Does Spotify Mean the End of the iPod and Your Music Collection?

Categories: Fiesta!

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When I bought my first iPod--this was the first iPod, when the scroll wheel actually spun around--it was a severe blow to my nerd-cred, which I guarded pretty jealously at the time. (It was the only cred I had.) Relying on iTunes and its untouchable database to maintain my MP3 collection, instead of buying a hardcover-sized Nomad and creating my own byzantine folder structure for my music (read: anime and videogame soundtracks) was a huge party foul for the kind of people who were already on my case for insufficient command line usage.

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Ten years later the new iPod nano is out, and those same tech types are convinced this is the end of the line for everybody's favorite MP3 player. Because buying digital files in iTunes and keeping them organized in an untouchable database is now too difficult; the tech review crowd is convinced most of the market for this (very good) nano has or is about to move to streaming options. Thanks to Spotify, and my now-aging fifth-generation iPod, I've managed to lose nerd cred on both ends of the MP3 player era.

Is it true? Will streaming music services kill the iPod, even though they don't have all my anime soundtracks yet? Are my MP3s going to look as ridiculous as my CD towers 10 years from now?

The mainstreaming of the iPhone and second-generation smartphones like it was supposed to kill standalone MP3 players back in 2007, and to be honest they've done a pretty good job; the iPod, which maintains a dominant position in the market, is now a billion-dollar afterthought in Apple's quarterly reports, and the best-seller in the bunch is basically a smartphone for people too young or too smart to pay for a data plan like I do.

But few anticipated the way it would do it, even if we should've seen the signs. The first touch smartphones made pretty average MP3 players; flash memory was expensive, and your huge, iPod-optimized music collections were competing with apps and videos for the 4 or 8 GB offered in those first iPhones. It's true that people bought fewer MP3 players once they had these devices around all the time, but they were trading down, at the time, to an inferior music experience.

People will do that for a while--when was the last time you bought a point-and-shoot camera?--but eventually the experience itself is going to change to fit the devices people have on hand. Digital photography went from something you synced to iPhoto or Flickr with a USB cable to something you could share, instantly and ephemerally, with people on Instagram and Facebook. The quality's not the same as a decent point-and-shoot, so for most people it's no longer about quality.

So we started carrying around less flash storage, and paying for more bandwidth, and now music is less about keeping the songs you love around and more about having the chance to listen to whatever song you want at any given moment.

It's a reasonable trade, but I'm not sure I'll ever make the switch completely--which is another way of saying I'm too old to learn this trick.


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3 comments
robo042
robo042

If you have a spotify account (which is only ten bucks a month) you can play spotify tracks offline.

johnminkoff
johnminkoff

streaming is unreliable on mobile, doesn't have many things I listen to, and has barely adequate sound quality. It's nice but I only use it to sample things.

djB10
djB10 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've been a big music fan all my life but I've never bought a CD in a store.  When I was about 7 years old this thing crazy called Napster came out and since then I've jumped from one file sharing program to another (Kaaza, Bearshare, Morpheus, etc) downloading gigabyte after gigabyte of music.  My downloading addiction peaked when I learned how torrents work and I was spending hours a week carefully organizing and curating my iTunes MP3 collection.  All of that changed when Spotify came out in the US about a year ago or so.  By that time I had a full time job and so I immediately saw the value in paying $9.99 a month to not have to download, organize, and title (torrents are notorious for being sloppily titled) every single track or album I wanted to hear and then moving each track or album to my iPod.  I now spend much more time listening to music than I do organizing music and for that I am extremely grateful.  The big takeaway from my Spotify experience is that it converted me from a lifelong filesharer/torrenter to someone who now actually pays for music.    

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