Music downloads become a collector’s treasure

Digital-music collectors are amassing libraries of hundreds of thousands of songs instead of relying on streaming platforms

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Music downloads become a collector’s treasure


Future. Digital-music collectors are amassing libraries of hundreds of thousands of songs instead of relying on streaming platforms, hoping to keep a culture of ownership alive in an era where everybody is just renting in good faith. Many of these collectors are also online music curators — a skill that streaming services may soon pay top dollar for in order to elevate worthy but under-marketed artists above the noise.

Download to power
Millennials may remember the good ol’ days of paying $1.29 for a song on iTunes, burning CDs, or ripping from Limewire (in retrospect, not a good thing) to create the ultimate library.

For some, those days aren’t over because, according to collectors like Pitchfork’s Matthew Ismael Ruiz, downloading music offers four things.

  • Better access. Music on streaming services is decided by the labels and platforms. By owning the music, it can’t just disappear one day if a contract isn’t renewed, which happens.
  • More control. Collectors can rearrange the music however they want and put in the album artwork they prefer. All that it takes is the time they put into it.
  • Richer support. Top streamers like Spotify and Apple Music don’t have high payouts for artists… but a purchased and downloaded song puts way more coin in artists’ pockets.
  • Sharing the love. No matter what, everyone loves getting a personalized mixtape. Collectors pride themselves on being a community that can share music they love on places like Hollerboard or Dropbox to create discoverability.

When the stream dream ends
Whether you think collecting music is a waste of time and money (it takes a lot of both), concerns over leaving music in the hands of digital platforms aren’t without merit.

  • Neil Young recently pulled his music from Spotify in protest against COVID misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience.
  • Frank Ocean’s famous Nostalgia, ULTRA mixtape still isn’t available to stream anywhere because of rights issues.
  • De La Soul’s battle with their label makes their early music unavailable.
  • Aaliyah’s discography just recently became available to stream after a legal dispute was resolved.

The key thinking here is that, yes, music may be available at your fingertips now… but it could all go away in the future, temporarily or even permanently. Don’t you want to make sure you at least have your favorite albums saved on a hard drive just in case?


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