So the question came up in the Hits thread and I thought it would be interesting to hear what everyone here does. This is a great comment by Kurvitz and I wanted to expand on it.
I am a convert to "digital" music, in so much as I don't mind buying MP3's. It took a while to get used to having no book, but in most cases it makes sense. Although it does look that for better and for worse, streaming is very much the future. I still buy CD's for in the car, but that is a fading completism that makes me pick up CD's by bands I own everything by. When that stops, I suspect my CD days will be over too. I had a subscription to eMusic which in its heyday was an unbelievable deal. Essentially you could download and keep about 5 albums a month for not much money. The "catch" was that they artists were all on smaller labels, which if you have any taste is actually a massive plus. And the thing that Spotify does really well is catering for a "mood" rather than say a specific artist you want to find. It's strength is letting you find stuff.
If letting you find stuff is the pro, then there must be a con. I think that is collecting stuff, and filtering through the vast and endless online archive of every recorded thing ever (or thereabouts.) "Digital" music really lacks a sense of collection, which is a big deal if you care about that sort of thing. Once it becomes a bunch of files on a hard drive, there is no good way of making that replace a big shelf in your house full of discs, vinyls and whatever. If it could do that, to be honest, I'd never use a physical format again. It's a bit like how (research says) that people take paper books in much more than they do eBooks. That is partly because of the format. But I wonder how much of that is down the the psychology of having about a million books on a kindle, or a few carefully selected books you love on a shelf.
I'd like to see the streaming services move towards a micro payment service where eventually you can own a digital copy of the highest quality at that time (but with bottomless updates when the formats inevitably change.) So instead of paying 10 per month, you could pay 15 and then own 3 albums. Something like that. For me now, we're at a crossover point. Until "digital" music becomes ubiquitous everywhere (home, TV, car, etc etc) other formats still hold sway in certain areas. And the appeal of analogue formats like vinyl will continue as more and more of our lives are digitized.
What I love about all of this is that for all the talk of format, the album is still as strong as it ever was. I remember loads of bands in the late 00's predicting its demise because the new era meant people "only listen to individual tracks." Well, you could have fooled me. People still release and listen to albums, including almost every cutting edge artist out there. Those who have tried to move away from it have largely failed miserably, partly because the album affords the artist. Perhaps that's because although the industries might value digital disruption, people simply aren't ready for their 12 songs every few years to be disrupted. The album is still a pleasure, even if the way we listen to it has changed.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!