Side Note

Downloading music is more archaic than owning vinyl

According to a new report by the global music industry group International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), streaming music has become the primary revenue source for the global music industry, for the first time ever. I know what you may be thinking: Streaming’s rise has come at the expense of your favorite local record shop. But while record stores still close every year, physical music is actually more popular than digital downloads, which have become an increasingly outdated medium. According to the IFPI report, global revenue of physical sales was down 5.4 percent in 2017. On the other hand, revenues from music downloads was down a whopping 20.5 percent.

It makes sense. From increased availability through places like Urban Outfitters and Walmart to marketing schemes via annual Record Store Day, vinyl records and even cassette tapes are more visible now than when mp3 players first became popular. Meanwhile, it seems the last album most people downloaded en masse was U2’s Songs of Innocence in 2014, and even that was involuntary. (Also, it was free of charge.) Rumors abound that Apple will be ending iTunes music downloads completely by this time next year.

Despite the platform’s music history importance, it doesn’t feel like a huge loss. While ownership is guaranteed when you buy an album and not even a question with streaming music, music downloads give the illusion of ownership that can be instantly shattered by a hard drive failure or run of the mill iTunes shenanigans. We were all supposed to be implanting music files in our brains by now. Instead, listening to music has only gotten more hands on.