music streaming home office

Here in 2024, it’s really convenient with ubiquitous high-speed Internet both at home and on the go via mobile, to rely on streaming for everything — from your music to your movies and television shows. But it’s become obvious to me several times recently that for the stuff you really cherish to still have physical media.

The Pro’s of Streaming / Digital Formats

One of the hugest advantages of steaming and digital formats in general is the offsetting of storage. You don’t have to have gigabytes of storage on your phone or other digital media reserved solely for music, videos, etc.

As long as you have an Internet connection, you have a near limitless catalog of music, movies, television shows and books. Even when you don’t have an Internet connection, with some planning ahead, and some local storage, you can still have access to you favorites by downloading them to your device(s).

Music

The real downside to me has come to light multiple times, but the most obvious is with my favorite band’s final studio album. Van Halen reunited with original lead singer, David Lee Roth and released A Different Kind of Truth (ADKOT) in early 2012. It also marks the only studio album that features Edward Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen on bass. It sadly, is also the final studio recording Edward Van Halen did before his passing away in 2020.

Now Van Halen is a whole other level of disfunction and frustration to its most die-hard fans, which I likely will write another post about. But for the purposes of this post, the short of it is, Van Halen had been dropped by their record label after 23 years back in 2002 after going through two singers after Roth (Sammy Hagar and Extreme’s lead signer, Gary Cherone). So when the Van Halen trio of Edward, Wolfgang, and Alex Van Halen reunited with Roth in 2011 to work on ADKOT, it ended up being released on a different record label, Interscope Records. The album was released as a CD and obviously to all the common streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, etc.

Disappearance from Streaming in 2022

A Different Kind of Truth (Van Halen album)Fast forward to October 2022, and the album has disappeared from streaming completely. So now, were you not in possession of the CD, or ripped tracks from the CD, it’s like it never existed. Sure, you can probably still find it on YouTube, or other various places, but in general, it’s being erased from existence and their catalog.

For this instance, and many others where things disappear from streaming, it all comes down to licensing. Wolfgang in recent interviews has intimated that Roth is the reason streaming rights didn’t renew. Again, the Van Halen “family” puts the “d” in dysfunctional, and were not even able to assemble a tribute after the passing of Edward Van Halen.

Vinyl Revival

Now while this whole post is about arguing for you wanting to continue to hold onto physical media, especially for the things you listen to, read, and watch the most, the recent revival of vinyl is a different thing. While there are some audiophiles who swear on the analog format’s warmth, the resurrection of vinyl in my mind is more about collecting. I myself have a bunch of records that are a combination of used vinyl finds to re-releases. To me, in terms of getting the best out of physical formats for music, you want to look to the compact disc rather than any of its predecessors, vinyl included.

Movies/TV Shows

Movies and TV Shows are probably the vast majority of people’s biggest familiarity and usage of streaming. Like music, it’s all about who own the rights. Take the series Suits that originally was broadcast on the USA Network here in the United States. The nine-season series has been broken up (in the U.S. at least) where the first eight seasons are available on Netflix, with the last and final season on Amazon Prime. Netflix makes no mention of the ninth season, if you’re not in the know and don’t do some searching, you’d assume there were only 8 seasons available.

Suits is definitely an extreme case where a single season is separated out from the rest, but every month, Netflix puts out messaging surrounding what’s leaving its platform. All of these streaming platform have a contract and it allows much of the content to live in a place for a finite amount of time.

With streaming movies and TV shows, it also additionally puts burden on the viewer to figure out where to stream what. I want to stream Smallville. That’s on Hulu. Want to watch Battlestar Galactica? That’s Peacock currently. On top of figuring out where a certain show or movie is, you’ve also got to subscribe to various platforms to watch.

Books

bookshelf in home officeBooks are probably less of an issue, as they’ve not gone away in the same ways and numbers as you’ve seen with music and video. I’ve embraced e-book readers for their convenience, but you lose the physical product. I don’t have a real strong argument against going fully digital for books, other than the losing of anything that’s not printed word – photos in the middle of a biography. I’m not as familiar either with licensing with books, but you don’t really stream books. They’re downloaded. I guess if licensing ran out, a book you bought, but didn’t have downloaded could disappear, just as it would for music, movies or television shows.

Quality

Outside of the reasons stated above there are two other reasons we need to keep physical media around. Physical media is by far the best quality you’re going to get. Whether it’s a CD, Blu-Ray, or predecessors to those formats, you’re going to get the best quality from the physical media. Anything that’s been digitized for streaming has been compressed, to make it more efficient, use less bandwidth, and less storage space. But you lose quality in most of these processes. Movie/TV streaming takes the biggest hit here, as even compressed, 4K or high definition content is still a bandwidth hog.

It’s worth noting too quality is only a concern when you’ve got equipment that can handle the quality – great speakers/headphones, a quality 4K TV, etc. If you’re watching on your phone, and/or listening through your

Lossless

To partially answer the quality issue for music, some streaming services have introduced lossless music formats. This allows the music to be compressed partially for efficiency, without losing any of the quality, dynamic range, etc. As far as I know, no one is doing this, or is planning to do this for HD or 4K video. The files are just too big to not have some (or a lot of) compression.

Supporting Artists

Last, and definitely not least in my book is the supporting of artists — the muscians, writers, actors, etc. that go into making all the above types of work. Streaming services are notorious for paying minimal amounts for huge numbers of streaming of songs and albums. It used to be that concerts — touring supported the sales of the album. Artists used to get their real money for album sales. This is not the case any more. It’s the live concerts where artists make the money. A single sale of a physical CD or record puts more money in general to the people responsible for making the product. Maybe more than all the arguments above, this is why I want physical media to stay.

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