I have been carefully curating my music collection for over 20 years, now. In that time, I’ve amassed thousands of albums that I have loved and listened to countless times. For a long while, there was some physical representation of this music. I owned CD’s. I collected records. But, all of it got dumped onto a hard drive at one point, and for the most part, that library of music hasn’t been touched since about 2010. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one is the accessibility to Youtube/Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.
I am not the first to recognize the seemingly incompatible metaphors of “owning” vs. “renting” music, but until this year, I don’t think that I realized just how much my music collection is no longer mine. I no longer treasure music the way I used to because I didn’t purchase it. I no longer work to find new music or dig up some long forgotten collection by a band I half remember because there is no worry that it won’t be there tomorrow. All music is always accessible. And it is simultaneously amazing and awful.
I don’t think that my kids will ever really possess the music they love. They will make playlists and they will stream their favorites. They will surely have far more opportunities to experience music than I ever did when I had to go to the record store and pick up the latest album, but I do need to make peace with the idea that access is not the same as ownership.
Access is not the same as ownership.
And maybe it doesn’t have to be. But, as I look at the thousands of songs I can turn to at the touch of a screen, I miss what ownership gives me: the ability to call these songs, and the experiences I have with them, mine. I’ll get over it, but I’m not sure I want to just yet.