Tech Notes: For the Music Buffs

I said in my last blog post that I would talk about the ways we all can listen to our music.  In my opinion, technology and the internet have changed the music industry quicker than any other industry.  As my clients have become more comfortable with doing the basics with technology (like sending email, paying bills, and surfing the web), perhaps now you may want to start learning leisure skills, and one of those skills could be finding and listening to digital music.  No matter if you like listening with headphones on an afternoon walk on the beach, or just having it play in the background while you’re around the house, today’s talk should give you a broad view of how we can purchase, listen to, and enjoy our favorite genres of music.

Buying vs. Streaming

A good place to start would be to decide whether you want to purchase and store your music on your device (whether it’s your smartphone, iPod, computer, or external hard drive) or pay and stream your music “on the fly.”  Both have advantages and disadvantages.

When buying music, the advantage is that it’s a one-time cost to purchase the song or album.  This is akin to buying the record or tape back in the “good ol’ days” (you never could purchase a single song, could ya?).  Also, a good thing is that when you buy it, you can play it on any of your preferred music players.  What qualifies as a music player?  Nearly every gadget.  Computers, smartphones, tablets, iPods, Amazon Echo, Apple TV, Roku- the list goes on!

If you decide to purchase and download your music directly to your player (if applicable), then another advantage is that you don’t need a network connection to play the music.  This is how most iPods work.  You download the music files directly to the device and play it anywhere, anytime, with or without Wi-Fi or cellular connections.

However, one drawback to listening to music stored locally is that you are limited to just the music you have purchased/downloaded.  So, your selection could be limited.  This is where streaming comes into play.

Streaming music is the process of music being delivered to you “on the fly.”  This means that this music is not stored anywhere on your device, so you’ll need Wi-Fi or a cellular connection to stream music.  If you stream lots of music every day and you are not on Wi-Fi, then you may be charged extra for “data overages” – so be mindful of that.

There are so many streaming services out there.  And most of them have free and pay-for versions.  Here’s a quick list:

  • Pandora – probably the most popular one.  You choose your favorite artist or genre, and Pandora creates a station that will play similar artists/songs of that genre.  The free version makes you listen to occasional advertisements, and limits you to 5 skips an hour.  Pay Pandora monthly and be free of those limitations.
  • Spotify – similar to Pandora, but their paid version allows you to download songs directly to your device for “offline listening”.
  • Apple Music – only for Apple devices.  Similar to Spotify.  Touts a collection of over 40 million songs in their library.
  • YouTube Red – similar to the others.  Gives you ad-free listening not just to music, but videos as well.
  • iHeartRadio & TuneIn – free and paid subscriptions, these apps allow you to listen to many radio stations around the world.  Great if you are in one location and want to listen to a radio station in another location.  I remember the “old days” when we went on family vacations and by the time we got to Columbia, we’d have to find a new radio station because the ones in Charleston would lose signal.  No more!

One thing of note is that your favorite artist may or may not be available on some platforms.  A common trend is top musicians signing exclusivity deals with one company over another.  But for up-and-coming musicians, what a time to be alive!  Combined with social media, a small-time musician or band can share and grow their audience around the world in ways artists and bands from yesteryear could never do.

Hold On to Those Vinyls!

Recently, vinyl records have made somewhat of a comeback- generally because of the “nostalgia factor” and let’s face it, those cracks and pops of a record player are kinda neat!  Some people even argue that the sound produced by those record players just can’t be beat.  And those album covers- you don’t get an album cover when you buy a song from the iTunes store.  If you still have boxes of these laying around, I pass no judgement!  I think it’s kind of a cool thing to keep for sentimental reasons.

Digitize Your CD Collection and Save Some Money

If you are like me, then you weren’t around to go down to the record store and purchase that new album. I grew up in the CD era of music where the Sony Walkman and Discman were all the rage.  While CD’s don’t have the classic nostalgia factor going for itself, if you have a computer with a disk drive and Apple iTunes installed, you can pop in all of your CDs and convert the CD to a digital file that can then be transferred to your iPod or just streamed to a Bluetooth speaker.  The advantage of this?  You don’t have to shell out money to buy the same songs or albums.  Plus, you can clear that shelf of all those CD cases that are just taking up space.

Bluetooth Is Here to Stay!

If you are a true music fan or just an occasional listener, you need to invest in Bluetooth technology.  Most of our smaller devices have speakers that are good for our private listening, but not for streaming in our living rooms and kitchens.  That’s where Bluetooth comes in.  A variety of brands, colors, shapes, and styles of speakers exists that will do the job, and do it with no wires.  The best by far is Sonos, which makes streaming your music easy as pie.  Also, for personal listening, grab a nice pair of Bluetooth headphones for those evening walks or for working out.

If you have any questions about this stuff or you think you’re ready to let it rip, give us a call or come down and see us at the shop.  We are in the Post Office at Freshfields!

Chad Droze
Post & Computer Center – Freshfields Village

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