How 1 Song Cost Me £Thousands$

Twenty Dollar Bill by John Haberle, 1890

Now, I may not live in “America,” but I think I’m pretty good at counting money, whether it’s in dollar bills, or pounds, shillings, pence, ha’pennies, farthings, etc, etc, etc. . . . (By the way, I still got me a few two bob bits, but the darned old curiosity shop in town won’t take ’em anymore.)

But one day when I was “surfing” for a song I liked, I came across an advert for one of those online music service thingamajigs, claiming I could:

LISTEN TO MILLIONS OF SONGS FOR $9.99/MONTH!!!

or something of the sort.

So I thought, “Wow, this is great. I can listen to millions of songs for just $9.99 a month!” And I took out my abacus to figure the amount in pounds, and it sounded like a pretty good deal. £7.677 per month, and, well, it didn’t say how many millions of songs I could listen to each month, just millions. . . . So I figured—ok, I’ll be conservative and say just two millions. . . . Let’s see . . . at the current exchange rate, that’s . . . ah, yes, . . . indeed . . . £3.8385e-6 per song!1 What a deal!

Now, I’ve been listening to every song on it starting from the letter A, and I’ve gotten to about 2 million, 653 thousand, 284 songs. And I’ve been listening non-stop: in my sleep, on the telephone, in the shower, on my car, under my work, within my garments, everywhere, to get my shilling’s worth.

Since I can’t quite remember how many moons I’ve been at this, I went back to my abacus to do some more figuring. Naturally, a slide-rule might have been easier, but I’ve been feeling adventurous and archaic. And I came up with, for the average song of three minutes and thirty-two seconds—It’s been over seventeen years since I signed up for this thing! And I must have spent £1650.56 on these songs! And I haven’t slept a wink!2

But, then again, I’m an above-average person, so I also listen to a lot of above-average songs, even when they’re in alphabetical order. Which means, perhaps a better estimate is 5 minutes per song.3 In which case I’ve been listening for some 25 years, and I’ve paid £2326.13! And I haven’t slept a wink!

It all started with that one song I wanted to hear . . . and I can’t even remember what it was.

Good thing I used Vim’s credit card number.


Twenty Dollar Bill by John Haberle, 1890. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. That’s £0.0000038385 for those who like unscientific notation, which is more or less negligible, considering I can’t count that low.
  2. Actually, I did learn to sleep through heavy metal, but I never could sleep through Celine Dion—just gives me the creeps.
  3. There were a few eleven minute songs in there, but I’ll ignore them for the sake of argument.

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