By Xinyu Wei

The first day I came to MU, I was overwhelmed by flyers of welcome parties from tons of clubs and organizations. “Free drink. Free pizza. Free music.” I got hooked by the last part.

For a long time, I took it for granted that I don’t have to pay for music. I remember all those tapes and CDs in my family home. All I had to do was put them in the players.

Then it’s the time of MP3 and MP4, but they quickly got replaced by phones and personal computers. I still had no concept of paying for music, since the Internet gave me everything without asking for a single dime.

Maybe it sounds unreal,  but in China, you can get a one-year premium subscription to  NetEase Cloud Music – one of the most popular music apps in China – for less than $20. In comparison, the Spotify premium costs $9.99 a month.

But when you consider what we pay overall to listen to music, those subscriptions okly amount to a fraction.

Earphones are needed for us to have music anywhere and anytime we want. They are developed to be wireless and easily connected through Bluetooth (which of course are more expensive.)  And I see students all over campus wearing Sennheiser, Bose, Audio-technica, Beats, Sony, Shure, JBL etc. Those earphones often run about $200, sometimes more. Some people value the functions of different earphones, such as whether the earphone is good for noise cancellation or better sound quality. A lot of us do have different preferences of different types of music, which creates different needs of the quality of sound. Just as a bartender mixes drinks to have a specific flavor, a lot of technicians try to design earphones by adjusting the degree of tenor, baritone or bass to achieve a specific “flavor” of sound.

Speakers are necessary if you want share your music with others. Without them, the “free music” on the flyer can be hard to achieve. And of course, speakers can run from under $50 to thousands of dollars.

One of the new “luxury” student apartments costs a bit more – and the rental agent will tell you part of those extra fees pay for the Bluetooth speaker in the shower.

Today our demands for music increase and also diversify.

To take a step further, quite opposite to our common sense, more traditional ways of listening to music didn’t disappear. I can still hear people talking about buying CDs and even vinyl records. Of course, you’ll need something to play them on – a CD player or turntable.

I didn’t plan to buy a CD player when I came here for the consideration of all the packing and moving. The local jazz series has a music library with more than 7,000 CDs for renting. With a $25 one-year membership, I went to the series office every week and rent CDs without extra cost.

We haven’t come to live music or concerts yet.

My friend, Xiaoyu Wei, once spent her weekend flying to Chicago for the live show of Wanna One. The flight cost $280. The ticket cost $270. The hotel and meals cost around $400. That’s for a three-day trip.

But if you asked Wei, it was well worth it. The trip allowed her to meet her idols and enjoy live music with a huge crowd. For around three hours, the audience kept jumping, waving their arms, singing, screaming and interacting with people they usually just listened to or watched online. The experience overweighed the price.

We need a sense of presence when it comes to music.

Music festivals swept the globe in recent years. For Ultra Music Festival, the three-day ticket is around $400. It’s a little bit expensive, but it’s a price a lot of people could afford. By comparison, the ticket of the concert of Justin Timberlake in December could go up to $900.

The influence of music implies that we are living in an era that entertainment counts as a large part of our living costs besides food and drinks.

We pay more than we think for music, but in exchange, music gives us comfort, joy and more importantly, a break from work and study.

Music is not free, but we are still willing to pay.

Xinyu Wei is a senior majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri.