• Laura Barrett

To Stream, Or Not To Stream? Streaming Music Vs. Physical Formats

Updated: May 11

To Stream, Or Not To Stream? That is the question. And at Townsend Music, it's a question we're asked every day.


From our perspective, there are pros and cons to jumping into streaming vs. sticking with our beloved CD, vinyl and cassettes. And perhaps *whisper it* there is a strong case for making the most of both. Allow us to take a little look at some of the arguments for and against physical music in the age of streaming.

To Stream: PORTABLE AUDIO

If you’re always on the go, streaming music is the most practical option. With streaming services, you can listen to music freely in any environment at any time: on that jam-packed train during Monday morning’s commute to work, psyching yourself up for that 10K run or at your pal's house party when you wanna show off your hottest, hand-picked playlist to impress a certain someone.


Physical mediums are just that. Physical. They're heavy and take up space. Streaming services give you the freedom to access music wherever you choose.


Not To Stream: YOU DON'T OWN IT

One of the drawbacks of streaming music is that you don’t own it - you are simply renting the music.


By buying music on vinyl, CD, or cassette, you physically own that piece of music and you get to keep it. By streaming, you're essentially borrowing the music digitally. You risk potentially losing all of your carefully prepared playlists and precious downloads should you cancel your subscription or lose access to your data.

Yes It's Portable... But You Don't Own It

To Stream: EASE OF DISCOVERY

Another great thing about streaming services is the ability to browse and discover new music - instantly.

Many streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music, suggest music for you to sample and even curate playlists based on your current listening habits and tastes, making it even easier for you to find new artists instead of searching for them yourself.*

* Although this does take all the fun out of crate diggin' and finding hidden gems in record stores. 🤷‍♀️

Not To Stream: NOT ALL MUSIC IS AVAILABLE

When it comes to streaming music, currently not all artists, bands and albums are always available on streaming platforms.


One of the best things about collecting physical formats of music is the journey you undertake to source it. From sifting through the new releases at a record store to digging through some golden oldies in a charity shop, there's always the chance to get your hands on albums and artists that have never seen the light of day online.

Thinking Of Streaming These Classic Albums? Think Again!

To Stream: AFFORDABLE ENTRY-LEVEL ACCESS

While controversial price raises are currently being introduced, in terms of expense, streaming options are still relatively affordable. Services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music offer subscriptions for around £9.99 a month, which is admittedly great value considering given the wide range of music you gain access to.


Collecting physical music can be an expensive hobby. The price point of specialist records can vary, especially if they are rare or limited editions and you could be forking out some serious bucks for just one record.


It's worth remembering that with the affordability of streaming to the consumer comes a side-effect of the flow of revenue that goes back to the artist; UK Parliament is currently examining what economic impact music streaming is having on artists, record labels and the sustainability of the wider music industry.

Not To Stream: IT'S NOT THE FULL EXPERIENCE

When you invest in a physical piece of music, you get the full artistic experience that the artist intended to give the fans, not least in the superior sound quality of vinyl and compact discs as compared to compressed audio used by streaming platforms.


On top of this, you also get the tactile experience of holding the artwork of the music in your hands, whether that be vinyl, CD or cassette. And that artwork may be visually rich and include all manner of liner notes, song lyrics and interesting packaging to complement the vision of the record as a whole.

"I've always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don't really own the album." - Jack White

With each purchase of a physical item directly from a record shop or an artist's online store, you're choosing the option that provides the most support for the artist, helping them to continue to make the music you love.


And Finally...

Vinyl records can make some rather tasteful décor if your walls are lacking a certain je ne sais quoi...

So, dear reader, we leave your conclusions to you. Whether you love the convenience and vast choice that streaming has to offer or continue to lean towards the tactile splendour and audio dominance of physical mediums for the music you truly love, we at Townsend Music hope that you continue to enjoy the music with whichever suits your audio needs. Don't forget to let us know your opinion on our socials channels!

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