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Music: Stream or Buy?

·3 mins

Which is right for me, streaming or buying my music?

TL;DR: Both

Phil’s recent note about streaming vs “owning” caused me to review how I think about it. My attitude about “owning” music continues to evolve.

One advantage I may have is that I don’t think of streaming services as music that I “rent” and that can be ripped out from underneath me any time. To me, streaming services are $10/month commercial-free radios that let me play DJ. I never worry that, if they disappear, I would no longer have access to that music. The most I’d lose would be my playlists and an educated AI. That doesn’t concern me at all. I don’t make playlists. I almost always listen to albums, as god intended.

I use Roon for music. Roon is (far and away) my favorite way to browse and manage my music library. It can also hook into Tidal or Qobuz and magically combines my local library with one (or both) of those streaming services.

Roon doesn’t work outside my LAN, so when I’m not home I use Apple Music. It’s fine, and it comes with my Apple One subscription, so it’s likely I’ll keep it.

Speaking of subscriptions, Roon costs money. And the service I choose, Qobuz, also costs money. Subscription Fatigue is real, and I’ve been evaluating the things I’m paying for every month.

The good news is that I paid for a lifetime license to Roon years ago, so that’s no longer costing me anything. Qobuz is around $11/month. I like the service, but it might be the least “necessary”. What if I were to cancel? I’d have to rely on music I own, on my hard drive. I’ve decided that this is OK. Preferable, even.

My digital music collection is sparse, and it sucks. Mostly bad CD rips from 90s. Can’t get too much Chalk Farm, right? But then, in comes Bandcamp, and kind of changes the game. I can buy great new music in a way that gets me immediate, permanent FLAC copies that don’t cost too much. Also, the artists get an average of 82% of every purchase. Everybody wins.

This means that if I buy one or two albums a month on average from Bandcamp, I’m about even with what I was spending on Qobuz. And I “own” the music. And I get to use Roon.

I have two modes when it comes to music. The first is that I just want to have some music on. For that, I can stream Apple Music. The other mode is deliberate listening. I want this to be high-quality and under my control. Purchased music that I own and manage is perfect for that.

And don’t forget, for when I’m all-in, I have a nice vinyl collection.

So, I’ve settled into a comfortable combination of both streaming and owning my music.