It seems everyone is now listening to streaming services. From Spotify to Pandora to Tidal to Beats 1 Radio, there are plenty of options.
That’s wonderful, but I have absolutely zero interest in the whole thing. I hated radio even before it started to suck.
I remember sitting with my head by the speaker of my boombox, listening to Power 99, two fingers hovering over the Play and Record button, waiting to hear that one song that I wanted — no, needed — to have on tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted. Until that song came on, I was a hostage, forced to sit through commercials and DJ’s trying to be funny and songs I despised in an effort just to hear that one song. Once I had it, though, my need for radio was finished for the time being. As soon as I had the songs I wanted, I could create my own microstation.
Even before Napster and mp3’s and streaming and YouTube, I only listened to what I wanted to listen to. This meant I was usually late in hearing the newest song, but if it was good it would eventually get to me. In the meantime, my yellow Sony walkman was either playing albums I loved or letting me pay attention to new albums, giving them more than one chance to work their magic and run their course, something that is lost today due to the unlimited amount of content that’s out there.
In the late ’80s, I saw an interview with LL Cool J in which he said that positive reviews and constant radio airplay was nice, but that every kid with a car stereo was a program director deciding what songs to play on his or her own personal station, so if he heard his songs coming out of those car speakers, he was still satisfied. I appreciated that, because aside from a few exceptions, I went against the grain of what was popular, a schism that has grown increasingly wider over time as I’ve gotten too old for most current hip-hop.
I have an iPod Classic that I keep packed with thousands and thousands of songs, so I have no need for radio — be it terrestrial, satellite, or internet. I love having the ability to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want, all in the palm of my hand — just like the first iPod ads and commercials promised. I can go from Lupe Fiasco to AZ to 50 Cent to Lauryn Hill to Slaughterhouse, not to mention hundreds of audiobooks and comedy albums, immediately and effortlessly. I just don’t see how any of these streaming companies can compete with that, especially when some of the biggest artists are exclusive to only one service.
Yes, iTunes can be frustrating (it’s asked me to update approximately 14 times since I started typing this sentence), but just like I did when I had hundreds of CD’s in cases in racks, I can organize my entire library to my liking, even editing the track names and features however I choose. I can even make my own mix of random songs for a particular artist, choose a photo and create my own album that sits next to the official releases that is available to me at any time.
And it’s not just music. I still buy DVDs.
Is your favorite show on Netflix? Will it always be? Is your favorite film available on your cable menu? There are times when I try to watch something on cable or OnDemand or Netflix and it’s nowhere to be found. I never understand when people go crazy over a show coming to Netflix. This Buzzfeed piece is subtitled “The One Where You Could Watch Friends All The Time.” Yeah, you could do that for a decade already.
Plus, even if it is there, that doesn’t mean it won’t be gone next month. I’m not in control. It’s OnDemand…to a point. With a DVD, I don’t have that problem. Once I buy it, I own it. As long as I have a disc and an apparatus in which to play it, I’m good. (To that point, I don’t know what I’ll do when my iPod Classic finally quits because it’s as important and as dear to me as my daughter.)
Convenience is great and it’s nice to be able to hit play and not have to manually massage your music library or remember to pack those DVDs you want to watch on a trip, but that convenience comes at the cost of control, and that’s a price I’m not willing to pay, regardless of how low the monthly fee may be.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.