Question: Are Streaming Services Good or Bad?

My friend (and one of my favorite writers on all things hifi) Art Dudley voices his views on streaming in this month’s Stereophile. I quote, “Then again, maybe it’s time to heave ourselves up out of our Lay-Z-Boys, find the switch that controls the sodastream of abundant everything, and turn it the fuck off.”

Thus my question—are streaming service good or bad? Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I have enjoyed Art Dudley’s writing for many years, going back to the Listener. I generally agree with a lot of his musings on audio but on this one I think he is dead wrong. Many times when I play a jazz LP, I am struck by how the sound I get is the best I have heard in my home. It is better than digital from any source IMHO. But with Tidal (and hopefully Qobuz soon), I have instant access to over 50 million songs. Even if one accepts that 75% of this is crap or just not my cup of tea, it means instant access to over 12 million songs. Lossless. I love my TD124 and WT TTs, and I will never stop gathering up as many Jazz LP as I can but streaming music has opened my eyes up to hundreds of new artists and bands. There is room for both streaming and LPs in my life. Anyone who sells one side short has not fully considered their position IMHO. But I guess we are all free to follow whatever path we choose, right?

  2. The other day I was driving listening to the radio with Jess, our daughter. A Sam Cooke song came on and she sang along. I asked (silly me), “You know this song?” but it was obvious she did, since was singing along 😉

    Access can be a very good thing.

  3. With less grammar issues — TubeDriver said it well. When you have little kids, it is also nice to have a selection of music they can enjoy. One artist that I picked up on ended up only selling his CDs online in Germany. Because of the payment challenges (I encouraged them go on Bandcamp), I was able to get the album from Tidal. ML has also shared rare albums only available on Tidal and even for purchase. Vinyl, CDs, downloads, streaming, etc. they are all mediums for the end result, carrying the music we love and enjoy. Why try to limit any one medium? I also enjoy vinyl and that tends to be a night routine when I don’t get interrupted during the day.
    Let’s not forget that streaming is also bringing more music to the masses, not everyone can afford a wall of vinyl records.

  4. Art may be right that a surfeit of choice makes us less critical but the opposite may equally be true, i.e. our discernment may be heightened by the need to distil more information. Personally, i find that curating and owning my own download library makes me more appreciative of my collection rather than the random selections I make streaming. The crunch though is that I have enjoyed the effort involved in compiling 190 Muslimgauze albums (I know) whereas Spotify has a commendable 100 in low res and Tidal only 12. Case losed.

  5. One view is access means ownership. I live in a small apartment and there is a limit to what I can own. Another view is access means convenience as well. I remember a time when I knew of a song and waited all night for it to play on the radio, so I could push record on my boombox. I remember reading a review of a record, going to the record store and waiting 3 weeks for it to come in on special order. Another thought is we really don’t possess anything, we have temporary access to it anyway. We can’t take it with us for ever. There is bike out side my building that is not mine, yet I can rent it for cheaply from my phone to take to the bagel shop. If we take the long view we’ll think that musicians lived in a time where they could make a recording an end up with a guitar shaped pool and sports cars and big houses. Most musicians in the history of the world never had that lifestyle, yet always produced. Streaming services are oriented in a way that the folks funding them get most of the benefit. financially. I love discovering music on streaming services, sharing with my friends. I also like going to the local record store, I also like buying CDs. I also love my new Wayne Shorter Box set Emanon.

  6. I love Art’s writing. And, similar to TubeDriver above, I generally find myself in agreement with his opinions. And, yes, occasionally I have found myself so overwhelmed with the onslaught of information overload coming from the internet, including my streaming service (Tidal), that I just want to take a break from it for a while. Slow things down. Browse my LPs. Choose one I haven’t played in a long time and let it spin … ahhh that sounds and *feels* SO good. Yes. But … I don’t want to live without Tidal (or *some* high quality streaming service).

    My appetite for music grows continually larger – the more I listen, the more I like. Michael and the other good folks contributing *here* have introduced me to many, many things that I likely would have never heard otherwise. And like many, if not most, of the folks who will hang-out and/or contribute here, discovering and developing an appreciation for new (to me) music is simply one of life’s greatest joys. Tidal (or any streaming service) allows me to explore the universe of music in a way that was just not possible before. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but it is also immensely enriching. I do buy physical media of many things that I discover on Tidal. Not everything of course, there’s too much. But I love having access to SO much (in high-quality).

    I’m still buying CDs, SACDs and vinyl (yes, in lower numbers). But streaming has become a major source of playback and discovery for me, and I don’t want to turn that around. Fortunately, I don’t believe that I’ll have to.

  7. I have been at this game long enough to have seen plenty of format changes, starting with reel to reel. Consequently, I do not have all of the music I have purchased over the years. I still have a decent number of CDs and a good transport, and I think it is slightly better in quality, but much of the time, my default is Tidal. It is great for exploration and finding links to people I like, and I do not feel the need to own or collect. The only thing that worries me about streaming is the long term viability of the audiophile services. I do think $20 per month is a bargain for that much access.

    Like everyone else, I love Art’s writing, though he has not persuaded me to buy vintage gear.

    Bottom line, streaming gives me access to music I would not have any other way. I wish the artists were paid more, but this is just part of the current reality of income inequality and a vanishing middle class.

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