As I discussed in my previous columns, “The Turntable as Metaphor for Digital Revolution Reluctance” and “What Happened to the Music?” I’m enduring a years-long lament about the evolution—some might say revolution—happening to the experience of listening to music. There was a time, not too long ago, when I was excited about the possibilities of brand-new high-definition audio formats in the form of DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD). These high-end physical discs required special high-capacity discs (similar to Blu-ray discs for video) and were capable of very high-resolution sound, bringing not only surround-sound music to the home but extremely high fidelity. This is the future that burned bright for me!

Ten years later, those high-end discs are all but dead (relegated to a tiny niche market). Major labels in the music industry are abandoning the formerly industry-standard CD, and—most startlingly to me—digital music purchases are falling.

Why? Subscription services! They’re what all the kids are using these days. If they had their druthers, they’d find a way to get their music for free—and a great many of them do, casually but criminally. The honest kids are using subscription services such as Grooveshark, Jango, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Songza, Spotify, and Xbox Music. They pay their annual fee (or not, as some services are indeed free but ad-supported) and get unlimited access to streaming music from any device. No scratched-up discs flying around the car, no digital files clogging up hard drives, no fuss.

(Read the rest at Residential AV Presents: Connected Home.)