My music listening commune

Prelude (or: why?) 🔗

Feel free to skip to the next section if you don’t care for my rambling, but the clickbait got you curious anyway.

I hate paying for services.

I don’t mind paying for products. But when I pay for something, I expect to be able to own it, share it and, ideally, trade it.

Owning means I don’t need to rely on the original distributor to be able to enjoy the thing.

Sharing is hopefully self-explanatory. I don’t want lawyers sending me angry letters because a friend I shared the book with shared it with one too many friends of their own, and the watermarks led them back to me.

Tradability is hard to come by these days – ideally it means I get to regain some of the value if I no longer want the thing.

Is there anything like the GPL’s essential software freedoms but for owning things?

All these were a given in the age of physical media. With things going digital though, we seem to have traded them for (debatable) convenience.

Music, thankfully, is still available in a form in which we can have the cake and eat it too.

You can buy it in the physical form, which gives you all the freedom you had in the old days, and then you can trivially digitize it to get all the convenience of modern media distribution. Well, some of it anyway.

Buying music, for many, got replaced with services like spotify – pay a monthly fee, get access to an assortment of music much larger than your own, you get to enjoy it and you can pat yourself on the back that you’re supporting your favourite artists. It surely is convenient. If you’re into anything niche though, odds are it isn’t on spotify. You may need so subscribe to multiple services to get most of what you want to listen to. All while not getting any of the three “product freedoms”. You don’t get to use the software you want, you lose everything the moment you stop paying, and you can only share your collection on strictly defined terms. It’s shit, if you ask me.

The solution 🔗

What I do instead of all these trendy streaming services, is I buy my music. Yes, like a caveman.

Usually I just buy CDs. Bandcamp is nice, but it’s only marginally cheaper than physical disks, and I get none of the tradability – I only use it if it’s the only option.

I rip the CDs with ripit and put them on my shelf. The V0 mp3 go to my NAS and then to Funkwhale. Finally we get to the titular commune.

Funkwhale is a software you can set up to get something of a private streaming service. You get a browser-based audio player, plus the usual mobile apps. Set it up, put your music up there and you have the convenience of streaming services, without the vast collection, but with all the ownership freedoms you expect. Neat.

There’s no reason to keep it completely private though. Funkwhale instances can federate, allowing you to share your collection with others. Not necessarily publically – no reason to paint a target on your back.

I have a instance that I share with two friends of mine. It ends up cheaper that way, both in server costs and in management duties.

We have a strict policy of only uploading music that we legally own, so no pirate stuff in there. Each of us has our own library, but Funkwhale also shows us everything other users have shared. So we end up with a bit of a music listening club.

Each time one of us buys something, it pops up on Funkwhale. Everyone else can then check it out, often getting exposed to music they’d usually never consider listening to. And when you see music popping in uploaded by others, you get this little urge to get something new yourself to contribute to the commons.

Yeah, it’s a small collection – nothing compared to the streaming giants. It feels more personal though; it doubles as a bit of a social club, and even if only one of buys a copy of something, the artists still get way more money than they’d ever get from our streaming subscriptions.

Not all modern tech is shit, thankfully. The good stuff is often well hidden and takes a bit of effort though.

Let me know if there’s anything comparable for (e)books, because I’m losing my ¿$&@€#% mind with these things.