Meg Lethem was working at her bakery job one morning in Boston when she had an epiphany. Tasked with choosing the day’s soundtrack, she opened Spotify, then flicked and flicked, endlessly searching for something to play. Nothing was perfect for the moment. She looked some more, through playlist after playlist. An uncomfortably familiar loop, it made her realise: she hated how music was being used in her life. “That was the problem,” she says. “Using music, rather than having it be its own experience … What kind of music am I going to use to set a mood for the day? What am I going to use to enjoy my walk? I started not really liking what that meant.”
It wasn’t just passive listening, but a utilitarian approach to music that felt like a creation of the streaming environment. “I decided that having music be this tool to [create] an experience instead of an experience itself was not something I was into,” she reflects. So she cut off her Spotify service, and later, Apple Music too, to focus on making her listening more “home-based” and less of a background experience.
Hey, everybody is different and there are a thousand ways to use the streaming services other than the model outlined here, but still: Count me a big fan of this move. I have for the past few years almost completely abandoned streaming: I buy records (vinyl and CD, sometimes digital files) whenever I can, and having purchased them I tend to listen to them more often and more carefully.
If you can’t afford to stream and buy, then consider this: with the money you’d save by cancelling your streaming service, you could buy one new or two used recordings a month. Imagine that you had a much smaller collection of music, but it consisted of the most important music to you, and you came to know that music intimately. Wouldn’t that be a pretty good trade-off? It’s worth considering anyway.