Music streaming services are for some people just as part of normal life as the smart device they’re running it on. But where did it all begin?
How long has streaming and digital music been around?
If we’re being REALLY pedantic about it, we could say that the earliest form of “streaming” dates all the way back to the era of the Jukebox. Why buy full records when you could pop in a couple of coins and essentially build a playlist for your night much like you can with digital music. Not convinced? Alright, we’ll move swiftly on…
Although MP3 files had been around for a few years before, the birth of P2P sharing began with Audiogalaxy in 1998. It introduced a massive database of free (although mainly illegal) downloadable music files. Napster further popularised the format and sparked the debate of the legitimacy of online music sharing, as record labels at the time couldn’t find a way of making money from it. Famously, Lars Ulrich of Metallica lead the charge against Napster with other industry giants following suit and eventually the site was brought down, despite its late attempt at a licensed music and subscription model.
Fast forwarding to 2006 sees the founding of streaming service behemoth Spotify. Record labels eventually flocked to the Swedish music platform as it provided impressive figures for curbing piracy in its native country and offered a genuine way for artists to get paid for their music. Success, access to thousands upon thousands of songs for a small fee! Now there are a number of streaming services including Tidal (offering high resolution audio and exclusive content), Apple Music (offering seamless iDevice compatibility) and Deezer (its ‘Hear This’ feature is praised for recommending new music) just to name a few.
So there’s a lot of benefits for streaming over actually owning music, so why would I ever go back?
Sure there are LOADS of benefits to streaming music; there’s the access to millions of tracks, being able to play custom playlists anywhere with an internet connection, discover new music without heavy investment etc etc. But there are also reasons not to join the crowd:
- Music Quality – For many audiophiles out there, the quality of streamed music simply won’t do. With the exception of Tidal, HD music isn’t widely available on these platforms and there are now websites that offer alternatives for the music lover that simply NEEDS the highest quality audio possible.
- Ownership – There’s nothing better than ripping open the seal on a brand new CD or the warm crackly sound as your vinyl spins on your record player. For some a physical collection can’t be beat and let’s face it, a big music collection displayed on your shelf looks pretty cool. And who knows, one day Spotify might call it a day and poof goes your long list of carefully curated playlists.
- Royalties – Remember when Taylor Swift removed her music catalogue from Spotify? It was mainly due to how royalties work - the artist doesn’t earn a great deal per track streamed. Of course everyone should be paid for their art but at what rate? That argument is for another day we reckon…
In the waging war between sides, we’re sitting on the fence for this one. We’re not ones to dictate how you should access your music, but while there are multiple ways to do so we’ll try to cater for every listener.
Our network streamer products between them have been awarded an assortment of Hi-Fi industry accolades and collected rave reviews. A ‘What Hi Fi Streamer of the Year Award’ here, a ‘Hi Fi Choice Editor’s Choice Award’ there! We can’t move for awards at Cambridge HQ. We’ve even started using them as expensive paperweights and doorstops (KIDDING! They’re neatly displayed for our visitors to gaze in awe upon. There’s actually a strict polishing rota in place to keep them looking spick and span…) But what’s the secret to our streaming success? They all have one particular feature in common:
The StreamMagic Module
Our streamers all utilise the in-house developed StreamMagic software, custom made so it’s flexible no matter which wonderful way you’re accessing your music. Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect are fully functional, along with the use of UPnP Network routers, NAS drives and USB connections to PC and Mac computers. Playback of music files range from the basic MP3s up to 24/192kHz high res files for those who’ve already taken the big leap to HD audio. Its flexibility is what really makes StreamMagic special. We all know the speed of which technology can evolve, so as it’s custom made we can jump straight into incorporating a new music format or new technology when it’s available. All you’ll need to do is simply update your system and you’re good to go. In fact, we last updated StreamMagic in January so we’re constantly looking to improve our service (you can read about our latest firmware update here).
As for the future of streaming? A recent Nielson report found that during the first half of 2015 on-demand streaming in the US increased by 92% compared to 2014, so it looks like it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact it’s expanding into even more everyday places. However industry experts also predicted to death of vinyl and look what happened there… The music industry can be both predictable and surprising at the same time.
So are you a streaming fanatic or do you prefer a physical copy? Is there a particular streaming service that you love over the rest? Make sure you let us know in the comments!