This last summer I would listen to Allston Pudding’s “Localz Only Summer Mixtape 2016” when doing work or just hanging out. Flat Swamp’s “Mr. Good Guy,” the opening track on the virtual mixtape, was one of my favorites as I found an energy I longed for since I lost the shock effect of the first time I had heard Sonic Youth.
Sometimes I would find myself going to the mixtape just to listen to this one song. Then one day I clicked on the hyperlink. Boom. I found a new world. The link directed me to Flat Swamp’s Facebook page which had its Bandcamp which led me to the rest of the band’s music (After I browsed the band’s Bandcamp I assessed that the internal me was really attracted to the Weezer-ish melodies over the Sonic Youth-type guitar riffs dancing with bass lines).
There are many ways to listen to and discover music. Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, to name a few.
All the aforementioned services have made music more accessible to the listener. Most of the time this has been a convenience, as a listener myself. I can listen to a song stuck in my head whenever I want, wherever I am. I can even cherry pick songs to add to my “running” playlist, from the comfort of my bed, with my phone.
Earlier this year the Record Industry Association of America updated its Gold and Platinum recognition benchmarks to count a certain amount of song streams as an album sale, and they did the same thing for singles in 2013—updated this year also. All in the wake of increased popularity of digital music services.
However, these conveniences have come at a costly trade-off: It is easier to glaze over an artist’s music catalog while you are busy listening to the one song you really like. As Emma Grey Ellis from Wired pointed out, the move by the RIAA legitimizes streaming, in a way, but the ratio being used also degrades streaming as a lesser form of listening as 1,500 streams = 10 track downloads = one album sale. So you can listen to one song 1,500 times and help an artist get one album sale closer to RIAA certification.
I took a step back and realized that most musicians put hours of thought to articulate creativity into an album—yet here I am, often, just listening to one song and not even considering other material. Artists deserve the courtesy of listeners checking out an entire album, not just one song.
I am not saying that I should love every single song on every single album an artist releases. I am saying that I should give the rest of an album a listen and not just keep my ears pressed on the one banger that I am currently digging because I have access to it. I should remember I also have access to the rest of an artist’s music. You never know what you will find by listening a little closer—you may find your own Flat Swamp.