My tastes in music delivery mechanisms are conservative. My music listening habits were established at a time when music sharing meant passing around cassette tapes, and I was straightlaced enough to not even do much of that; CDs appeared when I started having enough money to buy albums, and I stuck with that for close to two decades, I have around 500 of them around the house.

I didn’t, of course, stick with buying CDs: the iPod convinced me that I didn’t want to carry plastic disks around, my CD racks are full and I don’t want to buy any more, and it turns out that, after a few decades, CDs start to degrade physically. So MP3s are clearly the way for me to go for current purchases. But, that format detail aside, my habits are basically the same: I pay for music, and I buy albums rather than singles.

I would like to think that my tastes in music aren’t particularly conservative, however, or at least not particularly narrow—I think I’ve got a decent mix of genres at hand, for example? But since I got out of school decades ago, I’ve had to go out of my way more to expose myself to new music: to weird stuff, but I also miss stuff that’s very popular, I’m simply not in many situations where I’ll naturally be exposed to music for no other reason than because it’s popular.

In the 2000’s, I found a couple of podcasts that I like that exposed me to random songs, and of course I’ve been playing Rock Band, Rocksmith, and their sequels for most of a decade for now, and both series’ developers have very good taste in music. And there’s random stuff that comes across my twitter feed too, of course. So I do spend most of my music listening time listening to music that I wasn’t aware of a decade ago, and these days I try to buy an album every week or so to listen to. But still, my density of exposure to new music isn’t as high as I’d like.


Being an Apple fanboy, I was curious when Apple Music came out, though I wasn’t curious enough to actually sign up for it. The service’s ability to share music across devices is, even setting aside bugs, implemented in a way that I actively disagree with: I want the same bits on all my devices, I don’t want Apple to put a piece of music on my phone that Apple thinks is similar enough to a piece of music on my computer that I shouldn’t notice the difference. (Especially observing the metadata that iTunes decides to attach to classical CDs that I ask it to rip…) Streaming, however, sounds like a fine idea in general; but, like I said, I’m conservative in my music delivery habits: I’m perfectly happy to spend money on music, I like albums more than songs, and streaming royalties are pathetically small, which doesn’t make me feel great about participating in that ecosystem. Beats One radio actually caught my interest more than anything else, which is sort of funny given that I only listened to radio regularly for maybe four years of my life (when I was in high school): I do want a source of music that I wouldn’t listen to on my own, so I figure I could do worse than asking people with good taste in music to choose stuff to show up in my ears. And Apple seems like the sort of company that would hire people with good taste for their flagship radio station.

Actually, you don’t need to subscribe to Apple Music to be able to listen to Beats One (though you do need to subscribe for their other radio stations). So I’ve been listening to it for a month or two; I’m glad I have, it’s been an interesting / pleasant / educational experience. They definitely play a different genre mix than I’m used to listening to, it’s good to be exposed to popular artists that I haven’t listened to much, it’s good to hear random songs by artists I’ve never heard of. And it’s good to hear the same song over and over again, even songs that didn’t grab me the first time: I don’t think that, say, either Hungry Ham or Vroom Vroom is going to turn into a long-term favorite song of mine, but I like both songs, and I’m not sure I would have said that the first two or three or four times I listened to them.

And listening to Beats One has given me reason to think I should subscribe to a streaming service: now I’ve got significantly more artists that I’m at least curious enough to listen to if they’re freely at hand, which wasn’t the case before. It’s not the only thing that’s made me think that I should sign up for a streaming service: listening to Hamilton has gotten me reading about the music that influenced the musical, which has in turn pointed out huge gaps in my musical background. And, honestly, sometimes I’ve been buying albums and thinking that maybe that wasn’t in retrospect the best use of my money, that I should have done more of a try-before-you-buy, e.g. there are a fair number of songs on 2NE1’s two mini albums that didn’t grab me. (But there were two that did: I Am The Best, of course, but also I Don’t Care. I guess they do a really good job of being self-centered? And two good songs really isn’t a bad density of good songs for an album’s worth of music, it’s just not a great one.)


Of course, it turns out that I am inadvertently signed up for a streaming service: I was listening to a podcast episode about The Ten Duel Commandments, which got me thinking I should listen to The Ten Crack Commandments, and I remembered the existence of Amazon Music, and, sure enough, there it was!

So maybe I should just stick with free Beats One plus Amazon Music. But, now that I’m listening to Beats One, I would like to get randomly exposed to a slightly wider range of music, and Apple has other radio stations that you need to pay for. And I suspect that I’d like Apple’s streaming selection/presentation more than Amazon’s, though I’m not sure why I think that. (Especially the presentation, given iTunes.)

Really, I should just stop dithering and overanalyzing, and join the twenty-first century…

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