As a listener, I was never a fan of streaming music services. Pandora was useless to me since I want to listen to what I want, when I want. Last.FM, eMusic or Rhapsody just never did it for me for various reasons, mostly having to do with their poor user experience. A few months ago, I tried out Rdio and was all of a sudden hooked. Once I realized how much I liked the service, I thought it may be interesting to measure the potential effect it may have on my music listening habits by keeping a diary of them.
Before joining Rdio I would estimate that 90% of my music listening was
done through iTunes and the remaining 10% was done through either blogs
or Hype Machine. I may listen to a band for a few seconds on MySpace to check them out and can’t say I have streamed more than one song a month from a Facebook player. I do not enjoy most streams since their audio fidelity is lacking, so until I tried Rdio and Spotify, I found the idea of listening to audio on a stream to be an annoying experience. The quality of both services interfaces and their streams greatly changed my view on what streaming music can be on the web.
For the sake of
honesty, I will also admit that I rarely buy music. For the better part of the last 5 years, I have either stolen it all
through torrent sites, or acquired it by downloading from blogs or friends. I don’t
want to put an exact number on how much I download to avoid any
lawsuits, but I did go back to my download folder and counted how many
records I illegally downloaded each month before I joined Rdio, in order to measure the potential change it may have on this habit. While I am not proud of this fact, it is the truth. I have legally purchased less than 10 records a year for the last six years. I haven’t bought a CD at a retail store since 2004. The only time I buy a CD is to support a touring band on the road and will occasionally support a band though their Bandcamp, if I want to contribute to them.
After measuring all of this, I was skeptical that the change in my habits would be as great as I found it to be. For the past two months, I now listen to iTunes
for less than half of my music listening when I am not mobile (I still use my iPod
when I am out and about, since Rdio has yet to make a Blackberry App), and
Rdio now takes up a little over 50% of my music listening overall. I never used to make playlists in iTunes but I now keep a running playlist of my favorite tracks inside Rdio.
listen to half as much music on Hype Machine and blogs as I used to. I attribute this to the fact that I usually used these outlets to discover new music and I now do that through Rdio. Every Tuesday, Rdio has up a list of the new releases which I browse and listen to anything that piques my interest. Most of these records I never listen to a
second time. I find this process to be far superior to scouring blogs and downloading records since it saves me time from downloading them and
the artists gets paid (a small fee) for me testing them out. A little more than 30% of my overall music listening is first listens to a given song, so this process makes up a great deal of my music listening each month.
The most interesting thing I found, is that I now illegally download
about 40% less records per month. This has been the case for the three
months I have been on Rdio at nearly the same percentage each month. Much of the time I listen to records I would have downloaded on Rdio’s service. I believe I stopped downloading these records, since
it was more instant to just listen to them on Rdio. While I was one to
scoff at the idea of streaming services diminishing piracy, my own
behavior has proven me wrong.
I have found that like most music consumers, I will use whatever gets me music in the least clicks possible. Whether it is listening to music I would otherwise download from torrent sites or the fact that I even started purchasing music from the service. Over the past few months, I would find myself leaving the house and would want to have some of the songs I have been streaming to put on my iPod. Since I got used to the convenience of the Rdio service, I was too annoyed to search long for the song I wanted and instead bought them straight from the service. This made me purchase a few songs I never would have purchased otherwise.
The Future Of Music Listening
I see this as a good sign for the future of music. Not only is this reckless music pirate, illegally downloading less music, when I am trying out new music, the artists are getting paid for the discovery process. Music streaming has now become an enjoyable enough user experience that I no longer feel the need to resort to torrents and instead feel like a legal means of listening to music is easier and more direct. If this trend continues I see promise in the ability to charge more for music streaming and have it become a growing income stream for musicians that is sustainable for years to come.