Will the pandemic change our attitude to streaming?

I have seen several discussions of how the pandemic is changing our attitudes about many things. For example:

With the catastrophic infection rate in New York City, of course many companies have switched to a work-from-home policy. This is of course common in many cities and many companies, but the discussion was focused on the secondary effects in NYC. Many big banks, real estate companies and similar outfits have tens of thousands of employees, normally working in vast, expensive real estate. As they are working from home and this is proven very efficient, many executives are questioning the need for getting them all into offices after the pandemic settles down. Everybody agrees there is value in face to face meetings, but we have learnt that this is less necessary on a daily basis than we thought. If this shift holds, what will be the implications for the business ecosystem of Manhattan? Real estate will be dramatically affected, several executives said they have huge leases coming up for renewal and they may not renew. But there is a big secondary economy in cities like that: restaurants, taxis, bike couriers… If we have learned that collaborating electronically, over the cloud, works well enough (or better because people don’t need to waste time commuting) this could mean a dramatic impact across parts of the local economy we haven’t even thought about. And note that the change is not so much about new technology enabling this, as it is about a new awareness among corporate leadership that this actually works. Like any big shift, this shift will have winners and losers.

I know people in the software industry that observe dramatic shifts in the adoption of remote collaboration tools, and who as a consequence are making massive investments in making those remote collaboration tools better, leading to more adoption…

I also noticed that Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, said during their recent quarterly financial report that the adoption of cloud has accelerated dramatically, things that were expected to transition over years are now transitioning in month. I have a personal interest in this, until I retired a few years I was involved in the corporate data center and cloud transition, and many companies were positive in principle but had practical barriers, from poor network infrastructure in some countries, to large investments in their own systems, to inertia. But with the current incentives, Microsoft is seeing a rapid change.

What do these things have to do with us? The infrastructure that makes these things possible are cloud-based, it has existed and evolved and improved for years, but the pandemic changes people’s attitudes. It isn’t a black-and-white thing, it isn’t that suddenly there is a need where there wasn’t one befors, but people are acknowledging and adopting this new way of working. And not just working, there is happy hour online, families and social groups socialize online. Because we know that we can.

Wrt music listening: there was a recent thread about how Roon shows local and online music in some circumstances, and I mused on how i think of myself as swimming in an ocean of music, some is local for various reasons (history, availability…), some is online, but I don’t pay attention to the difference when I’m playing. My “library” is virtual, it shows the music i care about, some is local and some is in the cloud, some is high res and some is not, the technicalities don’t matter. Somebody complained that you can’t LIKE an album or track without first adding it to the library, we know the technical reasons for that, but from a user perspective he wanted this hidden, Roon should just add the album to the library automatically. Makes perfect sense, fits my ocean-of-music mindset.

And I have written about my love of the recommendations function that combines cloud-based machine learning with the cloud-based long tail, driving an expansion of diversity.

But I know there are people here who dislike this. Who prefer to own the music and, if they don’t ignore streaming services altogether, view them as an adjunct to the real library and don’t want any forced intermingling.

But I wonder (yes, this is the punchline of this post!) if the pandemic will drive a shift in this respect. Not because it forces the shift: we can still buy CDs or downloads online, don’t have to break quarantine to get them. And not because the pandemic requires it, or even encourages it. Maybe just because it is becoming seen as a natural thing to do in the new world we are transitioning into.

I for one welcome our new cloud-based overlords.


I work for a communications company that developed software & hardware equipment to enable remote working AKA “working from home.” In recent years they have been bringing staff back into a centralised office while still selling the concept of home working along with software/hardware.

Many of us (all of my team of around 25 people) have now been working from home for nearly 3 months due to the lockdown (UK). It will be interesting to see if this changes the attitudes of the management and results in a change of policy.

I don’t know. The kids and their vinyl fixation will still be with us. But the writing on the wall has been clear for a number of years now. Streaming wins.

But let me go dark here. This virus is attacking baby boomers like nobody’s business. I imagine the U. S. death toll will be over 200K by the end of the year. Lots of folks who collect, and have collected their entire life, will die. What will happen to the collections? They will be dispersed, some of it into the trash, some into used record stores. But how many of the vinyl-collecting kids will be interested in a Mantovani collection? Or The Voice? Or even Iron Maiden? And the CDs of those deceased elders? No one has a CD player any more. They’ll all be trash. This will be an upside for streaming.

What’s more, the wealth transfer from boomers to their heirs will have an effect, too. Not sure whether that will be pro- or anti- streaming. In general, I’d guess pro.

Wow Anders very thought provoking post. This is why the Roon forum is lucky to have you.

I’m going to reserve my longer response until I have the chance to reflect. But, I will say, quarantine cannot last forever. We did not evolve to be separated indefinitely. It’s not just psychological - we need to be exposed to microbes. Sure, temporarily we can quarantine to stop Covid (or at least theoretically we could have absent so much dissent), but in the long run our bodies need to be in the world. But that doesn’t mean we won’t work remotely more often.

