Updated: Jul 21, 2020
The Analogue Guy
For a guy born in the mid-sixties who grew up in an analogue world todays digital reality can be confusing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some kind of old fuddy-duddy who thinks everything was better yesterday and isn't interested in finding out what is out there now. I'm just a guy who developed his understanding the world works before the digital revolution.
I'm 50plus and I'm an analogue guy in a digital world. This is going to be the first of a series of blogs where I share my adventures in this new digital reality. I am going to be trying out some new and some not so new digital products and services and I'm going to be telling you what I think. Are they worth buying? As with everything that we do here at 50plus4men.com the aim will be to bring you the real story, the good the bad and the ugly.
So where to start? Well for me one of the digital developments which I have recently discovered is music streaming. Although I didn't grow up in a musical house, I've always loved music. From the two-tone music of my early teenage years, through to the R&B, reggae and pop of my dating days and then into Jazz it has always been a big part of my life.
I'm no audiophile, but I have a valve amp, decent speakers, a turntable, CD player etc. My record and CD collection is made up of music from the 70s, 80s and 90s. There was a brief period in the early 00s where I heard the music my son was playing but when he left for college so did his music. I'd stopped listening to music radio. My interest in what was currently being produced began to fade and I found myself joining the group I vowed I never would. I began to say things like "they just don't make good music anymore." Oh, I had an iPod, I downloaded music but in the main, it was from CDs that I owned or my friends owned. I didn't realise it at the time but I was trapped in the music of my youth.
So how did my digital music adventure begin?
I'd heard of music streaming services, but they had never appealed to me. I couldn't understand why I would even want to stream music. I had been enjoying music as a physical medium for over forty years and didn't see why I should change or even why I would want to change? Then one day music streaming came into my life and a whole new digital world opened up for me.
I had, had iPhones for years. The Apple Music app was already loaded on them when I got them. It was just one more icon on my phone that I never touched. Then my phone provider informed me that I was eligible for a free trial of the Apple Music service. You know the type of offer I'm talking about, just text this number and you can have this service free for the next 6 months. I think it even had free data so I wasn't even going use my phone's precious monthly data allowance. No money and no data what could go wrong? So I signed up and for the next 6 months Apple music service just sat on my phone unused and unloved.
I might have downloaded a track here or there but too be honest, I just didn't think about it. At the end of the 7th month, I noticed that £9.99 had been taken from my bank account by Apple. I thought OK I'm not using this so I sent a text to my phone provider asking to discontinue the service. That is when I found out that it was much more difficult to get out Apple Music than it had been to get in. In the end, I was midway through the 8th month and I still had the service. It seemed whatever I did I was still going to be charged £9.99 for that month so I decided to take a closer look at Apple Music. This is when my adventure with music streaming really began.
It started with Bill Withers.
Now Bill Withers is an artist I've always liked, but never really explored. I had his greatest hits album but not much more. I tapped his name into my Apple Music app and suddenly I had his whole discography in front of me. Albums going back to 1971. Everything on my phone at fingertips and I hadn't moved. It was incredible! After a lifetime in which my musical enjoyment had been limited by the physical nature (records/CDs) of analogue recording I was free. No longer did I have to go out and find the physical album. No more worries about where I was going to store my music collection. I realised that I now had access to an almost an inexhaustible library of digital sound in which no album had been deleted and no artist was too obscure. Everything ever recorded seemed to be available to me. I was like a kid in a candy store gorging myself on the goods that were in the jars.
Discovering more about artists I already knew was great but things really took off was when I started to find new artists and new music that I'd simply never heard of before. You see Apple Music makes suggestions about other artists who are similar to the ones you have selected. So when I streamed Bill Withers Apple Music suggested I might like Donny Hathaway. Now that's not a great leap. Anybody who likes soul music from the 70s is going to have heard of Donny Hathaway, I certainly had, but with Apple Music at the touch of my phone screen, I could delve into his entire back catalogue! Suddenly at no extra cost, I could explore almost every major artist's discography from the classic 70s soul period. I looked a little deeper into the list of similar artists and came across an artist named Frank McComb. This was a guy I'd never heard of, a guy who is producing music now and when I started listening to him I found he was someone I really enjoyed. Something new had been added to my music selection.
Going on a musical adventure
Now not only does Apple Music identify similar artists to those that I have already selected but each week it supplies me with a playlist of new music that it thinks I'll enjoy. This playlist is based on the music that I have previously selected and suggests new artists that I may not have heard of. I don't like everything that Apple's algorithms throw up, but I like enough to explore each list each week. I can with a tap on my phone go on a journey of musical discovery.
With an advertised 50,000,000 tracks available to stream I am free to explore everything and anything that came across my path. Old music, new music, Classical, Jazz, Pop, Country, and even Grime I can taste it all. If I like it, it stays, if I don't I just delete it. No extra cost no fuss. Gone are the days when I weigh up whether I wanted to invest £10 plus on an album that I haven't heard, now its just click and play.
Before I tried it I had heard that the sound quality of the music stream was not as high as the best CD/vinyl recordings, and that might be true, but to be honest I haven't noticed.
As I said my stereo set up is not digital and so it wasn't Bluetooth compatible. This meant that for a while the only ways I could enjoy Apple Music was through head phones connected to my phone or through my TV bluetooth speaker. This all changed when I bought myself a Logitech Bluetooth Receiver/Bluetooth Audio Adapter. I plugged it into a spare channel on my amp, suddenly I had Bluetooth connectivity and could play music straight from my phone through my stereo set up.
Other streaming services
Apple Music is not the only streaming service out there. There are a number of other providers Tidal, Spotify, Deezrer etc. They all cost between £7.99 - 14.99, all offer very similar services. The link below is to an article from the Daily Telegraph ( not my favourite paper) written by Mathew Field dated April 2019. It seems to give a good overview of the UK streaming market and the services available.
The one downside to music streaming. The first a perhaps most important one is that even though you have paid for the music you don't own it. You're not buying the music in the traditional sense. When you bought an analogue album it was yours. No further payment was required. When you use a streaming service you are effectively leasing the music you're listening to. Purchasing a license to listen to the music. If you stop paying your subscription the license is terminated and all the music will disappear from your Apple Music account. Secondly, I have noticed a change in my own attitude to music I stream and the artists that make it. In my pre-streaming days I knew the names of the artists and every track on the albums I owned. Each purchase was considered and weighed up.
This process of consideration meant that each album, the music on them and the artists that created them were special to me. Individual artists and their music had an importance to me that the simple click and play the reality of music streaming just doesn't impart. That said I wouldn't go back.
Music streaming has opened a whole new world of music to me and it's amazing. I have come to realise not only are they still making new fantastic music but I can and I want to find it and enjoy.
If like me you have always enjoyed music, but found over the years you've begun to lose touch with what is happening now, that your musical selection has become narrower and is more about looking back than forward then consider a streaming service. There are plenty of free introductory offers out there. What have you got to lose?
If there are any digital services or products that you like me to try and report back on leave a comment or make a suggestion below.