(lack of) Free Music Appreciation

Realistically, no one really has to pay for a piece of entertainment ever again.

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Need a film? Hop on a torrent site and download it! Swerve Netflix, because in reality, there’s only ever 3 good films on there. The rest are just crap movies you’d find on Channel 5 on a Tuesday night. The same sentiment goes for music. New album from your favourite artist? No need to buy it! Legal glorified torrent sites music streaming services have you covered. Free music appreciation doesn’t exist.

This trend has me worried, and my fear is this: our music appreciation suffers, when music is being given to us so readily for free.

Moneys History

Let’s remember days-gone-by. Walking into HMV with £20 in your back-pocket, knowing you only had enough for two albums. You’d spend hours flicking through the different genres, seeing which album cover caught your eye. By the end there’d be a stack of CD’s, but only two were coming home with you. There were serious decisions to be made.

This choice determined what you’d be listening to for the next fortnight, forcing us to carefully invest, both time and money, in the music we wanted to listen to.

Now, you can have whatever you want, whenever you want. All for free.

This creates a weird dynamic between consumer and artist. Artists are now asking us to buy their music. Long gone are the days where the artist had the power and could say “fuck you this isn’t free, want to hear my stuff then you’ve got to buy it.” They now have to justify charging you for their product.


An album is expensive to make, and when it comes out but it isn’t available to stream – people lose their shit and start complaining like a woman with the ‘can I see the the manager’ haircut. “How much?! I have to buy it?! With MONEY?!”, whilst guzzling down a large soya-pratta-fuckha-chino which cost £2 more than the album does.

“But Joel, you out of touch cock-womble. Vinyl sales are on the rise! I bought Adele’s new album on wax. Do some research before you write a pompous blog post about how free music is killing the industry.” – Barnaby, 29, enjoys Tofu and puts the milk in first when making tea.

Well, hold your horses there young scallywag.

According to my sources, 48% of people who buy vinyl don’t even listen to it. Meaning it just ends up strung on a wall, to become a talking point at dinner parties. In my eyes, that still isn’t appreciating music. Granted, it is a lot better than simply streaming it; the artist’s being supported for one. But streaming is still king, which isn’t going to change any time soon.

Music appreciation lives again!

So, the best things in life may be free. But the best music shouldn’t be. Music is becoming increasingly devalued and under appreciated. But we can change that! This is my call to action.

Be honest with yourself:

  • When was the last time you bought an album?
  • What’s the ratio of your music consumption; between streamed to bought?
  • What albums do you cherish the most?

By supporting the artists we love, and buying their music, we get to own a piece of art and increase our music appreciation – far more than if it was just streamed. So let’s do it for the buskers, pub-giggers and support acts all over: the up-and-comers who struggle to pay the rent, for the love of their art.

They need us, but more importantly, we need them. Because the following generations may not be able to answer this question:

What was the first album you ever bought?

7 thoughts on “(lack of) Free Music Appreciation

  • Agree!
    But honestly? I’ve done allot of things not on the moral high ground…. but can honestly say I pay for my music …. mostly/ I do you tube now and again but have copies at home, it is virtual music but I do pay- can we get a poll on here?
    I’m interested – am I an aging dying breed of human that genuinely doesn’t stream for free as a regular thing? Also Joel…. have you been guilty of it? 🙂 what makes us do that and why? It’s not on !! please know I agree…. but does some good come out of it? Platforms for starting out artists? Lilley Allen and MySpace? All just thoughts, all just sharing aloud, all just an older person probably not thinking this through and talking out of context ….
    The last blog challenged me to find a new artist- the only one I looked up was on you tube- I guess I streamed it/ would I have done that and now be considering buying more from this Artist if I couldn’t? Would I have gone out and bought a CD on a recommendation? That because they are not ‘signed’ I can’t check out any other way. I’m not so sure…. i suppose there was something nice about a record shop and the headphones, but it was never convenient or relaxing and as a mum I couldn’t have done that while a toddler ran about.

    it was a classical piece called Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams …. not my usual choice but one I enjoyed and gave me a different experience.
    Streaming not good, fair, or right- but does it have a place?

