What’s the Point of Music Downloads?


I’m a bit too young for Napster thing.

#1 – I didn’t have the internet at home at the time.

#2 – I didn’t have a computer at home until 2001.

#3 – The only 2 websites I went on from 1998 to mid-2002 were FunTrivia.com and WWF.com

However, once I came of age and music was my thing, I became a fiend for the best music download solutions. No, I’m not talking about iTunes. (I’ve never used that). All of the good music could be downloaded on primitive blogs, Kazaar, LimeWire and DatPiff. There was little need to stray further.

Downloading songs was a necessity at the time, because there was no other way to listen to music on the move. I’m talking throughout the whole of the 2000s here. If you want to listen to music anywhere other than at a computer or your CD collection, you were stuck without downloads.

Having the internet on your phone was a crazy luxury that I would never have been able to afford until my first student maintenance loan dropped in 2009 (around the time BlackBerry and iPhones became the only sensible smartphone options).

Before then, it was a case that you had the MP3 of the song or you didn’t have anything.  It was a case of finding a source that seemed the least dangerous and taking a punt on whether the download would infect your computer or not. If you played your cards right, you would have a new song in a minute or two.

Well you all know that streaming changed that. Whenever you feel the urge to listen to something, you can navigate to Spotify, Apple Music or whatever else you use and dig in. It’s a painless process, free of a minefield of malicious sites, and takes you straight to the tunes you desire. Since smartphones are so popular now, it means most can do this on the move, as well as when they’re at home.

The time it takes to download music keeps getting quicker, but the need to do so is lessening, now streaming has come of age. Once you have a £10 monthly music subscription, you probably don’t need anything else. Why bother downloading anything?

Over the course of music medium history – spanning from live music to vinyl to cassette to CD to download MP3 to streamed MP3 – we’ve seen peaks, troughs and re-emergences, but surely downloads are the one that doesn’t make sense it returning?

I still have a very real need for downloads. Streams cannot replace them.

For all of the convenience points that streaming scores, there are still fundamental flaws. Aside from the requirement to have internet access for most of them, I see the main issue is to do with licensing agreements. If a platform doesn’t have all the music I need, then it is no good for me. Downloads solve that completely.

The Tidal and Apple Music exclusives mean you’re going to lose out one way or another. I don’t want to have to pick between listening to one artist or another. Added to that, the lack of mixtapes – around half of all of the music I listen to – means so much is missing. And on top of that, so much music isn’t released officially, so how else can you access them than if you downloaded it at some point?

As a music consumer, I want full control over my music. I don’t want it to be snatched because of licensing issues. I don’t want it to disappear because some new technology has come along. The only way to do this for the quantity of music I need is illegal, unfortunately. But there’s no alternative.

For most people, streaming is music downloads are largely pointless now. The only people with an essential need are DJs. Illegal ones will always be essential. I know this will annoy artists, but I bet they have an even bigger need to get to music that isn’t found on streaming sites, so let’s leave it at that.


Are you still downloading? Is there any point for you?

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