Streaming vs Owning; General Discussion

The backdrop of this MQA streaming stuff is interesting.

Streaming now has ~100 million paying users, so it’s very much the present, not just the future.

But none of these streaming services are making money, according to all reports so far. Apple Music is losing money but that’s offset heavily by their hardware and app store sales and enermous profits.

But Spotify hasn’t made a profit yet (according to reports, which may not be right of course). Their backers reportedly have deep pockets but for how long will they sustain this - unless they too plan to make money off hardware at some point in their plans.

So the labels are happy to call streaming the future but they are heavily reliant on these tech companies believing the same.

There must be some break even point that Spotify and others are reaching for - maybe it’s 100 million paid subscribers or whatever number. And that’s why they are sticking it out. And once they cross that point, it’s happy days for them.

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Sean, I don’t always buy the we’re not making money drivel. If your company consistently loses money, you eventually go out of business.

Hehe I’m not disagreeing with you Robert. It’s possible they are, it’s possible they aren’t.

If Spotify (one example), the biggest streaming company (by subscriber numbers), are deliberately falsely reporting losses, well that’s interesting in many ways. Not sure how it encourages investment either.

Anyhoo, I only bring this up since it’s an interesting backdrop to this MQA hoopla

Uber and Tesla are burning money at a much faster rate.
And they still have lots of investors.

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We’re in a rent-to-use world, folks. The boomers can gripe about it until Ethel crows, but, kids are coming out of school these days with the albatross of student loans equivalent to a 30 year mortgage before they’ve even done their first internship.

Smaller living spaces also means “Lifestyle” hi-fi, Daddy-O. No room for your listening chairs, your component furniture, your treated rooms. Owning is a luxury these kids can one day hope to achieve, if that’s even the goal anymore, but the media they consume while working towards that potential ownership of a bigger living space is rented and disposable.

The hi-fi companies that know this are making products that reflect the lifestyle that these kids are living now. The boomers purchasing power that drove hi-fi has passed. They’re all on fixed incomes and down-sizing. Ownership is for the sentimental.


I think the bigger story is how we listen to music. The goonies (us) tend to listen to specific artists, albums, styles.

The new generation can probably be divided in:

A- Those who do listen to music:
They flip around artists, has a very open minded attitude to what is next on the playlist, does not care to own the latest Taylor Swift, or Rihanna, or Drake album - because they will be listening to them on repeat for the next couple of weeks and then not listen to them ever again. Key point here is ownership is not what people want.

B- Those who have it as a mind distracter
These don’t care about music really, just the familiar background noise. In this case Pandora works better than Spotify as the sounds are more familiar and according to their tastes.

I just don’t see any situation in which ownership becomes a thing anymore, ie in any meaningful size.

In terms of revenue for streamers, just look at this chart:

Streaming is a very leveraged business - high costs compensated by revenue. Double the subscribers (should happen in ~2yrs) and the story is very different.


Great points, as always, miguelito. Music is sadly akin to wallpaper for these kids. It just so happens to exist in the same space as whatever activity they’re engaged in, at the moment. I’d settle, at this point, for anything that gets younger folks to even approach the idea of active music listening as a primary activity again, regardless of how they go about listening or what they’re listening to.

In my day, we walked to school up hill… both ways… in the driving snow. :roll_eyes:

I have a 15 year old daughter and your generalizations don’t apply, from what I’ve observed. I have given her access to music of her choosing, since she was very young. I am thankful that she became attached to bands early on and then quickly grew out them and onto something else (e.g. The Beatles, which I don’t really play, so not sure how that happened).

Today, she uses her Spotify account to listen on her phone (or our Sonos speakers). She has a huge collection of playlists that she uses to follow her favorite artists (right now, she’s stuck in a Hip-Hop phase) and she frequently stops me to listen to something new.

Music is not wallpaper for my kid… she listens to it much the same as I did when I was her age in 1979, except she gets to skip the OCD agony of a “stereo system” with vinyl and tape, with immediate access to everything at a touch of a button.


I agree, but even in this case, the seamless ability to hear new stuff at zero incremental cost, and switch around, is key to the experience.

I never had Music as a kid. We had terrible a.m. radios on which we listened to Radio Caroline. We had Top of the Pops on UK television and later we had The Old Grey Whistle test.
We enjoyed all this on very poor equipment. This, on reflection was a Golden Age. Top of the Pops through the late 60’s and early 70’s was a music master class even though it was frowned on at the time as well as being enjoyed thoroughly. A guilty pleasure you couldn’t ignore.

As time moved on, we had The Tube with Jools Holland and the Video era of Duran Duran, ZZ Top, Robert Palmer etc, another golden age as I think back on it. I still didn’t have any decent audio equipment but I harboured nagging doubts that music should sound better.

An Album, Ian Hunter, ‘Welcome to the Club’ captured my imagination but it just didn’t sound in reality as good as it should have sounded in my imagination. I was looking even if I didn’t know it.

In time I stumbled on Meridian Audio and loved the philosophy of ‘Hot Rod or Hi Fi’. I wasn’t a geek, knew nothing about audio and trusted the brand after listening. Of course, I had no money and so set about buying a second hand system over time and suddenly music sounded like I thought it should.

This system has built over the years to where I am today. The same passion has led me to being involved in hosting live music, filming shows, writing reviews, photographing artists and waxing lyrical about audio quality. It’s allowed me to get to know personally some great artists and musicians along with my lifetime love hate relationship with playing guitar.

