Physical vs streaming music: The debate rages on 

A lot of music enthusiasts still swear by LPs and CDs even as streaming music is gaining immense popularity
Last Updated 18 November 2020, 11:16 IST

It is a divided world out there when it comes to music listening preferences – streaming versus physical media like LPs or CDs.

The debate is pretty heated, whether it is on the internet or among a group of friends when they meet. It is very similar to reading news on an app as opposed to reading a newspaper. There are arguments for the convenience of digital as opposed to the experience of reading the physical copy.

LPs (vinyl records) have made a big comeback and music lovers are a thrilled lot, at least those who love physical media.

Those who love to listen to music with physical media are largely audiophiles and are very particular about the whole 'listening session'. They believe there is a huge difference in hearing and listening to music. Listening to music is an experience. Music while working out or doing household chores is just hearing music.

The owner of records and CDs will spend some time selecting the album(s) of choice from the collection, take it over to the audio system rack, load the CD or place the LP on the turntable, get it going and sit back with a drink to enjoy the music.

Even in this, LPs score over CDs. The sight of one revolving somehow adds to the experience. The physical presence of the hardware gives an elated feeling of listening to one’s favourite tracks.

Besides, collecting LPs is like collecting art. Ask any music lover who collects LPs – the outer sleeve is almost as precious as the record itself. Obviously, quite a bit of effort has gone into the artwork on the cardboard sleeve. Holding it is a special feeling.

The turntable will also need some special care. The stylus and LPs need to be cleaned according to the need and one has to be careful with the equipment.

Even with a CD, DVD or a Blu-ray disc, one still had some physical connect with the whole experience of listening to music. There seems to be less resistance to the relegation of DVDs and Blu-rays from the onslaught of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video but a section of music lovers seems to be resisting Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Tidal and the like.

Streaming is not all that bad, say people. After all, look at the convenience. You get to listen to a lot more than the physical collection you possess. Plus, everything is on one smartphone or tablet and you don’t need space to accommodate all those LPs and CDs and audio equipment. These days, stereo and home theatre receivers are compatible with services like Spotify and the music can be played with big speakers.

There were arguments previously that streaming does not always give high-quality music because of sampling and compression. That too is probably a thing of the past because some services do come with high-resolution track options.

And what about the third kind of people? They swear by LPs and CDs but are open to streaming as well. For example, they will probably listen to a bit of streaming music in bed at night.

While the balance is probably tilting towards streaming music as opposed to physical media, it might be difficult to state that LPs and CDs will die out. It looks like there are no clear-cut answers at the moment and the debate will rage on.

(Published 18 November 2020, 10:34 IST)

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