Hmmm...streaming. It is the next big thing and taking off we are being told. Downloading is now yesterday; forget iTunes and all else, we are now talking Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and Qobuz. Not everyone is happy in the music business because from this the artists make little, whilst the delivery company coins it, or so it is being said.
Funny that few in audio have realised that streaming is what the music business has long wanted, irrespective of this little spat, and it is what listeners have long resisted. With streaming you don't 'own' the music, you pay to hear it – then its gone. Music collection? A thing of the past, an anachronism. No shelves heaving with the weight of LPs or silver discs to use as beer mats. Nothing, nada.
Physical media arrived around 1887 when Edison wound up his gramophone and is ending right now as the CD fades away. Downloads were always a bit tenuous; you had 'em and you knew you had 'em, but where – and on which disc drive, memory stick or whatever? Like most people I suspect, I have vast picture, video and music libraries, but they are 'dispersed' shall I say! But at least I have 'em – somewhere.
Streaming 'frees us' of all this. Someone else stores the music for you and sends it upon request. You own nothing. It is how software vendors like Adobe see their future, except that Adobe have a rather more ambitious fee scale than most. This may be a lesson for us, a future reality.
I'm sort-of surprised by all this. The free model of Spotify has sneaked this new consumption model past the listening public without complaint and, for the time being at least streaming is tomorrow, downloading yesterday. Pay-per-listen is creeping up on us it seems and physical media may finally cease to exist. Will this really happen? Will artists benefit and music regain the value it was once accorded – a potential benefit? Or will music become like candy floss on Brighton pier, a trivial and fleeting experience?
Whatever happens, Onkyo's super value C-N7050 streamer is one way of entering this world, which is why Jon Myles was keen to include it in our budget system feature this month. So go to page 74 to learn more and how you can start streaming too.