Last week, music streaming service Spotify stopped functioning across Europe and the US, which prompted an eruption of anxiety across social media.
It begs the question; what would happen if our music catalogue suddenly vanished?
Launching in 2006, digital streaming quickly became the new norm for many music fans.
With the exception of vinyl enthusiasts and Bandcamp users, many of us rely solely on streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer for our music-related needs.
But how we would cope if these digital libraries filled with years and years of carefully curated music collections happened to vanish, isn’t something that usually crosses our minds.
In the past, many have doubted the platforms. The main reason being musicians are gravely underpaid in royalties.
In 2013, Talking Heads’ David Byrne wrote: “If artists have to rely almost exclusively on the income from these services, they’ll be out of work within a year.”
While digitalisation has helped undiscovered artists become, well, discovered, it has also hindered music into becoming a less tangible — and sometimes less meaningful — art form.
While your vinyl poses no threat of disappearing from the shelf, it’s more plausible that digital music could vanish at the click of a button.
Myspace, which helped to launch the careers of musicians including Arctic Monkeys and Paramore, provided us with a glimpse of what this could look like last year, when they accidently (and permanently) lost 53 million songs in the midst of a data migration.
So, are our digital music libraries concrete enough to last a lifetime?
Of course, we’re pretty early into the days of streaming services. We’ve been through decades of gramophones, record players, cassette tapes, compact discs, iPods, just to name a few. And that’s only 100 years’ worth of formats. So, whether this is going to be the final form of music seems unlikely.
Fortunately, there are organisations — including the Archive Team and the IIPC — which are helping to preserve internet content for the future. So, with some hope, our music won’t stray too far.