Is Streaming Good For Us?

Vol. 10

Happy Friday!

The weather is warming up and indoor activities are gradually giving way to more outdoor tasks. I’ve felt for a long time that winter is the best time to focus on creative pursuits but have always found it hard to maintain the momentum on these projects once the weather gets nice. Maybe 2021 will be different?

🎧 Reflections on 10+ years of streaming

It was February 2010 and I had just signed up for a strange little service called Spotify. I just so happened to be studying abroad in Luxembourg where the small startup was based. At the time, online music choices were somewhat limited: you could either pay $.99 a song on iTunes, listen to random selections via Pandora or go the route of online piracy. Spotify was different. It was “free” through ad revenue and featured a seemingly limitless selection of musical variety to enjoy.

The idea of having millions of songs and albums to choose from for free was hard to believe. Growing up I remember my dad’s album collection that was our family’s soundtrack. There was a profound feeling of ownership we had over this music. Every album and artist was hand picked and curated. You couldn’t jump from album to album. Generally if a CD was in the changer that meant you were listening to it for at least a few days. It was an entirely different way to listen to music.

At the risk of sounding old, I want to make a confession: sometimes I miss the days. Listening in those times was more thoughtful and calculated. The limitations made you take time to enjoy it and soak it in. I’m still thankful instant on-demand access to music but I recognize that it can cheapen the experience in some ways. My kids understand that they should be able to listen to any song they want to at any time in any place.

Generally when something becomes ubiquitous, we consume greater quantities at lower quality (think fast food, Netflix, coffee, etc). Have Spotify and others done the same thing to music?

🎨 💰 The World of NFTs

In another area of technology, we see more limitations being put in place. The latest crypto-craze, known as NFTs have recently risen to public prominence. Non-Fungible Tokens can roughly be explained as unique collectibles released as in limited quantities using the same digital currency tech as Bitcoin Ethereum. People can buy and sell NFTs through marketplaces like Nifty Gateway and OpenSea where some pieces have been auctions for more than $800,000. Where most technology is about creating limitless channels of content (like Spotify above), Niftys are all about using restraint and uniqueness to create value.

Although these tokens have historically been visual art, any media type (movies, songs, books, pictures, etc) could be turned into NFTs. The band Kings of Leon is set to release a deluxe version of latest album as an NFT as well as six unique tokens that act as lifetime passes to their live shows. Many pro sports leagues have gotten in on this trend with their own NFTs and marketplaces. NBA Top Shot, which sells animated trading cards of players in game situations, has reportedly sold over $200MM since its launch in 2019.

Some of these currencies feel a lot like the fashion of the digital native; a way to express one’s individuality and status. In the same way that wearing a hemp choker in high school signified that you were a “chill dude”, owning the latest meme token lets people know that you are culturally relevant.

One aspect about NFTs that really appeals to me is that they give artists another level of creativity for their work. Because these tokens can be bought and sold on their own, the medium isn’t the main limiting factor anymore. Maybe each song on an album could have their own NFTs which are visualizations, lyrics, liner notes, etc along with the music. Through limitation, the possibilities are endless.