In this new series I’m starting, I’m going to be going through all of the little things in life that make it great! I’ll be talking about anything small that is overlooked that makes my day worthwhile. This edition is about the availability of music.

Being able to grow up in the 2000s was a blessing. My first memories of listening to music were whatever was on the radio. Thankfully, my family listened to a lot of different music, so when I was with my mom, we listened to classic rock. With my dad, we listened to blues, and with my sister, we listened to pop.

Having three types of music to listen to as a kid blew my mind, but I was in for a treat when my sister gave me her old iPod shuffle. If memory serves, I think I got it with over 1000 songs on it, some of which I still listen to (“Pocketful of Sunshine” is a bop). 

However, when I wanted to go and add new music for myself, iTunes was charging 99 cents, at the time, for new music. As an 11-year-old, this was a major problem for me because I had no money. Thinking back on it, I cringe at how many dollars I spent buying singles and how much I could use that money now, as a broke college student. 

I had a loophole though; around the time I got an iPod, we also got a family computer. My cousin had shown me YouTube. While he used it to watch World of Warcraft videos, I figured out that I could look up just about any song and I could listen for free. Granted, it was always a terrible lyric video with 240p graphics and some of the worst audio quality ever. This didn’t stop me, though; I was 11 and I had just found a free way to listen to any song. I felt like the most powerful man in the world with everything at the tip of my fingers.

As we rolled into the late 2000s and early 2010s, music videos got super big on YouTube. Now, I still had all of the free music from before, but it was released officially by the creators. This meant that the audio quality was actually enjoyable and my favorite songs now had fun videos to match. 

I still have memories of my friends and I crowding around our family computers and showing each other what we thought were the best music videos we found. I was particularly proud of “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem and any song being played with a clip from Dragon Ball or Naruto in the background. 

I look back and feel blessed that I had access to so many free music videos as a child. Obviously, the music itself was already one gift, but being able to watch a video that the creator paired with it was another gift, too. Watching the videos gave me a lot of the creativity that I have today, and I’m thankful they inspired me for free.

Around the time I turned 13, I got an iPod touch. I transferred all of my old songs and downloaded Angry Birds like everyone else, but I also discovered streaming services. Pandora was another massive game-changer for me. Before, I had a hard time finding new music. I listened to some odd thousand songs on my iPod that my sister had put on there and the dozen or so music videos I liked on YouTube.

I was fine with this, but Pandora showed me new music to listen to. I remember not liking it at first because I couldn’t wrap my head around liking anything I hadn’t heard 1000 times before (I still struggle with this), but over time, I got used to radios and figured out which ones I liked.

I started on Spotify a little later, and that’s still the one I use to this day. Making your own playlists of literally any song for free was heavenly and something I still think we don’t deserve as a species. When I got premium, I could take it all with me, anywhere in the world, which made commutes and walks around campus a lot more interesting.

Streaming services changed the music industry forever, forcing labels and producers to stop charging obscene rates or risk being left behind. It gave access to virtually anyone who wanted to listen to music. When’s the last time you ever really stopped to think how dope it is that music is free?