Missing Turns in the Musical Journey of Discovery

The music lover I am I often talk to people about music. It is beautiful and interesting to see how everyone is involved with music in a different way. Music is something very personal. (If you haven’t seen it by the way, my personal reveal will be on 23 April.) Music can take you from deep wells, but it can also take you to great heights. I once said to someone that listening to music is a moment for yourself. He disagreed. According to him, it is a moment between you and the artist. A beautiful vision.

This is just one of the visions of music that didn’t match my view of it, and also one of the few visions I’ve adopted. Music is indeed a moment between you and the artist. Sometimes you also specifically listen to certain artists when you are in a certain mood, looking for the same emotions and thoughts that artists express in their lyrics and their music.

Last Summer I had a nice discussion with a friend about the way people listen to music. For a change, I once took a positive stance on Spotify, while I’m often quite critical of that company. I hardly use the program, because I don’t feel like having to listen to a minute and a half of advertising after every three songs. And in order not to have that inconvenience, I have to transfer an amount of money to them every month? No, I would rather spend money on my CD collection, of which about ten CD’s are also signed by the artists themselves. Signing Spotify is going to be quite difficult.

In March 2019, an image with an advertisement by the British metal band While She Sleeps appeared on reddit. The advertisement read as follows: “No one buys music anymore but it’s okay, we only need 4 million streams to pay for these posters & our rent this month.” I don’t intend to go into how Spotify pays out artists in this post, but I thought it was a remarkable ad. Not everyone could appreciate it though.

Chris Brown even asked his fans in 2017 not to listen to his album via iTunes, but via Spotify. Streams on iTunes do not count for the Billboard rank, while streams on Spotify do. Fans were even asked to play the album on replay all day to get more streams. They were even asked to purchase the album multiple times to ensure that the album tops the Billboard rankings. Bizarre scenes.

It is known that Spotify influences the production of music, and the music world in general. Songs become shorter, because shorter songs means less time is needed to listen to them more often, which means the song gets more streamed and the artist gets paid more. Spotify counts one stream if the song has been playing for more than thirty seconds, so long intros are no longer done. Within thirty seconds, the listener must be convinced to continue listening, otherwise they will switch to another song too quickly and the artist will not get paid. Extremely interesting developments.

What I like about Spotify is that albums can be listened to at 0:00 the day it is released. The night owl I am I often have time to listen to an album directly, something I often do in nights from Thursday to Friday. After all, albums are almost always released on a Friday; until a few years ago that always happened on Tuesdays.

In the discussion I had with a friend last year, we talked about how someone can discover new music via Spotify. I think it’s a nice possibility that Spotify compiles a personal list of artists and songs that you might like based on what you listen to. (Not that I’ve ever listened to that list.) But my friend expressed his doubts. According to him, that list ensures that you stay in a bubble of music that resembles what you already listen to; you hardly discover anything new that is completely different. He said that people used to have to buy full albums, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to listen to the song you wanted to listen to. As a result, you were obliged to listen to all other songs once as well. He thought this was a better way to discover new music, because it would allow you to get to know full albums of artists.

Indeed, I also noticed that many people only listen to a few songs from many different artists, without knowing the artists themselves or their repertoire. It reminds me of those Spotify playlists of music suitable for a campfire; nice acoustic guitar music, but I don’t think many people even know which artists are in that playlist. My own playlist is quite opposite; relatively few artists, but many songs per artist. And I’m happy to say that both numbers are growing.

When I wanted to delve more into soul music earlier this year, I used Spotify, among other things. Every artist has the tab “Fans like this too.” There you get a list of artist who are often listened to by the fans of the artist in question. Pretty soon I was also there in a musical bubble; I always saw the same artists, without leaving the circle.

Another side effect of Spotify is that it is purely focused on audio; the video element has almost completely disappeared. As a result, the music videos of songs are viewed lot less than in the past than before, when music and music videos were closely linked through MTV, among others. As someone who uses YouTube more often than Spotify, I am familiar with the music videos of the artists I listen to. That is something I want to pay attention to. Many music videos have a nice story or a nice message. However, due to the use of Spotify, this is not seen by many people. It is not necessarily right or wrong, which also applies to many of the other described changes, but it is a pity that these music videos sometimes remain invisible to many people.

Let’s change that.


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