Guilt about not buying music

Guilt about not buying music

Ever feel guilty about not buying music?

I don’t mean stealing, torrenting or other ways of not paying for music. I mean the guilt of not directly paying for an artists work (song, album, video, whatever) in this day of streaming everything. Maybe guilt is the wrong word. Do you ever miss the feeling of not having some physical representation of your fandom?

Sometimes I do but I’m not sure why. I’ve likely spent more money, on average, every year for the last few years for music streaming than I did back when I’d either purchase a CD or something on iTunes. (Paid subscriptions include Spotify and Satellite radio but don’t include the ads I listen to on Pandora, Satellite radio stations and video ads.) Perhaps it’s nostalgia or maybe the ownership of a physical item is more salient? 

This came about as we’ve been traveling frequently between northern and southern California preparing for our wedding. We recently went into a Rasputin Music in Stockton where CDs cost $0.99 — $3.99 for used and upwards of $15 for new and popular albums. Besides the nostalgia of songs we’d heard back in the day (which are easy to find on Spotify or YouTube) there was a practical reason to have CDs — my now wife’s car doesn’t have a way to interact with our iPhones, has basic radio (terrible on long road trips) and a 6-disc CD player (sometimes it’s nice to have “off-line” music choices).

As we bought CDs for the trip, I had a hard time reconciling what I’ do with the physical discs once the trips were done with. I did however feel like it was more apparent (salient) we were directly contributing to the artists — showing our support as it was. I know better than to think the artist sees any (or much) of that money but there was a more direct link. This was the first time in a long time I gave much thought to paying specifically for one album (first time in a long time I’ve purchased one physically).

I’d purchased a number of albums over the years on iTunes and Apple recently gave away millions of free copies of U2’s latest album but those have a different feeling. Guilt temporarily kicked in.

I enjoy supporting artists on kickstarter where backing a project feels like a personal investment. I enjoy going to concerts from time to time and seeing an artist in person. I think buying a CD gave me some of the feeling of person investment but I don’t think streaming music or buying an album online provides that opportunity or feeling.

Maybe someday that will change?

From a recent TIME article:

Bono tells TIME he hopes that a new digital music format in the works will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music — whole albums as well as individual tracks. The point isn’t just to help U2 but less well known artists and others in the industry who can’t make money, as U2 does, from live performance.

Then again, maybe not.

Cross published on Medium.

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Jamie Larson