As a music-lover I must have spent countless hours in the pre-digital era compiling music tapes. I transferred tracks from vinyl to a Grundig reel-to-reel recorder. I created cassette after cassette, getting to grips with professional-sounding jargon like dubbing and fading. No matter how hard I tried the perfect playlist always eluded me. There was always something I wished I had not included, or some omission that could not be rectified.
CDs were hailed by the music industry of the time as a revolution in music storage, but I often found they contained items not to my taste. Skipping unwanted tracks had to be programmed in advance, had to be repeated for every playing, and was usually too much trouble. The need to buy a complete CD just for one or two tracks was a constant irritation, and it was something that was solved only when Steve Jobs imposed the single-track iTunes sales model on a reluctant music industry.
I tried recording from the radio (probably illegally) onto cassettes and even onto a mini-disc player I bought second-hand. Trying to edit out the adverts and voice-overs was a nightmare so I soon gave up on that. I ripped all my CDs into the computer and tried to organise them, again with limited success.
Then I found myself embracing the digital age in a big way. I bought a Brennan JB7, loaded my by now large CD collection onto it and then banished the shiny metal discs and their plastic jewell cases to the attic. The Brennan certainly does all it claims, but my model allows only seven playlists, nowhere near enough for me. Altering them was again time-consuming, and a bit hit or miss because I tended to forget what I had put on each one. There is no display of all the tracks together, you have to scroll through to see what is there. A recipe for confusion.
Last year I discovered Spotify, the internet streaming website. Bliss. A modest £4.99 a month allows me unlimited access to all the music I could ever wish for. At last I can compile playlists to my heart’s content, in a fraction of the time and in a superb, user-friendly layout. Adding or deleting tracks takes seconds without having to re-compile the whole thing. I can even do this on my iPad and iPhone although I refuse to double the cost of my subscription to stream music on these devices¹.
Now I have multiple playlists of all genres, from resounding opera arias for listening to when I have the house to myself, to quiet, smooth background music for entertaining dinner guests. There is no need for me to own music any longer, a great space-saver in the event of a house downsize and I am able to listen at home to a much greater choice of music than I could ever afford to buy.
¹ In the UK, Spotify costs £4.99 a month. If you want to stream to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch the monthly sub goes up to £9.99. British company, Pure Music (a division of Imagination Technologies) has just launched a Spotify challenger which claims to be cheaper. At the moment it is restricted to the UK.