I pay for Spotify. I pay for Soundcloud. I pay for Pandora. I pay for Netflix. I pay for Amazon Prime. I pay for the New York Times. I pay for the New Yorker. I pay for Next Issue. I pay for cable. I pay for tons of other stuff.
After my free trial runs out, I’ll probably be paying $20 for Tidal too. Maybe I’ll cancel Spotify, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just wind up paying for both services. And you know what, that’s okay.
I don’t ever really feel like the money I’m spending on these services actually goes to the people who make the content that powers them.
Seriously. Who even knows how Netflix makes any money. Amazon? You have to be kidding me. The company’s strategy is to basically lose more money every year than is humanly imaginable. The New York Times has tons of money and they’re still laying people off. None of this stuff makes any sense. And I’m neither a corporate lawyer or an accountant, so I’m not qualified to make sense of it anyway.
My reason for having these subscriptions is not one where I think I’m saving the business by paying. The business is going to be what it is. I eat Cheerios every morning and don’t think very hard about whether or not the guy who sold General Mills the oats got a fair deal.
I care, but do I really care?
Signing up for Tidal is not going to change a 15-year decline in the music business overnight. It’ll be another 15 years before that happens, and by then we might just have a chip in our brain that beams music into our conscience. With headphones, smartwatches and virtual reality, we’re already halfway there.
What I am willing to pay for is a few things.
- Convenience. I’m in my early thirties and frankly I just don’t have the time to be fucking around on bittorrent sites or trying to find workarounds for breaking paywalls. I want the shit I want, when I want it. It really gets no simpler than that. If I can have it on demand, that’s worth paying for.
- Quality. Sure, you can listen to music on YouTube for free but does it all sound great? Not always. You sometimes have to sleuth around to get to a good version of a song, then maybe you have to look some kid’s corny pictures while the thing plays. Tidal promises better sound quality, and no annoying pictures. I’m definitely okay with paying more for that.
- Price. I mean, how cheap can we get here? It’s insane to think $20 is too much. Kids don’t have $20? You must not know any kids. Kids spend money on so much dumb shit. Kids have more money now than any time in the history of humanity. They have $20. You have $20. Stop being a cheap loser. Consider it an investment in culture. You spent $20. Cool, now you can tell everyone you’re a philanthropist.
- Extras. It’s not Rolling Stone circa-1968 or Medium’s Cuepoint vertical circa-2015, but the quasi-editorial platform that Tidal offers (http://read.tidal.com/), is just a little example of the company making an extra effort. Sometimes I check out Spotify playlists, I’ll probably check out Tidal’s too. They’re not primary features, but they help.
All the services I pay for, in my opinion, make my life a little easier. Netflix doesn’t cost a lot and even though the selection can be spotty, whatever algorithm they use to suggest things typically sends me stuff I might like. Spotify’s recommendation engine has gotten a lot better at that since they bought The Echo Nest. Amazon Prime is insane.
Again, it really just comes back to something I wrote about a while ago — “Why I Started Paying for Music, Movies, Newspapers and Magazines Again.” Digital media has gotten so cheap and so convenient, and loaded with so many additional features that it’s almost impossible to justify not paying for it anymore.
If you didn’t pay for music in the year 2000, I’d think you were the coolest person around. But you don’t pay for music in 2015? You’re just being an asshole.
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