Something about Spotify

There’s something going on with me & Spotify. It has changed my music consumption habits.

If you look at my Spotify, you’ll see a whole bunch of playlists. I really like making playlists, and I find it an effective way to collect music I wanna listen to a lot, as well as music I wanna listen to later. Part of my great frustration in life is my omnivorous interest in cultural content. I’ll read a book about almost anything and I’m interested in almost all music, at least to the extent that I wanna know what it’s about and what it’s for, even if I’m just gonna disregard it thereafter.

So, my iTunes is full of lists of my favorite artists. I’ll take the tame to cull the 30 best At the Drive-In songs into a list, for example, or collect everything Low’s released since The Great Destroyer, to study it all as a whole. I also have a series of playlists labeled “TODAY” with an attached date. Those are just collections of a lot of recent acquisitions that I haven’t wholly absorbed. And I export these playlists so I have these little peeks into what I was interested at any given time in the past few years. For example, “TODAY 7.19.11″ (the most recent one) has 259 songs, including Adele, Austra, the Father’s Children re-issue, an old Pretty Lights mix, and that newer Bon Iver album which I still wasn’t sure I liked.

Anyway … that’s iTunes, where I spend money on albums. (Though I sometimes get them for free thanks to my Agit Reader involvement.) It’s mostly recent music and I’m usually using it to figure out what’s cool among the many new releases demanding attention. And the playlists are very utilitarian.

On Spotify, however, my lists are usually more creative and contain almost entirely old music. I started using Spotify in the Plaza Suite of an airport hotel outside of Chicago (I’m not rich. I just got there late and it’s all they had left.) Thus, my first Spotify playlist is titled “Plaza Suite 7.17.11,” and it’s full of the music I was in the mood for that night. (If you’re interested, you can check it out right here.) In North Carolina, I made one called “Wake Up Megadeth.” Guess what. It’s full of Megadeth songs and I use it sometimes to wake up. “The Clash in 60 Minutes” is meant to give the listener a deep appreciation for the breadth of that’s bands talents – in only 60 minutes. I’ve got a great Dylan list for for non-Dylan fans, but he’s not really on Spotify yet. (Remember Lulu? I plugged the Dylan playlist right into my blog. That was a great service. Apple bought it and supposedly they were going to replicate that feature, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

More than that, though, I’ve got lists full of Jazz and classical. I’ve pulled out my favorite recordings of Shostakovich’s quartets to have on-hand at all times. I’ve used Spotify to comb through dozens and dozens of old jazz albums I’d never heard to pick out some gems. That’s harder to do on iTunes, since even the 90 second preview don’t lend themselves to the deeper nuances of deciding which Dexter Gordon tracks are really worth your time. I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of Yusef Lateef, whose output varies greatly in style, clarity, and quality. There’s no way I was going to spend the money necessary to sort through it all on iTunes, but Spotify is a no-risk proposition.

And so I’ve noticed that not only is Spotify really useful in that way, but it also prevents me from (or frees me from) indulging my pretensions to being a well-informed music-snob. Logging into iTunes each week, I’d usually pick out a couple of new releases that seemed to have the potential to become essential. Logging into Spotify, only ask, “What do I want to listen to right now?” Increasingly, what’s new has little to do with it.

(Which is kinda like how I don’t go to the movies anymore. When I stopped worrying about knowing what movies were good or cool or whatever, I lost a lot of interest. I know that says something unfortunate about me. Alas and alack.)

(Which also relates to Chris Brogan’s great post about “Why You’re Not As Successful as You Want To Be.” Hint: stop worrying that you’re going to miss something.)

Of course, as I write this, I’ve got iTunes open and I’m listening to Zola Jesus’s newest, both because it’s great for the coffee shop, and because I need to decide if it’ll be on my top ten list this year. Go figure.

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