Our Thoughts On:
Sick of streaming? The COPY music team offers up their thoughts on alternative modes of listening.
By Taylor Stout & the music team
The advent of music streaming allowed us to have more songs within reach than ever before. We no longer have to shell out the 99 cents (and later $1.29) that we once did for an iTunes purchase of a single track. But with that comes a loss of ownership and tactility, alongside an unsustainable business model that pays artists pitiful royalties.
Records and CDs can scratch, warp, and break, but they can’t suddenly disappear. In the wake of artists Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulling their music from streaming giant Spotify to protest the platform’s enabling of vaccine misinformation, many Spotify users are reconsidering how we listen.
Below, the COPY music team shares their thoughts on alternative modes of music listening.
I got streaming services pretty recently, compared to the whole time I’ve been addicted to music. Before the end of 2017, I would do a lot of Youtube-to-mp3 and input the information of the tracks on iTunes. It was a bit limiting, but I managed to accumulate thousands of tracks and got to know them pretty well. I also used to work at a local record store in my hometown of Buffalo. I often worked for store credit, so I have a few hundred records and I enjoy putting those on every now and then. Sadly, since I moved to LA, many of those records are being stashed in Buffalo as it was too difficult to move with all of them. However, I’m moving back to NYC in a few months so those will be coming back with me when I get around to it. Other than all that, I've recently signed up for a streaming service other than Spotify and I break down the differences in an article I’ve written this week for COPY, so please go check that out!
The resurgence of listening to music in an analog format is something I’ve particularly noticed over the last five years. While vinyl seems to be an aesthetic favorite and a beautiful ritual to perform in the comfort of one’s home, I have recently been looking for a more accessible way to listen on the go. My solution has been a simple cassette player and any cassettes I can find from the $1 and $2 bins. While it seems like a monotonous task of rewinding and switching cassettes from Side A to Side B, I enjoy putting in a bit more effort at times because I then really pay attention to what I’m listening to. The process of selecting music has become somewhat taken for granted, and I think that slowing down the selection process itself is part of the beauty. Certain music sounds better to me on cassette. I really enjoy a particular tape of Dionne Warwick’s greatest hits.
I was walking across 7th Street one fall afternoon when I found a cardboard box full of copies of one vinyl record. It’s cover featured two washy, vague images with no title, no artist name, and no record label—a complete mystery album. After collecting dust for about a year in my room, I finally got my own record player and took her for a spin. The first time I played the record, I instantly felt like I had come across a gem. It felt like someone had put out that box of records for me to find. They had laid a trap for me and it worked. The record takes wailing ballads to high textured guitar. Big sounds, a raw voice, and mellow basslines. I call it the mystery record, and it is now part of my vinyl rotation for living-room listening. I still don’t know anything about the artist, but it feels like I have a little undiscovered musical diamond that only me and my friends know.
I love the unexpected cover found while in a YouTube deep dive, which I watch/listen to when I am feeling like I am in a rut. If Mitski can cover One Direction’s “Fireproof,” and Black Country, New Road can cover “Mamma Mia,” who is to say I cannot try something new and different??? Also honorary mention to “how to write an alt-j song.”
There is a special place in my heart for my old YouTube-to-mp3 remixes. My friends and I would find a wild mash-up of the coolest current songs, and I would fly right onto YouTube to see if I could get the latest bop onto my phone as soon as possible. Some of my favorites from this era that I have yet to find on Spotify: Pop Danthology 2012 (Daniel Kim), Vulnerable - Tinashe (Dave Luxe Remix), Tipsy x Island in the Sun (White Panda) and Hands to Myself/Roses.
Vinyl records have offered me so much solace amidst the pandemic. Between work-from-home and mandated quarantines, I found myself going crazy with how much time I was spending looking at screens. In response, I’ve made it a routine to silence my phone and put on a record while I cook dinner. Joni’s albums Mingus and Blue are both go-to’s for me! Her gentle and unique melodies always fill the kitchen with a nostalgic and calming aroma.
Winter 2020 was pretty depressing for a variety of reasons, so one day, I decided that I needed to give myself a gift. I bought Joanna Newsom’s The Milk-Eyed Mender on vinyl from Bandcamp. Newsom’s music isn’t available on streaming—my perfect excuse to spend $22 on something I didn’t need while I was newly unemployed. It felt frivolous but exciting, and I can say now that it was totally worth it. This album is magical, comforting, and poetic. It inspired me to write and make art.