Monday, 13 July 2009

Online jukebox magic

I've been disconnected from the wired world for a few days. My 30 gig iPod has a ridiculous amount of tunes on to cater for most moods, and is brilliant for when I'm travelling. One of these days I might even get around to deleting the ones I don't like / have no idea how they got on there in the first place, but with oodles of capacity it's never got to the top of the "to do" list. Once upon a time I used to use it in the office too, BOSE noise cancelling headphones firmly on whilst I battled to concentrate in an open plan battery-chicken farm / office.

Then a few years ago I discovered music streaming online. Choice and control at my finger tips. Whether I owned the music or not. All in exchange for mentally screening out a few ads.

First I fell in love with US based Pandora, then they blocked UK IP addresses over rights and royalty issues. Fair enough. But I did love its' suggestions, random as sometimes they were, but the ability to create my own stations around whims and themes was great. The Charlie Brown Christmas Album always makes me smile and think of the friend in the US who introduced me to it, not that I am ever likely to buy it. But all of a sudden for a few weeks I could dip in and out.

From there I moved onto Last fm, which I also loved for "it's if you like that you might like this" feature. It worked well, but digitally curious as I am, I was lured by something newer and shinier:

Spotify. A desktop app that delivers pleasure everyday. And then better still I discovered that for a token £0.99 you could block out the ads (that don't bother me when I'm working) for 24 hours. So now I don't even have to pre-prep playlists for parties or when I have friends over, I can just go with the mood and the moment. Music truly at my fingertips. Playlists created with a few quick clicks. If you haven't tried it yet I recommend you do. I'm not even sure whether I'll replace my old iPod for a newer shinier one. With Android & iPhone apps that (do/will) allow you to cache a playlist to listen to offline, why would I need to?

I think it raises interesting questions. I grew up in a world where owning records /cassettes /cds and having "things" to show for your money was important. Album artwork was iconic. Pouring over lyrics inside album covers was de facto. For teenagers today who are used to streaming, downloading, and widespread connectivity, why would they need to own stuff they can readily access pretty much anytime anywhere? Are there similar implications for books with Kindle & other e-readers? Arnie is apparently banning school text book printing for cash strapped California in favour of digital versions.

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