I’ve been a pretty adamant self-hoster for a long time. I love the concept of just throwing in the cloud, paying a low monthly fee to use it, and not dealing with organization or the underlying infrastructure - but this all sucks.
I get stuck in ruts with Apple Music and Spotify. They feed me mostly the same thing over and over. They give me a perception that I listen to a varied amount of music because they show so much on the home screen, but when you look at the top music year over year, I listened to basically the same thing for multiple years. A few new releases made it in there, but it really didn’t change much.
If I think back to when I was in Middle and High School, the Napster era, I had an incredible collection of music that was highly curated, tagged obsessively, and I knew that I would always find something that struck my mood when looking for something to listen to. This is the complete opposite of our experience today. Gone are the days of running our fingers along a collection of vinyl on the shelf, the tactile feeling of exploring our library, instead we’re stuck with our apps and algorithms that feed us more and more of what we’re listening to.
In the last two months I’ve been slowly buying music again. I use a number of sources and have had pretty decent luck getting ahold of most things I’m looking for. I only download from places that will allow me to download lossless copies of the music. I’m then obsessively tagging it (most is already well tagged) and then loading it into our Plex server. I have a license for Roon, but with the lack of remote streaming, I’ve mostly decided that I’ll stick with Plex for now. Besides, the bigger collection, Live Music, is something I’m more concerned with the experience of anyways.
The nice thing about owning my music is that I know that if it disappears it’s because I want it to or I fucked up. I’m okay with both of those scenarios because they’re under my control. What I don’t like is when I go to listen to one of my favorite albums to find that for some reason a track is unavailable for some reason, or worse, the whole album is no longer on Apple Music.
With Apple Music, Spotify, Netflix, etc., we’re paying monthly for access to a library of content, with no guarantees on the content that is available. The content available is up to the will of the license holder, rather than the person that is paying for access. The important distinction is that we’re paying for access to the library, said library could be filled with all of the content we could ever want, or a bunch of stuff we don’t want - we have no choice in the matter. When we build our own collections, we own license to the pieces of content in perpetuity.
So support the artists and pieces of content you love. Build a library that you’re proud of, one that you’re happy to open up in the morning, one that feeds your soul with the grooves and head banging we all need in our lives.