I’m both a musician and music fan. The struggle between wanting to support the musicians you love and the financial reality that artists often find themselves in is woeful. There's nothing I’d like more than to buy every single item from the living artists that I follow, and I'd give anything to support struggling mom and pop record stores that give me such acceptance in a world that otherwise I have trouble finding any sense of belonging—and that's exactly why I do it.
There're thousands, millions even, of well-intentioned people like me who want to support their favorite artists, and the struggling economy of record stores. But realistically, not everyone can do it. It's strenuous enough to work 40+ hours a week at a job you hate to barely afford necessities. The cramped rooms, barely edible food, roaches, rats, road construction, the worry that your electricity will be shut off any day now. Everything's set up just to bring you down.
It's the life shared by so many people, those that the elite claim to care so much about. Financially, I’m able to do my part in supporting artists and record stores. But this comes with a catch. I don’t have money for anything else. Right now my income comes from both writing and the art I make. When my money dries out, which will be any day now, I’ll find a low-paying, soul-draining job.
But why would anyone buy music when they can just stream it for next to nothing? I'm not against individuals who use streaming services, I'm against streaming services as a concept. Morally I can’t give these horrible companies my money. Rather than pay $10 a month for unlimited music, I choose to spend $100+ a month for five or six records. I compensate by telling myself that it allows me to appreciate the music more, though I know that isn't necessarily true. I also acknowledge that most people's listening habits are far different from mine. Many people rely on Spotify playlists and algorithms, while I prefer digging thru moldy bins for rare 45s.
The snobbishness related to record collecting is the equivalent to beer snobbery, or foodie culture, so I try to keep my petty judgments to myself. Whenever the streaming debate comes up in conversation, I give my basic two cents. Then I proceed to recite the stats of how much the artist makes per listen, knowing full well that the intelligent consumer I’m speaking to is aware of Apple Music's profit motive and that they simply choose to ignore it. It’d be wrong to tell people how to spend their money. Because when you weigh it against the other options, records are a huge waste of money. In comparison to food, water, and shelter, the choice is obvious.
So is the main problem streaming services that take advantages of struggling artists? Definitely. Does the more frightening underlying issue stem from capitalism and corporate greed? Without a doubt. I don’t have the answers. I wish more people bought my music. Then I'd be able to afford all the records and merch I wanted. But it's not feasible. And if someone were on the fence about buying my record and another person's record, I’d advise them to buy the other person's. I've accepted my fate in the ventricle of poverty. I’m comfortable with living in places without toilets or showers, air conditioning or heat, where the roofs are so old that in rainstorms water pours through the ceilings, where birds lay nests in the walls, and termites eat away the finish. I don't love this life, but I’m comfortable with it simply because I know deep down in my heart that my record collection is extremely excellent.