Last night I was talking with a friend and I wanted to show him “Bloodstyle” by Caroline Smith because I had it stuck in my head. Naturally, I busted my phone out of my pocket and opened Spotify. The first thing that came up was a notification telling me that The Rolling Stones “Blue & Lonesome” was officially out and I should listen. It was 2 in the morning.
It is no secret that music streaming services have made music more accessible to the consumer (evident when my ears entertained new music from the Stones really, really early this morning). This year will mark the first year that music streaming revenue surpasses download sales, if the year’s streaming trends continue, Pitchfork recently reported.
With this much access to a broad amount of music, consumers are now faced with a unique problem: What new music should I listen to and why? I remember one of the first physical CD’s I bought was Metallica’s then long-anticipated release “Death Magnetic” in 2008 (Boy did we not foresee having to wait eight years for another full album from the outdated Bay-area thrashers). I went to Best Buy, bought the CD then listened to it, in 2008, over and over. Just last week Metallica released a new album and I heard half of it before I remembered the name of a random song that was stuck in my head, so I put that song on for the sole fact THAT I CAN WITH THE CONVENIENCE OF A CLICK OR SWIPE.
This convenience of music accessibility sheds light on the abundance of music. I feel like a boy who can’t decide what to listen to because there is so much I want to listen to and I can listen to. In other words, I feel like a hungry cow who has been relocated in a field of grass that stretches miles upon miles. So what am I to do to optimize my time upon this grass field?
I don’t know, but I think I am on my way to finding out so I am going to explain how I consume music nowadays.
Spotify playlists are my go to. I make playlists for any task from “this will hit the spot when running at dusk” to “I just got out of the shower and have to get to class in 22 minutes, but don’t want to get ready in silence.” A useful tool that Spotify has is the “related artists” sidebar in an artist’s profile. This comes in handy when I am crafting a playlist and perusing more music to add.
Another useful feature Spotify offers is the different discovery playlists. I had mixed feelings about these options, at first, but they are in fact helpful. Last week I was talking to the manager of a local band, and we started talking about what we each listen to. He told me that he uses the discover playlists often, and that it is helpful for people in the industry because it shows you a glimpse of what is out there and how long you can tolerate a sound – if you like something you don’t skip it and chances are you will now retain the memory of the song or artist because you didn’t skip it. Voila: Finding new music.
Finally, I use Spotify’s radio feature. This is not my favorite feature, but it helps me find new music. Earlier this year I was listening to some random station when this band Whitney kept popping up and I eventually started to recognize them. That led to me to check out Whitney’s debut album which led me to become a fan of Whitney.
Given, Spotify’s radio feature is not that good especially when compared to music radios such as Pandora. My main problem with Spotify’s radio feature is that the collection of songs in a given station doesn’t contain that many curve balls that hit the “wow” factor for me (if you hadn’t noticed you can browse the songs that are part of an artist’s’ radio station by scrolling past the “play” button – that will REALLY ruin the “wow” factor).
Fortunately and unfortunately I don’t solely use Spotify to consume my music. Bandcamp is just as relevant in my music diet, to a lesser extent. The great power I have found in Bandcamp is a) local artists are much easier to find and b) I personally love the roughness of some outtakes and raw cuts that some artists post on Bandcamp, but not on Spotify.
Bandcamp makes local artists easier to find because it doesn’t matter where your locality is, once you start browsing a band’s music you can see upcoming shows and tour history on the sidebar (see below). If this is not found on Bandcamp’s sidebar then you can find it on an artist’s Facebook which would be linked in the same sidebar. Once I start browsing who a band has played with then I start checking those bands out. This works because if an artist is not on a heavily promoted tour with already established artists, that artist may be playing shows with locals. Next thing I know I spend an hour listening to different bands that are connected in some way.
Back to how Bandcamp can sometimes have rough outtakes, though. This is not a consistent theme for Bandcamp, but some of the bands I listen to do post outtakes every now and then. For example, Porches’ “Scrap and Love Songs Revisited” may be my favorite release from the band.
And if you really like rough demos (as I do) you can find more on Soundcloud – which rounds up my music diet. I have to admit I do not go to Soundcloud that often, but I do seek out the site for the sole reason of demos. I mean, even Kanye West has released demos on Soundcloud; Father John Misty is the king of Soundcloud demos, out of the artists I listen to.
Yes, there are a lot of ways to consume music thanks to streaming services improving over time. And although it may appear as if there is an overwhelming amount of music being shared, the music discovery platforms enable exactly what they offer: The discover of new music.
Whitney’s Bandcamp account screenshot by me. Spotify photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons.