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Are Streaming Music Services Evil?

I have to admit that I do believe that most businesses are sort of evil, because I believe that money really is the root of all evil. This belief doesn’t stop me from supporting businesses because, well, I’m an American. I’ve grown up in this glorious first-world country, growing accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and while I try to mitigate my negative impact on the world through smart consumer choices—and through recycling, reusing, and blahdy blahdy blah—I still basically support evil.

For the longest time I resisted paying for a streaming music service, but the need to balance my greed for music and how much I was paying for it finally pushed me over the edge to subscribe to Rdio (plus my friend works there). And like most addictions, I was in denial because I didn’t want to believe there could be anything bad with it. Yet I started to let myself wonder: how do artists actually make money off this shit? I mean, I’m only paying $10/month and I’m listening to hundreds of artists/songs/albums…the math doesn’t work out.

Then today, I read this:

A few bands or labels, it seems, haven’t quite jumped on board. Part of the reason is that a song has to be played between 100 and 150 times on a streaming service in order to generate the same licensing revenue as a single download sale.

Ouch. And then I read this:

Here’s how much money one band estimates it makes per Spotify play: $0.009. That’s not a typo. It’s almost one cent. And we know what one cent is worth. A post on TheNextWeb estimates that, at that rate, the band needs more than 5,000 plays to break even (based on how much it costs to have a service digitally distribute the music). To make $50 profit, they’d need another 5,000 plays.

Double ouch.

Being a musician and having many musician friends, of course I believe musicians should get paid. Yet I’m still not sure I’m willing to give up my virtually unlimited music fix that costs me $10/month. To maintain this habit of mine through direct music purchases, I’d have to spend at least 10x that. It’s the Walmart syndrome: I know the cheap stuff made in China is badness for everyone, but I can’t afford the stuff that’s locally-made/organic/fair trade/produced-by-Americans-or-some-equally-happy-worker. So I have to decide if I make it a priority and pay extra, go without (gasp! horror! apocolypse!), or buy “the cheap stuff” and turn a half blind eye and tell myself “everyone else is doing it” and me stopping won’t make a difference anyway.

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Childhood’s End, A Review

I have never written a book review and it almost seems pretentious of me to even try. What could I say about any book that hasn’t already been said 100 times by others—more eloquently than I could ever say, for sure? But this review isn’t necessarily for anyone but me I guess. It’s a chance for me to process what I’ve read and by sharing it, maybe it helps someone else too, who knows? So let’s get to it.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is a sci-fi novel—one of the first I’ve read, really—and while yes, it is about space, time travel, physics, aliens, and the like, it’s far beyond just a cosmic tale. I won’t get into the details of the plot or spoil the ending, because that certainly has been done. Instead I think I should point out what I found intriguing about this book.

Like I said, I don’t usually read sci-fi novels. This novel was recommended to me by a good friend, possibly over 10 years ago, and it’s sat on my mental bookshelf until this summer. His review was glowing and I certainly respect his taste, yet I think it was the fact that it was a sci-fi book that lowered its rank a little. I’m glad I overcame that. Yes, the book is very well written and Clarke weaves the story’s plots and timelines together masterfully, often jumping 50 or 100 years at a time, and I never felt confused or abruptly transported in the storyline. It’s really a commentary on human nature and our creativity and potential.

No Utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond tehir wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.

Aliens come to earth and help solve our greatest problems which leaves humans comfortable and at peace, yet there are many that are left questioning the inevitable “why?” and “what’s next?” For all the cultural and technological advances that take place for humans, in the end, there is no stopping our potential to evolve and become greater than ourselves, but only through our most creative and non-scientific endeavors (think unexplained phenomena), and only in a united form. Clarke has this transformation take place (fittingly) with the children in the novel and the adults are beyond the next step in evolution. In fact, anyone older than 10 is literally left behind and the aliens that are first seen as “overlords” eventually liken themselves to “midwives attending a difficult birth”.

I really don’t want to give much more away in case anyone is actually reading this, but I really enjoyed discovering the still-current perspective of Clarke’s 1953  tale on how technology and cultural changes affect—or don’t affect—us as humans. And how he saw that, in the most ideal of circumstances, humans thrive best through following creativity, curiosity, and that a certain level of adversity and discomfort is really necessary for us to achieve our greatest potential—a potential that is essentially limitless.

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