Twenty-seven years ago, I left my parent’s home with the intention of becoming a music teacher. This journey led me to Northwestern College, where I was prepared to become a music teacher. In the process, I learned a lot about music, and I listened to a lot of music. We were encouraged to attend performances (student rush) of the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera–as well as to go to performances by outstanding college choirs, bands, and orchestras that made it to the Twin Cities. We also listened to a lot of music, and I made it my goal to buy a CD of everything we studied. This was before you could easily burn a copy of a CD onto another CD, and also before mp3 and aac formats. Buying a disc that was DDD (digital recording, digital processing, digital finishing) was a special thing at the time.
I talk about this not to show how old I am (45 as of November 3rd), but to stress that OWNING music was a big thing to me. Jewel cases (some cardboard), CD liners, and so on. I didn’t get into digital formats until 2003 or 2004. At that point, I had a Dell DJ (a competitor to the iPod which lost, like so many others) and started converting my music library on the Windows platform. In 2005, my wife-to-be and I decided to get iPods for Valentine’s Day, which was what started my love affair with Apple. I had to re-rip my entire library and my wife’s smaller library…and did the painful process of tagging albums, getting artwork (scanning if necessary) or so on.
I eventually did the same thing with my movie library, which was also extensive.
It wasn’t long before my CD (and DVD) collection became very dusty, as I was only accessing my music (and movies) on my computer or on my personal devices.
When the iPad came out in 2010, I sold my CDs and DVDs to pay for my the first iPad (pennies on the dollars compared to the investment in music), and later subscribed to Apple Music Match ($25 a year) that legalized everything in my library and made a redundant copy in the cloud.
I didn’t need Spotify or Pandora, as I had all of my music in the cloud–including ensemble recordings and reference recordings (e.g. accompaniment files for solo and ensemble literature). When Apple Music came out, there were problems. Several music aficionados experienced a loss of their Music Match library when enrolling in Apple Music. I didn’t see the need to pay $9 or $15 (family) a month for music when I could buy new music myself if I wanted it. So I didn’t do that.
Well, this summer, we decided to enroll in Apple Music, as you get three free months. And the truth is that I probably don’t use it as much as I should (most of my time in the car is spent listening to podcasts) but the $15 a month is already recovered when my wife can pull up songs or albums that she wants to listen to. And music match continues to work. I just added some ukulele accompaniment tracks to my iTunes Library…and sure enough…they were almost instantly available (under “My Music”) in Apple Music.
I might even be able to deduct the $15 a month (as well as the $25 a year for Music Match).
This is a paradigm shift for me. I have gone from hoarding plastic boxes (in specialized cases) to hoarding things on an external disc to simply paying $15 a month to have access to just about any music that I would ever want or need to listen to. It’s pretty crazy to think about.
I think back to the days that you had to buy a cassette or full CD to listen to one song that you liked. Millennials have grown up buying a single track at a time ($0.99 or $1.29). And now, you get pretty much everything for $15 a month. That’s less expensive than a single CD.
So why is it so hard to make that shift? As musicians, we need Music Match so that our performances and our ensemble’s performances can remain accessible to us. But if you aren’t a musician with your own recordings to manage–you don’t even need Music Match! I even know some super-tech-savy music educators who digitize everything and are still holding on to those jewel cases.
Ultimately, I hope and trust that artists are being paid appropriately by Apple and others. And I also desperately want to see these same options for movies. I would love to be able to move away from hosting my own collection on my own hard drive.
If you have been thinking about making this move, I do have some suggestions for you. First, have a physical copy of your own music on hand, particularly the material that isn’t going to be available in the cloud. Music Match saved my bacon once, as a hard drive failed. I had a copy of the movies on that drive…but not the music. Thankfully, the music was all in the cloud and downloaded (over time) back to the new drive. Second, think about how much you spend on music (to listen to) or could spend on music. Or that your family could spend on music. When you join Apple Music (or other services), you won’t be spending $13-$16 per CD, or $1.29 per song. You will simply have access to just about everything (some artists delay streaming releases…but that music eventually makes its way there, too). And there are tools to find new music that you might like, too. It is very exciting–and really quite affordable. There is nothing to fear.
Sadly, your old CDs (and DVDs!) have lower resale value than ever before. I think I sold most of my collection for $1 per CD or DVD seven years ago…and you would be lucky to get that pricing today (in bulk). Even collectors editions do not really fetch any value any more. So, don’t expect any kind of return on your old CDs and DVDs. But that isn’t why you bought that music in the first place. However…once you have access to everything–consider selling or donating your collection, because you aren’t going to need it any more. Simplify your life–get rid of things you don’t need anymore!
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