A week or so ago some friends were talking about Spotify and how it had taken income away from musicians. I agreed, and added that both my children are or were musicians and they had found that they got more benefit from selling CDs at performances than from Spotify. Both of them had experienced that no matter how much they loved making music, and no matter how much time they devoted to it, they could not make a career in that industry.
It has always been a brutal industry that eats its young, but the situation has definitely worsened in the last couple of decades. I was reminded how much it has changed yesterday when I went online to try to buy a music track.
The motivation for this was my attendance at a concert. I was inspired to attend this event when I was told to buy a ticket early because the annual Winter Harp shows are always sold out. I had not heard of Winter Harp and knew nothing about the ensemble, but I trusted the advice I was given and bought a ticket the day they went on sale back in August.
Last night I arrived at the venue early and already the foyer was packed. I don’t like crowds, so I found my way to my seat in the acoustically tuneable theatre where the performers were providing a pre-show chat and answering questions from the audience members. That impressed me from the get-go. Also impressive on the stage were multiple instruments including the world’s only five-foot tall bass psaltery!
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the five musicians and the narrator who interspersed the music with anecdotes, poetry, quotations of various kinds, and good humour. As I had been told to expect, every seat in the house was taken, and the audience responded enthusiastically to every item in the program. One particular piece, though, stood out for me. Last night I heard the most captivating performance of Silent Night that I have ever heard. It was absolutely exquisite.
If I could have tolerated the throng in the foyer as I left, I might have bought a CD there, but I thought it wiser just to get away. I had originally planned to get a taxi home, but I wanted to savour the mood of the evening, so I walked instead and was glad I did, even though it was raining a little.
After I got home I went online to find the Winter Harp version of Silent Night. That’s where I ran into trouble. Google directed me first to iTunes, probably because that is where I had stored my CD collection. Let me interject here to point out that some years ago, 2009 or 2010 or thereabouts, I downloaded all my CDs to iTunes so that I could listen to them in my car on long journeys. I then donated all the CDs to the thrift store. Win-win, I thought.
That was then, this is now. Since then iTunes has morphed into iTunes Match and Apple Music elbowed its way in just to confuse me. I pay iTunes rent every month just for the privilege of listening to my own CDs, and I also pay Apple every month but apparently what I pay them for doesn’t include Apple Music. Given that I don’t understand the difference between iTunes and Apple Music, and given that they have made it more complicated to listen to music, I have basically thrown in the towel and stopped trying.
That didn’t bother me much until I got the urge to buy Winter Harp’s Silent Night. I spent a little while listening to a couple of different versions of the same piece and found I liked the one on A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It sounded closest to what I had heard that evening. As I said, my computer directed me first to iTunes, but they then directed me to Apple Music. I tried using my Apple ID but that was not sufficient to enable me to buy any music from them. I fiddled around with that for a bit, and then I got a friendly message inviting me to provide feedback. I decided this was a good opportunity to make them aware of my disgruntlement about paying rent to iTunes for my own CDs and that I was thinking for rebuilding my entire collection on vinyl just so I could avoid them. However, since I was writing to Apple that message probably won’t get through to anyone who cares.
This morning I realized that I could find the particular piece I wanted on Spotify, but since I’m still mad at them for syphoning off the profits that should go to musicians I still don’t have it. But don’t worry, friends. I haven’t abandoned the project. I hear there’s a big bitcoin investment guy who is currently looking for a new venture. I’ll see if he can be persuaded to modify Spotify. If I am successful, in my future there will be a lovely recording of Silent Night by Winter Harp..