Interesting observations. The situation is transformative, for good or ill. It will be interesting to see how we progress.

As for streaming. I had resisted the Borg assimilation for the longest time, but finally came around. Before the current situation. Now, I’m happy I did. Even though buying downloads and ordering CDs are pretty low risk propositions in these times. But if you can listen to virtually all recorded music for $15 a month without leaving your house, well, that’s pretty compelling. (And roon makes it even more compelling.)

I do worry, though, about artists who can only make money by touring, and now they can’t do that. Sad to see so many doing virtual performances and asking for paypal/venmo donations. Labels (are they still relevant?) should do more to help their artists get through this (if they haven’t already and I hadn’t heard about it).

As for workplace transformations. Well, sure, a lot of work can be done mostly from home, if you have broadband. A lot of people don’t.

And it depends on the occupation. Plumbers, electricians, grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, bank tellers, doctors, nurses, etc. can’t. We need mandated protections for all those folks.

Anyway, I’ve been blessed to be able to work mostly from home for many years, except for some air/road trips for mission critical face to face meetings from time to time. I’m retired now, so those days are thankfully behind me.

Going back to my previous life as a software developer, project manager, SrVP, EVP, etc., what I would most miss is “management by walking around.” It worked for me, as an employee and as senior management. And getting in a room and brainstorming. Hope we don’t miss out on all that.

Anyway, a lot of good stuff to think about.


I believe it’s inevitable that streaming will take over as all of the under 40s that my children know don’t have a cd player or a hifi. They have Alexa, Siri or Google units, possibly a Sonos or Bluetooth speaker but that’s it.
As I’m in to music my kids grew up buying CDs but they don’t have any now.
Napster started the ball rolling down the hill in 2002 disassociating purchase from digital ownership and it’s just kept on gaining momentum.

Aside from digital downloads, the last actual CD I bought was in December 2018.

I still buy a few digital downloads (mostly from Bandcamp), of music that’s not available on Qobuz. But physical media seem like a mug’s game.

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Very interesting topic.

In terms of the bigger picture, I do not envisage there will be much change. The world has already noted some wonderful changes to the environment with substantial drops in pollution, along with a myriad of other positive changes.

Our society is not ready for dramatic changes (which is a shame), despite some of the positives seen through this pandemic.

What I am noticing is a world wide push to get economies kick started. This means little in terms of reflection that will take place & in no time the status quo of pre pandemic times will be the norm once again.

Sure, some big business as you pointed out have seen the benefits of employees working from home. This was spoken about decades ago as part of an Internet based ‘revolution’. Very little has changed, other than perhaps a substantial loss of ‘brick & mortar’ stores to online retailers.

The education sector has an opportunity to move toward a more flexible way of learning, where there can truly be differentiation & equitable outcomes for all student’s, again it will be business as usual.

As for music, we know streaming is #1, how people stream is something different & as mentioned above @ged_hickman1 is largely determined by age.

As governments push hard to halt economic downturns, much of the positives that can be learnt from this, will also be quickly swept under the carpet.


I hope that we are wrong, but I suspect that things will return to “normal”.


I removed a ‘comma’ from your quote of mine - reading it I couldn’t understand what I was saying…however - seems that comma removal has changed your quote completely.

“Only the conviction of your own vanity”…sounds very much like a leader or 3 or more today!!!


I suspect that people will not always remember it (as your video quote says). The 1918 'flu pandemic got forgotten about*. Then the problem becomes that “those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them”…

*My parents’ generation lived through it - but they never talked about it…

In a past career, this was my favorite part of being in the office on a late Friday evening.

Roon and previous iterations were always work-at-home, so our equivalent was getting together from time-to-time, drinking too much, and complaining about the state of the industry, our own solutions, and what we wanted to see done about it.

When my family started to quarantine in mid-March, it was a nightmare of logistics. Food, home-schooling, etc… but then we had 2 families (our good friends, their kids, and pets) with very different views on life, come live with us out in the country. It’s been incredibly refreshing, socially stimulating, and the workload is reduced on all fronts. I’m 100% convinced the nuclear family was a total mistake. While I do want the bad effects of the pandemic to cease, I’m holding hope that life will be different post-COVID19.

Working in the office is about control it’s not about efficiency because often in big cities hours of your day are eaten up by commutes.

Companies like control and your middle management’s jobs depend on them overseeing production in the office.

I don’t agree with Nadella on the cloud. It’s nice to attribute capabilities to the “Cloud” but the reality is the cloud is just computers connected via the Internet. Since the days of Arpanet we’ve always had the cloud in the US it was just called Mainframes and thin client computing.

We’ll see if companies follow a trend of allowing more remote workers. I think the smart companies will understand that workforce agility can be balanced leading to more resiliency during extreme times and worker happiness. I know a lot of people that would love 3 days in office 2 days remote.

As for the US we need to rethink our broadband strategy. Today we have essentially oligarchs that have carved up the country into territories (Most people only have one high speed option in their area for a reason). Covid-19 has illuminated that these networks are built not to withstand significant events but to extract maximum profit. In Asia they massively build out their broadband and then worry about how to profit from it later. The US is embarrassingly inadequate on a global scale in broadband cost and scale.

