those authors have signed, love my Kindle and the books I read on it, love my Audible subscription, love my occasional Marvel Unlimited subscription on iPad for their comics.

    Listening to Apple Music hasn’t meant I’ve had to stop buying physical media, and buying swanky SDEs hasn’t meant having to cancel my streaming subscription. I can listen to both on the main lounge system and around the house, with everything on demand when I’m at work, in the car and out walking. When I’m listening, no matter where, I’m keyed in to the music itself, not the source or carrier.
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  18. Django

    Django Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    Yeah, I personally find streaming a bit meh. I don't find downloads that interesting either. I usually back them up on hard drives & end up forgetting about them.
    It's all in the head I suppose.
  19. vulcangascompany

    vulcangascompany Forum Resident

    SW UK
    It's the fast food of music listening - quick, cheap but ultimately you know you'd rather be looking at a LP sleeve and reading CD liner notes. Like most junk food i love it but everything in moderation.
  20. RoyalPineapple

    RoyalPineapple It ain't me in the photo, babe.

    -Why does red wine taste better out of a crystal glass than a chipped coffee mug?

    -Why does Indian food taste better in a dimly lit restaurant than out of a takeaway carton?

    -Why do speakers sound better with expensive cables (even if in a blind test we can't tell the difference)?

    -Why do green anti-anxiety tablets (even if they are placebo pills) work better than red ones?

    There's more to the story than "sound quality". It's not just the sound that is important. It's the context it is presented in; the container.

    People are starting to realise that the benefit that Hi-Res music offers isn't sound quality at all. In a blind test, we all become hapless guessers as to whether we are listening to 16/44.1, 24/192 or even 320kbps mp3 (and therefore I welcome Amazon's labelling of CD quality as 'HD').

    But the context offered by the placebo effect is far more powerful than most people realise. And so even if a well-encoded MP3 includes all the sound audible to the human brain, it still feels flimsy, cheap, insignificant, disposable. It lacks stature in our minds.

    That's why Hi-Res streaming is a contradiction in terms. Unfortunately, and I think this answers the question, streaming is not currently designed for the rituals of the placebo effect. It is designed for simple convenience, ease of use. Signing up for Hi-Res streaming is like buying an expensive wine with a fancy label and then drinking it out of the coffee mug.

    I think there's a market for luxury placebos (products with psychological stature) and a market for convenience, but trying to combine the two results in sacrificing one or the other. Streaming is a great discovery tool. But for those who want their music to have some stature, physical products (or to some extent downloads) are still the gold standard.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  21. juss100

    juss100 Forum Resident

    That's a good post that you've put a lot of thought into, and too much to respond to all of!

    However, I want to comment on this because as a librarian I hear it a lot, and from other librarians too. I truly hate this idea that books are better because they are tactile. Books are the way they are because it was the only way of printing words and disseminating/storing information, they weren't made that way because you could touch them or smell them. You don't need to touch a word in order to communicate, we do it via internet right now or by voice in person.

    That's not my issue though. The weird thing I don't get is ... what's your attitude towards libraries? When I was a kid I loved music and books and wanted more more more that I couldn't afford to buy for myself, so I used a library. Rather a lot. I'd say that without the library being there I may not have developed the passions for reading and music I eventually did, but having that opportunity to go and explore stuff beyond my means was so exciting and an absolute gift. You had to take books back although you could copy CDs to tape of course, but they still didn't feel owned in the same way and I was still excited to support my favourite bands and purchase their albums.

    But fetishising owning stuff as the only true way to appreciation of that stuff is a real disservice to the millions of people who can't afford to buy and own that stuff. I don't get how using a library - which is what spotify is - is denigrating to the experience of discovering anything. Time constraints do indeed mean you can't listen to everything, so equally one has to "curate"(this is actually something I think very few record and music collectors actually do, but like to think of themselves as doing. Does one even curate a collection that's designed simply for oneself?). I'm constantly thinking about and making decisions on where my musical journey will take me next thanks to those limits, what I want to pursue and listen more and what should go on the backburner. I think rather than diminish this aspect, I think that spotify increases the need for music-lovers to engage with what they choose to listen to - fact is one can do it more on one's own terms now. Want to get into jazz? When I got into jazz I simply couldn't afford more than 3-5 CDs every couple of weeks and I was brimming with enthusiasm for the endless possibilities out there. I had a 1000 page book full of good recordings to hear ... you can't "curate" what you don't even know you like and so I went to the library - in my mid-20s - and blitzed that place. As a 40 yr old I still feel I've barely scratched the surface of jazz but I can at least talk about major artists and albums now. Now if I want to get into jazz Spotify has me covered, and would have given me good knowledge of a genre I've grown to love, the opportunity to hear "Live at the Plugged Nickel" which I couldn't have until years later.

    Don't get me wrong I see a lot of people online who use it badly, but you're blaming the tool and not the person. People who take massive lists and tick them off as they listen to 30 secs of each one are probably doing it wrong - although it's up to them, of course. I'm guilty of that behaviour too from time to time, but equally I'm returning to recordings I find interesting regularly, not just back-burnering everything I've heard from my checklist. You have to know what's out there so that's the equivalent of scanning a page to take in the broad subject before returning and reading an article in depth. The problem with the way a lot of people use spotify, I find, is that they don't do the returning part but they claim to know and understand ... incidentally a bit like the people who were most annoying in my philosophy lectures at Uni who thought they knew everything from reading a summary in the Oxford Companion. Again, don;t criticise the tool but the commitment and interest of the person using that tool. There's a ton of different ways you can approach music using spotify - buying LPs/CDs is one, equally valid way, of enjoying music.

    Spotify is just a library and libraries are fabulous places full of opportunity and learning. I don't like the way people hole themselves off from them in order to hoard their own purchases as if their own collection that literally nobody else can have access to is more special. I say that as someone who hoards his own collection, of course ...

    (And where does this all put the live experience? A lot of my appreciation for Opera/Classical - and rock/metal music too - has come from attending live events over the years, an important way of consuming music imo but you can't take it home with you)
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
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  22. DrZhivago

    DrZhivago Hedonist

    Brisbane Australia
    i don’t mind streaming when i’m out and about. as someone already said here. its like radio just 100 times better. when im at home and have some time its always cd or record
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  23. GubGub

    GubGub Forum Resident

    I suspect that for most people who have grown up with streaming it is not unsatisfying at all. It is THE method by which they consume music and represents the normal.

    For those of us who grew up with physical product, the experience of listening to music was not just about listening to music. It included handling the media, looking at the sleeve, reading the notes and the credits. Streaming can't provide that.

    Clearly streaming has established its place and its audience in the modern world. Our fear is that it will ultimately replace the alternatives that we find more satisfying. But hell, I need to stop filling my house with stuff anyway. I just doubt that I could ever grow to love a song or an album through streaming to the degree that I have with physical products.
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  24. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Recently picked up a few Mick Taylor live cds. A friend, who I recommended these to, who "now only uses Spotify to listen to music"... (he used to play cds, and spin vinyl...)
    was not able to find these on Spotify. Hmm... too bad...
  25. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    I think that the fact that "streaming" is done on a device (smart phone) that has basically become a umbilical cord to almost every person breathing, has made it THE method...
    Vaughan likes this.
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