throwback thursday: streaming in 2004
Thursday, June 11, 2020
On this date in 2004, I wrote a longish post about "my vision for how music should be in the 21st century." Spotify was 4 years away, and it wouldn't come to the U.S. for 7 years. Some references are a bit outdated, so here's a help guide:
Rhapsody: the first on-demand streaming subscription service. They eventually bought Napster, which is the name they use now.
Musicmatch: an audio player that expanded into on-demand streaming. A few months after the original post, they were bought by Yahoo ... by 2008 they were out of business.
Rio Karma: my beloved portable MP3 player. It had a huge-for-its-time hard drive, played most formats, and was ugly as sin. The future was in streaming, so eventually the use of MP3 players faded, and most people now use their phones for music, anyway. The Karma's hard drive was crap, and the product didn't last long.
KPIG: a radio station near Monterey Bay that is still around.
Here is that 2004 post:
We're one step closer to my vision for how music should be in the 21st century.
My vision (and I'm far from the first or only person to imagine this) is simple: complete access to every song ever recorded. The problems are numerous, but none of them are killers.
First, the artists have to get paid. There should be a system for individuals that is similar to what music radio stations have. I don't work for such a station, so I'm guessing, but I assume radio stations pay flat fees to broadcast music over their airwaves. What is needed is a way to allow individuals to act like a radio station, paying a flat fee to get total access to all tunes.
Second, you have to get the tunes, which is kinda obvious, I guess. This is where Rhapsody came in ... they had access to hundreds of thousands of tunes, and for a monthly fee, you could stream them on your computer. The problem here is that hundreds of thousands is far less than my desired "every song ever recorded," with The Beatles being the most obvious holdout (although rumors are this is about to change). Musicmatch, who have finally entered the "on demand" market via the new beta of their popular Musicmatch program, do not seem to have as large a catalog as Rhapsody at the moment, which is a problem. But Musicmatch has something Rhapsody does not: Musicmatch plays audio files. This means I can now create playlists that are a combination of songs I don't own but are available via the Musicmatch streaming catalog, and songs that I do own and have ripped to my hard drive. So now I can include artists like the Beatles in my playlists, and Musicmatch will mix my MP3s in with the streaming stuff. We're closer than ever to Every Song Ever Recorded.
Third, and this is the biggest problem at the moment, you need to be able to access your music at all times, wherever you are. The popularity of devices like the iPod or my own Rio Karma, essentially gigantic hard drives designed to play music files in a portable fashion, shows how important that portability factor is. Online streaming services are not portable in this way. I can create playlists and stream them on the computer, I can send the computer audio into my home stereo and get excellent sound, but once I leave my house, I lose access to the streaming material.
I don't see any reason why this last problem can't be solved, especially with the emergence of wireless net access. So the time is coming when you will indeed be able to listen to every song ever recorded, whenever and wherever you want it.
Meanwhile, Rhapsody's got a problem, at least in my household. Right now, their catalog is bigger than Musicmatch's, but I use Musicmatch for a lot of other stuff, and Musicmatch lets me blend my MP3s into the playlists. Since both Rhapsody and Musicmatch are fee services, I don't intend to keep them both running. And I suspect the ability to mix MP3s into the playlists will make Musicmatch my choice, once I get past free trial periods.
Meantime, here's a quickie playlist I created for Musicmatch ... these are Songs They've Been Playing on KPIG [edited in 2020 to provide a Spotify playlist ... this is where the future ended up]: