Is it worth buying (digital) music anymore??


Greetings everyone, I’ve been absent from this forum the past few months, been at a bit of a crossroads…wondering if it’s worth buying digital music anymore. I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to a few points, and would love and appreciate if people share their thoughts, views, feelings on this.

  1. Pricing
    The final straw in writing this post today was finding out that Madlib’s Bandana Beats isn’t available on CD and the WAV files will cost $41 on Beatport. Yeah, that’s an absurd amount of money when the Floating Points album last year was 24-bit/96khz and cost something like $8. I hardly buy CDs or hip-hop anymore, but wanted those files for my collection. The other thing that bothered me late last year was paying nearly $20 for Arla I, II, and III by Overmono, XL Recordings has some silly prices too. Even the Instinct 05 release was more than 2 GBP per track, get out of here with that! People are streaming and this dude expects me to pay more than 2 GBP per track?! This goes back to the brilliant How Much Is Too Much? post from last year.

  2. Exclusivity
    Smaller artists used to put their music on Bandcamp first, whether it was an hour early or a day early. Now I’ve waited days after a Spotify announcement for a release to show up on Bandcamp, meanwhile I’m sitting wondering for days if it will ever even be on Bandcamp. The exceptions I’ve noticed are with Whities who has their Blue 07 available for purchase and download as of February 4 and it won’t be on streaming until February 14. Or West Mineral for example, or Experiences Ltd. with that new Ulla album, those aren’t on streaming at all. There’s nearly no incentive to buy anymore based on exclusivity. I was almost shocked when I went through my Bandcamp purchases and saw that nearly every single release I’ve purchased is on Apple Music and Spotify.

  3. Quantity
    There is just so much music coming at every week that it seems unsustainable to keep buying music. What’s the solution? To buy just what I love? What do y’all do? Doesn’t it feel strange to buy when people are simply streaming?

  4. Physical Connection
    I remember the days of cassette tapes, the Walkman, and batteries. Unwrapping a tape, opening the artwork. Sure vinyl heads still get that rush, but for some of us that’s not a feasible option. At least buying digital music feels like some sort of physical connection, whereas streaming feels one more step away from a physical connection with the music.

  5. Hypocrisy
    A bunch of artists used to rail against streaming and now they’re the ones putting their music on streaming only and not on Bandcamp anymore, or Bandcamp buyers aren’t first anymore. That’s fine, people evolve, and streaming is responsible for millions of views even for independent artists, and helps their gigs and DJ sets. But the hypocrisy of some musicians to still talk smack about streaming yet post screenshots OF THEIR OWN PHONE of them listening to music on Spotify is just crazy to me.

  6. Last of a dying breed
    Who are the people left that are buying music? People like me who want to OWN the music and support the artist as much as possible? DJs who buy single tracks sometimes? Well the DJ purchasers might dwindle in number as well since new DJ equipment in the next few years will be cloud based and streaming. Will that be the end for Bandcamp and the like? What will I do with the music I’ve purchased when the time comes and no option is left but to stream?

  7. Missing out
    Music I like, but don’t love, I’ll listen to on YouTube, or listen to on Bandcamp once or twice, or maybe until the heart sign pops up telling me to buy the release. But having millions of songs at one’s disposable is a tempting proposition.

  8. Streaming is changing music
    It’s not just me, this TED Talk says Spotify Is Killing Music even in small ways like artists creating shorter tracks, or less of a buildup in the beginning to grab the listeners’ attention otherwise they won’t be paid if the song is skipped within 30 seconds or something.

All of this might sound silly, but music has been an essential part of my life, my first love, and it bothers me that it’s become sort of disposable, and streaming still almost feels like theft to me. Sure the artists get paid, but on my end it feels like theft, even with a paid subscription service. Maybe I’m just old, not necessarily old school, this feels like the early Napster days to me, even though this is actually legal and licensing and stuff is done correctly.

I’m not sure where to go from here. I was gifted a streaming subscription but even the organization of how I can’t arrange music by year has driven me crazy and made me give up.

Thanks for allowing me this space to rant, I was tempted to even delete my Bandcamp account and delete my music and try not listening to music anymore, but I’m still here and will post like I used to. I’m not sure there is a clear cut solution, or maybe the solution is streaming and that’s why so many are doing it now. I really miss the good old days. Peace and love everyone.


ah man, glad you didn’t do that. think of the money you spent on tracks.

Anyways, yeah, streaming kinda sucks in the sense that it’s accommodating but lacks meaningful connection outside of playlists and favorites. Spotify especially draws people in with cool statistics and end of the year summaries like “this is the song you listened to the most for 2019”. Personally, I haven’t used Spotify since 2015 simply because I started buying a little more music, and I thought Soundcloud was cooler (as dumb as that sounds). I wasn’t buying too much at that time and I still am frugal at times with digital, but I just shifted towards listening to long-form mixes and whatever new stuff people put on their SCs. And again, as dumb as it sounds, I was enticed towards the free mp3 with vinyl when buying records, I was a sucker for that.

One of my mates (manager for big UK rapper) told me that Spotify was good because it payed artists properly as long as management was doing their job properly, and it incentivized artists to put out releases in order to get revenue. That conversation was almost three years ago… and of course, as everyone knows, the sort of streaming system brought about by Spotify would only benefit bigger artists. However, this would encourage up and coming musicians with a growing but loyal fanbase to play the long game - aiming for building quality work and a keen fanbase instead of trying to chase the high of the instant gratification of a sleeper hit.

The music industry is quite fickle, and nothing is ever certain to stay the same, as it has with vinyl / casettes / mp3s. I consider Spotify to be a middleman between the musician and the listener, and Bandcamp would be an alternative middleman with better control for what artists do for their work. IMO all “middleman services” should be treated with scrutiny by artists, especially Spotify.


Greetings Ed, Dave. I too am returning to this forum after a bit of time off. I also happened to receive a copy of Bandana Beats on wax today, so looks like we’re synchin’ up…I’ve thought deeply about lots of the points you’ve raised in your detailed post, and we’ve also discussed similar things in the other HMITM post but the key point of your post seems to center around ownership of the music you love in the form of a file OR a physical object.

I’m sorry to break it to you my digital compatriot, but you’ll never have those good old days back. That’s exactly why they are, in fact, good OLD days. The amazing thing about music rn is that everything is in flux. It has been for some time. And that’s why its so exciting to be having the conversations we are having. Nobody knows what the fuck to do. So we make it up as we go, questioning our every move along the way.

What I see is that as more people hop on the streaming bandwagon (haters insert comment here), artists that make their money selling show tickets are beginning to understand that streaming may not pay dollars but it gets you on festival lineups and into venues. It also opens up collaborations, remixes, and allows you to offer things to fans directly. In this Instagratification YouTube music world SO much is visual as well as auditory so NUMBERS of followers can be more important than anything. Bandcamp isn’t the platform for promotion the way streamers are, simple as that. These artists are posting photos of their streaming songs to boost their careers via bookings would be my guess. I’ll get to what I think BC is up to soon enough…and I can only talk about Spotify as I chose them over Apple, mostly because more friends were on it and i can share playlists with em easier.

I admire your writing and curation ability on Bandcamp lots but Spotify is a different beast my dude. You’re not gonna be able to have it be all neat and orderly. You’re gonna have to make some playlists. And who knows, you might find a new way to listen to music, to discover sounds you didn’t know you liked, and perhaps even find yourself sharing said music with new users. Or collaborative playlists. Or radio stations (ugh, actually probably not radio stations).

ANYWAY the point I am making is that streaming services, just like Bandcamp, just like Napster was, and just like Motown was, are all experimental eras in the history of music production, consumption, and sales. We are the consumers, so we have different perspectives than producers/performers/selectors of music. Some of us may be in the biz or make some stuff to sell ourselves, but for the most part everyone is consuming this stuff. Now traditionally the issue most people have is about ownership. You have a collection. I have a collection. We collect. It brings us great joy. And sorrow. And connections. And isolation. It’s a habit, a hobby, and a hermetic way of life, at times.

I stream. I buy vinyl. I download illegal torrents. I buy tickets and merch. If I played out to people or had a better home setup (in the works, broke now) I would buy digital music.

the TED Talk in my opinion is speaking on the effects of our internet world in general. it’s happening all over, not just in music. accelerationism, hypercapitalism, fast fast fast, low attention spans, optimize and microdose, ya know? Which brings me to Bandcamp. I have a hunch (based on this) that they’re about to position themselves as the IRL alternative to streaming. And I’m all about it, its just gonna be mad awkward for the first few years. We need spaces that aren’t the internet. Badly.

One last story to share. Since beginning to Spotify in Spring of 2018 I’ve made 100 playlists and now share them and collaborate. I am actually closer with friends now through sharing music than I was before I was on it. I’ve got a collaborative playlist with 7 friends which we add to at least 2-3 times a week, it’s hit over 1100 songs and introduced me to some crazy out there tunes I would have never found without this evil empire of streamery. It ain’t good or bad, it just is. It’s a tool. And I’m just a fan looking to vibe with my friends.

That being said, I’ll never stop buying vinyl. One day I’m going in on 45s, Cassettes and CDs too but not quite yet. Waiting for my 50s for that level of hoarding. But i did record a mix on a tape last week…felt really good. Some day I’ll give that tape to a homie. We aren’t the last of a dying breed. We are the keepers of the archive. Fuck the cloud.


Thank you as well man. I can tell this is the beginning of a larger conversation, so want to invite others in also. I’ll write a lot more in time, mulling over what you’ve shared for a bit.


i bought that one too…Neinzer’s The Fear is fucking incredible and I’ll gladly give him my money to see what’s next, allthemoreso cus its on Whities


if you havent heard it yet…


Aww cmon man let’s continue…Pls don’t run away, I was looking forward to the exchange


Damn, RIP Edward


RIP figuratively or an actual RIP?

I was trying to sum up some thoughts on buying music, but february is too much . . .
Appreciated the debate, but kept lurking.

Thanks for linking Zion I!
Brings back rap memories galore!


Figuratively, he deleted selective responses but kept some here. Looove Zion I, that album is incredible.


If you want to make mixtapes (or spin tunes in traktor/serato) then you need to buy the music… but otherwise, I can see why you probably wouldn’t.


You could torrent or rip, as well, which lots of folks do and don’t talk openly about imo.


Which may be worth it, if prices are too high. I guess the core of the question is what makes purchasing the music digitally worth it??


Only been buying digital music for under a year, and for me what makes it “worth it” has to be the sound quality and the easy access (compared to buying records.) I live on the outskirts of civilisation (Oslo), so no shipping and fighting special luxury taxes is a huge bonus.

I tried torrenting and even napster way back, the first time I stopped buying records.
The real problem was that i never found anything I really liked that i didnt already know about.
A few bits was interesting, but not like that record you once picked up on a whim that changed your idea about a whole sound . . .

Like this

Bought this back in the nineties in a huge pack of oldschool hiphop from a guy in London i think.
Was expecting the Scarface tune and got my first real hit of drum and bass . . .
Even took a year or more before I could hear what i had been missing hehe

Torrenting never did this, and the early days of spotify was the same, nothing new, only boring/ I know this one. A serious vinyl addiction also kept me from finding “digital only tunes”
to save me the frustration of not being able to play it.

With digital (mainly bandcamp) i’v had some WHOOAWW whats this!
Sounds that made me hear electro and techno in a new light.
Experiencing tunes among other tunes that make them pop out at me.
Not sure why. If its just that i’m more in need of something new,
or that there is less “if you liked this you will also like this” spamming . . .

Being able to buy in wav quality, without some oversqweezed 5 tunes on one side pressing, makes bandcamp feel like its worth it. I still end up buying the 12" and the wavs on some just because I dont trust digital. But thats only if i believe the mastering is worth it.

That they seem to be trying to have some ideology on not pushing the prices for what they can, is a big bonus. (Wav and mp3 same price . . . so high prices is just the artists choice)

The trick will be how to remember the good tunes in the future. How the brain catalogs “good tunes” and “bad tunes” is a mystery, but i can still pick out whitlelables from 10 years + ago with only the wear of the sleeve as a que to what im looking for . . . but also look and look for hours and not find the sound im looking for.

Im pretty curious on how that will work for a bunch of folders . . .


Need to buy tunes for bedroom DJing, so I still do it, but increasingly do it less. If it’s not on bandcamp I normally won’t buy it unless I’m already obsessed (will go to boomkat sometimes, beatport etc. are always overpriced and a last resort for me). I don’t like Spotify, don’t like the concept, don’t like the interface, don’t like the idea a release I loved could be pulled by spotify at their leisure (this is the key one for me), don’t like how inaccurate the labelling is etc… but I am slowly moving towards it just because it’s how ppl do music now so if you want to put on playlists in communal settings and so on you have to be on it.

On “how to remember good tunes” I think that’s a really interesting one for the future. Artwork and stuff is such a powerful memory aide for that kind of stuff, with digital it can be much harder. My labour intensive solution to remembering my absolute favourites is to do mixes. You then have the tune situated in relation to other tunes, in a musical thing that’s normally about album length or possibly slightly longer. I keep the tracklist for the mix available. Then when you remember a tune but can’t remember what it’s called, you can think back to the mixes it’s likely to be in and go and check. It’s long winded, but better than having a tune in your head that you can’t remember driving you mad for days. Maybe others will have a similar thing but for Spotify playlists etc.

Regarding streaming killing music: it’ll have an effect but as someone else in the thread said, people will adapt. If most musicians cut long intros for Spotify optimisation, there’ll probably emerge a bunch of artists who kick against that and are all about intros and dynamics and stuff.

As far as exclusivity goes, the less of that there is the better in my opinion. Some undermining of exclusivity is one of the good things that has come from streaming. You still get quite a lot of it, but much less than in earlier years. When I got into dubstep stuff at first there was a real exclusive culture, a lot of vinyl fetishism, and a lot of that was quite offputting to me. That kind of thing is a bit less prevalent now which I think is a good thing, although it still persists in pockets of the underground.

Having said that, I would never completely offload my physical music collection (vinyl and CD). It has too much emotional resonance for me, the physical package and artwork and so on. Even though I never really listen to them outside of ripped versions now.


I wonder what the situation is where you’re living? I’m really lucky that I have some friends irl for trading records, talking about music, meeting at a bar where different people are djing both vinyl and digital. This is still the most motivating part when it comes to music and I recommend to actually go out and talk to people and do stuff together. I have to say that collecting, trading and djing vinyl helps a lot because it’s a more direct way to share music with each other in the same room. Actually some friends met via Discogs because they were buying music from each other (of course we all live in the same city).

I don’t really care about streaming but I use Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Discogs and YouTube for digging music. I’m always late when it comes to new music but there is too much of it anyways. It’s good to have no fear of missing out. :wink:


Yeah, when I was living in Portland or the San Francisco Bay Area I had this. I’m now living in a town that has none of this, so am trying to decide if it’s worth my time and energy to start a night even if it’s a open decks sort of affair. I travel lots tho so not sure I can upkeep it once it begins…maybe in time.


I live in Bend, Oregon which is great for what I do for a living but not so much for what I do in my social life and free time, but I’m starting to think about a monthly. Just something to spin records myself, not book anyone, and see who comes out of the woodwork to do exactly what you’re talking about - trade tunes and chat about what we listen to.

But in order to do so I gotta be a bit more structured in my life. Just got back from 4 months of work and travel on the road, settling in.


That’s not easy of course. I lived in a small village for a few months and missed the music-related stuff a lot. It really opened my eyes and made me appreciate the whole thing more when I moved back to my hometown (Leipzig, Germany). It puts things in perspective which is good.


Exactly, I won’t be here forever, and that’s what’s truly happening - I’m broadening my perspectives. But even my friends in the city listen to music alone most of the time and rarely go out. We share tunes through streaming and texts.

I’ve used the time here to really get to know my record collection and learn about streaming services, but haven’t dived into digital music buying quite yet. Honestly I feel like it’s going to happen once I get more of an audiophile type setup or start spinning for an audience. But again, it’s a question of time, money and energy spent on hobbies. Worthwhile, yes, but not always a priority.