Half Man Half Biscuit are an obscure satirical rock band from the 1980s and my husband wants their “Back in the D.H.S.S.” album for Christmas.
In the olden days, I’d have bought the CD so that he could unwrap something on Christmas Day (before copying it into iTunes and sticking it in a box in the attic).
The modern alternative then became a download straight from iTunes. If I chose this route, I could send my husband a romantic Christmas Day email from the iTunes store to tell him that “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit” and 16 other Half Man Half Biscuit tracks were now in his iTunes library. He says iTunes downloads are too compressed, but I can’t hear the difference and at £7.99 it’s £2 cheaper than buying the CD.
That’s expensive beside this year’s option. Over the last year streaming services like Spotify have started to take over and they are free. A seismic shift is taking place: CD sales are in freefall and iTunes downloads are down for the first time this year. So whilst those of us over 35 (see last week’s blog) are just starting to get our heads around “owning” an intangible download from Apple, those born after 1978 have moved on.
With Spotify you don’t own the music, but you can listen to any of their 20 million songs whenever you want, so “ownership” becomes a less meaningful concept. If you pay £10 a month for Spotify’s Premium service, the quality is higher than iTunes and you can download tracks for when you’re offline.
We’ve got Spotify in the Fingertips office and the greatest benefit is not cost or convenience, but the way you listen to music. Suddenly you are free to explore, discover and rediscover without the emotional and financial commitment of buying. You can even just set Spotify to auto-pilot and let the “Radio” service select music based on a starter track that you choose.
Today we listened to Maria Callas (we tried to count how many Maria Callas albums Spotify have, but gave up at 250), Roxette (they’ve got a song called “Fingertips”!), the new Lissie album, Jake Bugg and, yes, Half Man Half Biscuit (they are truly awful). I’d never have bought any of those albums, so although there are lots of people in the music industry who don’t like what’s happened, I think – with the artists getting royalties for being on Spotify – that everyone’s a winner.
The best of both worlds is to combine a streaming service with your own music collection. This is exactly what Apple’s iTunes Radio service will do, if they ever decide to launch it in the UK. In the meantime I’ve taught my husband how to use our Spotify account and bought him a ticket for Half Man Half Biscuit at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Dukla Prague away kit – it’s yellow.