Are you listening to music in the right way?

10 mins

Are you getting your music the right way? No, not getting it like 'can you dig it man' but obtaining it through the best channel?

"many are now turning to vinyl having inherited their dad's collection"

There are so many ways to listen to music these days. Gone are the days (well, sort of) when you had no choice but to go down the shops on the bus and buy something physical (like an album, on vinyl) and have to have the expensive equipment at home to play it on.

To help you make the right choice, here's a handy rundown of the pros and cons of just some the ways that you can 'get' music in 2017...


This used to be quite popular, especially back in the early naughties when Napster first came on the scene and called it 'sharing'. It lost popularity when it became overtly illegal and when 'the Man' threatened to pursue anyone 'illegally downloading' their overpriced music. It's now only really used as an acquisition channel by individuals with the tech skills to do it (it became much harder you see).

Pros: Free. Lots of choice (but only really if you want mainstream music). You get to keep the music forever.

Cons: Illegal. Prosecution. Fines. Prison. Relies on the altruistic benevolence of the person at the other end (doing the 'sharing'). 


Also used to be very popular. Especially when it was the only way to listen to music. Less popular now because it's no longer necessary to physically get music to listen to it.

For many people though, CDs are the only way to listen to music in the car (other than the radio).

While some Millennials have never bought physical copies of music, many are now turning to vinyl having inherited their dad's collection; been to a charity shop, or visited Tesco's .

If you've got a load of old CDs, you can rip them and turn them into downloads (see below). This is a simple way to convert a physical storage problem into a file storage (and music management) problem.

Pros: It's yours forever (easy to buy and sell too). Huge choice. You can buy anything that's for sale (doh!) including second-hand and ultra-rare and obscure stuff. Lots of formats including vintage ones like CD and vinyl.

Kudos in embracing vintage formats like cassettes, 8-track and reel-to-reel. Some of the kit is gorgeous. Browsing a collection of physical music is a delight.

Cons: Expensive. Requires physical hardware to play the music. Hard to share on social media. Storage can be problematic if you amass lots of physical music - but, this is probably a nice problem to have. 


Not to be confused with downloading. This is the one where you use a service like Spotify to stream the music to you via an app or on your computer. There's no concept of ownership with this one. You can like, tag and fave music and you can make playlists and so on but if you leave the service, it's all gone.

Pros: Huge choice. Simple subscription service (or free if you don't mind the hugely annoying ads). Play music anywhere... stream it from your phone to players in your house, car, shed, boat, portable speakers... Public playlists are great for parties. Easy to share on social media. A good way to discover music (or try-before-you-buy).

Cons: Some people moan about the quality, but you have to look at what they're playing it on. If you don't have anything to play it through, it isn't that portable. 


Not to be confused with streaming. This is the one where you pay to download the music via a service like iTunes. You pay to download and once you've done that, you 'own' it.

Was once heralded as the killer of physical music... now likely that this is the format most likely to die. This is, ironically, because of the resurgence of physical formats like vinyl, but also because streaming is much more popular.

Pros: You own the music forever. Big choice. Easy to share with your compadres. Highly portable.

Cons: You need some way to 'manage' your downloads - this either involves using something like iTunes (yuk) or Kodi (nicer) or similar. Requires local storage, and regular backing-up of your precious downloads (harder than it looks).


Radio has been a popular medium for centuries. Still is. There are channels with annoying, not-so-annoying, and fabulous presenters (nee 'DJs') for all tastes, music genres and sensibilities.

Pros: Serendipity - you've no choice what they play, so you never know what you're going to stumble across. Shazam - like what you hear and want to record it (no, not using a microphone in front of the speaker like in the olden days)? Use the Shazam app. Billions of channels. Good in the car. Radios are remarkably portable.

Cons: You've no choice what they play. You have to have a radio. If you have an old car, there's probably no digital radio, so you're stuck with the stations your mum, dad, gran or baby sister listen to.

Live Performance ('gigs')

Live music has been popular with people of all ages since the dawn of mankind. Especially with people who like going out to pubs, clubs, concert halls and festivals. Gigs are good if you want to be 'in the moment' and experiencing the music as it was meant to be heard - unless you stand there being an annoying twat filming it on your phone (or talking).

And if you're part of a social tribe, a gig is a popular way to meet up with like-minded individuals and test out your latest uniform addition.

Pros: You get to hear the music as the musicians' intended (most of the time anyway). You get to leave the house (unless you watch the gig on YouTube). You can talk about it afterwards (endlessly). Gigs are cool.

Cons: Can get very expensive (if you can actually get tickets). You've no choice what they play (you can try shouting the name of your fave tune though - bands love it). Doesn't sound like the record (unless they're miming). You have to leave the house. You're stuck with the performers who come and visit your town (unless you're happy traveling thousands of miles to a gig that some twat will have put on YouTube tomorrow). 


So there you have it. Are you doing it the right way?

All I can say is that I wish I'd seen the writing on the wall, not worried about storage, and kept all my vinyl instead of flogging it all ten years ago. Maybe it's time to start again...


Last updated on: 24 Jan 2017 10:36 AM

best channel Vinyl Napster Reel-to-reel 8-Track Streaming Spotify Downloads Radio iTunes Gigs Live performance