    • The artist I listened to probably does have a CD but is streaming any good for those that don’t have cd’s is my rambling point x

    • Thanks for your in-depth response Lin!

      In terms of streaming – I don’t use Spotify or any other similar streaming services. I’m a bit old school and like to have an iTunes library that is then transferrable onto my iPod, which then goes everywhere with me. I only really use YouTube as a way to listen to new music, and sample the songs to see if I’d like to buy the album/song, or listen to more stuff by that artist. Referring back to the post about music discovery, it’s one of the main ways I find new music – falling down an obscure rabbit hole into corners of YouTube where smaller artists live.

      I think Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube are amazing ways to discover new music and listen to things on the go, they have their place in being a platform for you to sample what you want to buy. I see streaming services as this:

      At supermarkets there are those little ‘taster’ plates with cheese on. You can take a cube of cheese, see whether you like it, and if you do – there’s the mutual understanding that you’ll go and buy a whole block of that cheese. What you don’t do, is scoop all of the tasters into a bag and take them home for yourself. Returning every day because you know there is a way to get free cheese.

      This is what streaming services happily provide. A way for people to get music all the time, for absolutely nothing.

      Great piece by Ralph Williams by the way – something different for me too but I enjoyed it all the same!

      J x

  • Now this is one of those rare comments on life which seems almost panoptic. You have really captured from an omniscient height, just what it is that has become so agonisingly hypocritical about modern society’s attitude to the consumption and experience of music. I am gripped by your ability to focus on those common moments of nostalgia such as the inaugural record purchase and the idiotic subversion of music ownership in which a vinyl becomes some fetishised trophy-obect, an indicator of one’s cultural smugness. It is perhaps important to remember – and I’m borrowing from John Berger and Will Self here – that in the modern era in which music is once again an intangible thing, we need to recognise the distinction between value and cost. To refuse the brilliant artist the means to live is to prioritise the material cost to oneself over the intrinsic value of their work and the continuation of it. Music has always been a mode of communication with a beautiful commonality and ability to transcend barriers; it is powerfully intoxicating, evocative, reminiscent and special. Troubadours and bards communicated the messages of epochs to all who listened until music eventually became something commodified. Modern music is still an ethereal and ephemeral thing, only it is subject to fascinating corruption of function. No longer is delayed gratification something we can compute, no longer do we have that necessary space to exercise thoughtfully our choice, no longer are we prepared to fully appreciate. Posts like yours take the necessary step back.

    • Great comment SC.

      I’m glad I managed to get my point across coherently. Like I said in the post, I think there is a serious problem with people’s appreciation for music as art. It’s become a commodity, and by becoming a commodity, it has lost some of it’s raw, innate sense of what music ‘is’.

      Glad you appreciated the post and think I’m moving in the right direction – sometimes we’ve got to take a look back in order to move forwards!

  • Awesome article, funny and speaks volumes!

    I have to admit that Spotify is how I get my music. It’s cheap, convenient, and follows me around wherever I go. I even have albums gathering dust under my bed that I would rather hit play downstairs than have to walk all the way upstairs to get.. Oh, and go out and buy a cd player..

    I would add a small addition to your call to action:

    What albums do you cherish the most? – Buy them online directly through the band’s website even if you still listen to them on a streaming service. If not for the bigger acts that have already “made it”, at least do it for the up and comers, the people who have given up the normal life to struggle for their art.

    • Thanks for the feedback Richard!

      I feel the same about all the music on my iPod. Knowing I have my whole library in the palm of my hand is a wicked feeling, but I do feel a sense of nostalgia for CDs: flicking through the cover inserts with all of the lyrics inside especially. I do not miss the ball-ache of trying to fit the portable CD player into my baggy jeans while it skipped and jumped from track to track.

      Will make a small amendment now to include a more direct focus on supporting the up-and-comers.


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