As for streaming. In the US we have to move away from streaming. Streaming is ecologically deleterious to our air quality. Every content distribution network leads back to a Datacenter which is burning fossil fuels in ridiculous numbers. Would consumers still think streaming is the way of the future if they knew that datacenter pollute the environment more than gridlocked traffic?

We need to be encouraging the off lining of media content with appropriate content protection. Today’s ARM based mobile can playback hours of 4k content on a 3000 milliamp hour battery that could be recharged by solar energy. I routinely see 12TB hard drives on sale for 199 dollars. That’s enough storage to download every song and movie in the collection of most of the US.

We have seen the beautiful skies return over Los Angeles in just a few weeks of quarantine. Over the next year you’re going to see copious amounts of data coming from Environmentalist detailing the short term impact of reducing travel to only which is necessary and it’s going to clearly show the damage we are doing to the planet which this ridiculous need to have humans moving around like some drone bees in a hive. In our cases we’re doing the opposite of pollination.

For me it has been the other way around; at work i had no access to my private library of MP3 or FLAC files, so i used streaming instead.
Right now, because i’m working from home, i use my own library a lot more.

I’m not against streaming as a means of consuming music, but a lot of the music i enjoy is simply not available on streaming services.

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@Harrison_Murchison – I fully agree with your comments on management and broadband, but I strongly disagree with your relationship between music content and the environment, and “the cloud”.

The “cloud” is not network infrastructure. The word comes from “cloud computing”, invented in the 1960s with ARPANET, but nowadays referring to the idea of computation power being purchasable as a utility. Utilizing “the cloud” implies fast ramp-up without having to deploy computing infrastructure yourself. It has emergent properties that result from actions that are possible due to reduced time and cost from decision to deployment. This is rather different than equating cloud with networking or even the internet – the key component being the utility-like nature of computation (and related items like storage).

For example, being able to pay for GSuite as a service eliminates the need for a “SysOp” from 2 decades ago that ran your company’s email servers, and maintained your software licensing. Being able to pay for Slack, Skype, etc… means no more “Polycom team”.

There is no reason this can’t be done with clean-source energy. However, there is no way to make CDs and records without petroleum. Streaming is the future, and it’s cleaner too. But if you want to think short term, you can’t ignore the transport of physical media, and the resources required for massive duplication of storage media (hard drives) from household to household. Streaming lets you achieve efficiencies of scale and result in a system better to the environment immediately, and soon convertible to something totally clean.


I 100% agree…on so many levels here.


A couple of things which touch on this. A lot of existing collections are being digitized for streaming.

and the Internet Archive has bought Seattle’s Bop Street Records:


Maybe but my observations were not based on what I think it is like or what it should be like. These articles were based on interviews with senior executives (including CEOs) in the biggest enterprises of the US, who have observed the consequences of the changes and are reconsidering their financial commitments. Are they right? Is this wise? That’s not the point, the question is, will they in fact change?

We have seen other technology-driven changes in the 40+ years, some of which have eliminated many middle manager jobs (and other intermediaries like travel agents). Is this wise? Again, not the question at hand. Will the change happen?

This was not a marketing event where Nadella was trying to convince customers, nor was it a panel discussion where he talked about his view of the industry. It was a quarterly financial report where the company describes what has happened in the business, and they were observing a drastic shift in their business, an acceleration of a shift. And note that Microsoft is a 100 billion dollar per year company, if a quarter has seen changes that are big enough to deserve being brought up in a quarterly report to Wall Street, they are speaking of billions. And similarly with Amazon: we may like buying CDs from them, but after a recent quarterly report an analyst said that from a financial perspective, Amazon is a cloud computing company with a retailing hobby. How big is this cloud shift of Microsoft and Amazon and Google? They don’t disclose such numbers, but the number of data centers and computers installed per week is beyond belief. The point, again, is that this is not about what I think people might be doing or what I think they should be doing, these are statements from the players about what companies are in fact doing.

Wrt your comment on the cloud being nothing new: having worked as a senior architect on enterprise data centers and the cloud transition for 25 years (now retired), I vigorously disagree. But this is not the time or the place to discuss the technical characteristics of cloud computing.

The reality is that cloud computing and streaming has dramatically reduced energy consumption. In 2005 we did a detailed study, and found that to stand up a new server in a corporate data center took something like 6 months: figure out requirements, spec it, get approval and funding, order it from Dell or HP, build on demand, shipping, installation, network configuration, software configuration, testing. As a consequence, people overprovisioned, they didn’t want to go through that again, and the result was that the average utilization of corporate computers was well below 10 %, but power consumption was near 100 %. Ten years later, with virtualization, the time was 20 minutes. Now, with some of the cloud technologies, the time is milliseconds. No need to overprovision. Power consumption can follow the need closely.

This is a central business need for cloud companies because they pay for power and cooling, so they (we) have invested enormous effort in optimization. Incentives work.

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