The Friday Morning Listen: NRBQ – Keep This Love Goin' (2011)

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So, what’s it like renting instead of owning? A friend of mine asked me this question, knowing that I’d been piggishly consuming a bunch of new (and old) music since signing up for Spotify. I guess I hadn’t even thought of it before he brought it up, but it’s a good point — Imagine you owned no music, and only used a streaming service. Now, what happens if the service goes out of business? Now you’ve got nothing. Sure, it’s just a mental exercise, but it’s something to think about.

Kids who have gone all-digital (or who were always digital) probably don’t even care about this. For them, the music has always been available from one source or another so there’s no reason to think that that’ll ever change. The rest of us (read: old farts) came up in the era of the album, or maybe even the single. Artists made stuff, we bought stuff. It had a transactional orientation to it and made us feel a connection with the performer. Streaming services are kind of like listening to the radio, but with the power and convenience of being able to select the song…any song you want, any time you want it.

This transactional thing has always been powerful stuff for me, and it’s sort of hard to explain. I’m thinking of back when friends used to makes me tapes of new albums. Sure, I loved getting a chance to listen to the new Joe Cocker (Sheffield Steel), but if I ended up liking it a lot, I just had to buy the album. After CDs came along, the same sort of calculus would emerge. The tape would lead to the CD and, later on, the burned CD would lead to the purchased CD. Heck, even the high-resolution rip leads me to the CD (or vinyl LP). So while the captains of the music industry cried foul, that I was taking food off of their musicians’ table, I was heading out to the record store to buy more stuff, spurred on by “illegal” copies of recordings.

It’s been quite interesting to see where the holes are coming from in the Spotify/cloud library. So far, it’s been the major players: Metallica, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and others. Are they worried that the relatively inexpensive rates on the streaming service would cannibalize their own physical streams? Do they think the same thing of commercial radio?

As for the renting vs. owning thing? As usual, I’m in the minority here. I’ll end up with more music in my “real” collection, with tools like Spotify pushing me in many directions at once. I picked this new NRBQ record because I thought that maybe this new technology might shine a light on bands that I love. And while you’re listening, think about the rent vs. own thing. How do you like it?

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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