My point is that there is nothing special about me and it’s too early to write of the MP3 music is free generation, because if I was born to that generation I would be one of them. Things change and things snowball.

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Kenneth, I greatly appreciate that you have shown your daughter the value in appreciating music, however, it is important to maintain some perspective in realizing that this is in your experience. You are someone who has passed the importance of music down to their offspring. Your experience, however meaningful, is nonetheless singular, and not necessarily indicative of wider tends in general (though it also very well could be).

One need only look at current singles/album cycles to understand just how little of today’s music actually stays with people for any significant length of time. Two weeks, and it’s on to the next hot playlist track. There’s no long-term viability there. It becomes difficult to cultivate a life-long fan when they are merely chasing the next mix-n-match track, not investing in an artist’s journey. These are perhaps other points for a different discussion.

Even in your given examples, your daughter is listening to Spotify, on her smartphone, through Sonos speakers. This, if nothing else, lends credence to my initial point,. Lifestyle products and mobility, not isolated listening rooms with individual components, dedicated audio furniture, listening chairs, bass traps, and sound treatment, are the future of hi-fi.

Your daughter is precisely the music lover that MQA is courting here.

Couldn’t disagree more. My daughter could care less about MQA (she doesn’t care about Redbook vs. MP3/AAC, either).

Have you ever listed to a stereo-paired set of Sonos PLAY:5? I replaced my entire 2-channel system with it in my living room.

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Again, Kenneth. That’s cool, and I’m glad you’ve found what works for you, but, I, Me, My is not all there is.
Your usage of Sonos, however great it sounds, continues to lend credence to my original point about traditional hi-fi becoming endangered.

Also, if MQA puts their tech in your daughter’s smart device and the manufacturer slaps that sticker on there, it doesn’t matter one iota whether or not your daughter cares. The licensing is baked into the cost, and she’ll be on board.


How do those sound? Are they comparable to good quality, full range floor-standers / or more like a nice pair of book-shelvers?

I would say somewhere in between. I was shocked how good they sounded, but I had lower expectations to start.

For most listening, they are all I need; hence, I removed the 2-channel system from the living room (my wife was very appreciative of that move). For higher quality / active listening, I move to my head-fi rig.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: MQA first unfold in Roon?

Try following this thread from the beginning and you’ll see how much it evolved into a totally different debate.

But it is interesting to think about how streaming services have affected how someone interacts with music and how that feeds back into the reproduction technology.

If I could summarize what I think people are saying here:

(1) Streaming services make almost all music available to their subscribers without incremental investment, versus the 1950s-2000s model of ownership, which required someone to part with incremental funds to acquire and listen to a given piece of music.

(2) Thus, the new age user is not invested in their collection or in any given piece of music. They don’t have to listen to it over and over because they can just as easily move to something else without incremental cost. This may also cause the new age user not to know content or become attached to a given work.

(3) Not being attached to a given work, the new age user is not going to pursue upgraded quality copies of that work. Similarly, there will be less tendency to upgrade equipment for better audio quality, because similar endorphins can be released by moving onto the next work rather than seeking a deeper understanding (better quality reproduction) of a work one is emotionally invested in.

Seems like a reasonable set of conclusions, albeit I also think that there are many, many people who do not fit this profile. They may stream, but they are also more attached to artists and works than the above implies. They just reflect that in new and different ways, like following their favorite artists on Twitter.

But I do see the concern that the trends are not leading towards gear intended for higher quality reproduction. But also, it is possible that as streaming services upgrade the available quality, user desire for gear to reproduce that higher quality will also increase.

The cynical among us, and I include myself, might see MQA as fitting in not as the pursuit of higher quality, but in the pursuit of the long-term goal of putting the ripped copy genie back in the bottle - i.e. DRM…


I truly believe the subscription model will take over for everyone across the board. They will need to iron a few things out, like I want a large library of high res files available to me everywhere regardless of where I am. The “download this album” ain’t good enough, I want a core library available to me without preplanning. It will happen, no doubt in my mind.

I cannot disagree, but I think you do assume a certain technological future that may not come to pass.

One example: we have a nice weekend house in a very rural area - that is where it is pretty. We have Comcast Internet. But being rural, at the end of the circuit, bandwidth is often not up to snuff. Tidal songs will start to play, and then Roon will display a “network congestion” message and skip to the next song. If that song is also Tidal, same thing, until it hits a local file. So at the very least your streaming model is going to have to take into account instances of spotty or non-existent bandwidth.

Then there are the Russian hackers. Or the North Koreans. Whoever. There have been precious few serious Internet outages. But I believe they are coming. I have fantasized about the day that people start showing up at my door asking to borrow my CDs or records because their precious streams aren’t available. Let’s not even talk about an atmospheric EMP (seriously, let’s not).

Finally, although I admit this is the most niche, streaming services do a crap job of provenance. Those of us who love the music want to know which master or remaster this is, which remix, what deluxe set or enhanced version. Maybe the streaming services will get better with this. But there is nothing more trustworthy than our own collections in that regard.

This was a rambling way of saying that the future may not simply be unlimited bandwidth everywhere, forever.


Hi folks,

I’ve split this discussion off into its own topic just to keep all the socks in the sock drawer. IMO it is a lot more interesting than MQA and Roon. Thank you all for your contributions and please continue.