Our Means to Music

Liam Kenneally ’16


In this age of online consumerism, the music industry has evolved into an expansive and perplexing frontier. The pre-popularized internet entertainment market now operates in the shadows of a massive online community of artists, licensers, vendors, consumers, and sharers. Navigating this market has become pressing issue for music enthusiasts. With so many avenues for the delivery of your favorite tunes, how are you’d to decide which music service best suits you?

To get a better grip on how our generation has responded to a populated market, I asked students from Strake Jesuit and St. Agnes which music provider they preferred and why. With answers ranging from music apps to Vinyl, I encountered a variety of preferences backed by legitimate claims. In this article, I will explore the two most popular music services chosen by today’s high school students.

The most popular answer I received came at no surprise: Spotify. This internet-based music service was the first to perfect the subscription streaming model. Unlimited music for $10 a month is great for anyone who is constantly expanding their music library, or likes to explore within a large, structured selection. Spotify strikes the delicate balance between mainstream artists and unique and upcoming musicians, but often lacks the prominent underground presence that many music enthusiasts long for. Those who favored Spotify amongst my interviewees expressed appreciation for it’s ease of use, collaborative playlists, simple organization, sharing and social features, cross-platform uniformity, constantly evolving selection, avenues for discovery, and seamless integration. Conversely, those who dislike Spotify were uncomfortable with the monthly cost in addition to the data fees that occur when using this app without wifi; the fact that Jesuit blocks the use of this service on their student network; and it’s limited collections for many less-popular artists, such as Chance the Rapper and non-existent collections for many stars of the industry, such as Taylor Swift.

Soundcloud, another internet-based streaming service, came in second amongst the Strake Jesuit and St. Agnes community. This social-network centric streaming service is completely free to use, and leaves much of the experience up to users. Soundcloud provides the infrastructure for music sharing between its users, and the publication and sharing of songs is in the hands of the people. The result is a vast collection of unique songs, albums, and playlists that often stray from the more conventional views of music production in favor of an evolving scene where remixes, samples, covers, and new and upcoming artists are equal to the mainstream hits and stars. Those who prefer Soundcloud love the concepts borrowed from social media, such as likes and reposts; access to a massive community of talented artists; the egalitarian view of those artists; the price tag (free); and the endless possibilities for exploration and discovery. Those critical of Soundcloud are bothered by the advertisements that occasionally occur for ten to fifteen seconds between songs, find the lax structure hard to navigate, and expect a more consistent experience from the artists and playlists they follow.

Art shapes the way we experience the world. Increased access to music through services like these has granted our generation a new lens into the world of art and, thus, the world at large.