The Advent of Streaming Music: Social Implications & The Nature of Discovery
Full disclosure – I am a regular Spotify Premium user. I have not come here to sing its praises as some sort of ambassador of the company and the service they provide, but rather to comment on what is, in my opinion, an awesome trend in music. Whether you use Spotify as I do, or you’re a Google Play, Apple Music, Pandora, and/or Soundcloud user, there are options aplenty for you to stream from your phone, Bluetooth enabl1ed speakers, gaming console, voice-enabled appliance, or Smart TV.
Don’t get me wrong – I truly miss the days of yore when mixtapes were a thing and handing somebody one of these plastic cassette containers of analog music was akin to welcoming them to read snippets of your diary. The new form of mixtape sharing might involve sending someone a link to one of your playlists.
These days, for better or worse, we have the potential to have full integration of music consumption. What I mean by “Full Integration” is that mirroring the evolution of social media, the music industry has incorporated social elements to the individual listening experience. Opponents of this evolution might decry a lack of privacy or the potential to mine data for ulterior purposes (e.g. targeted marketing and advertising).
To be fair, this aspect of digital music streaming is completely optional, but if you’re willing to give it a try, it serves to enhance the experience in my opinion. One can, for instance, opt to display what’s currently playing so that other users of the service can see what’s in your virtual jukebox’s rotation and, well, perhaps give you a hard time for listening to Milli Vanilli or maybe even pique their interest enough to check it out too!
If you’re really keen on a track then you might post it to Facebook (or your social media platform of choice) in the hopes that you might reach a like-minded soul who shares your enthusiasm for a certain type of sound. I believe that music tends to be better when it brings people together in this regard. In any event, research seems to support the notion of music’s therapeutic benefits.
Of course, not everyone is sold on the social aspects of music.
For many, it can be an intensely personal experience. Someone, especially an introvert, may need time away from others and may find solace in music that resonates with their current state of mind. Music, unlike a relationship, does not periodically disagree with, impose upon, or judge you in any way. This is, of course, a perfectly fine way to experience music because, whether you seek to connect with others through shared experiences or find meaning in a more solitary manner, in the end, you have to do what makes sense for you.
Social implications aside, another fantastic development in the world of music has been the way in which you discover new favorites. In my early years, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a diversity of musical influences. My parents exposed me to classic rock of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, my sister had me listen to heavy metal and hard rock, and different friends got me into what was formerly lumped under the “Alternative” label (thanks to MTV and its 120 Minutes program), as well as rap and hip-hop.
As I mentioned previously, getting a mixtape was a great way to be introduced to new artists.
There was always the radio of course, but, unless you had access to independent and/or college stations, you were getting exposed to mostly just the popular music – the top 100 songs. I for one never lived close enough to a college to receive its broadcasts so I would rely on magazines like the College Music Journal (CMJ) that included CDs with various indie tracks featured or visit cd/record stores to sample music at their listening stations.
Someone, especially an introvert, may need time away from others and may find solace in music that resonates with their current state of mind. Music, unlike a relationship, does not periodically disagree with, impose upon, or judge you in any way.
Modern music applications have become so savvy in recent years.
Thanks to the hard work of ingenious programmers, it is currently possible to receive playlists based on what you have “Liked” or listened to frequently in the past. This is a wonderful use of analytics in my opinion and is my go-to method of discovering new bands and artists. Spotify features a “Discover Weekly” playlist, for example, that is filled with personally curated tracks I’m likely to enjoy based on my previous listening habits. If I’m particularly enamored with a song I will go to the album and save all of the tracks in a playlist I call “Albums to Check Out.” Sometimes that one track is all that you like, but sometimes you discover a new favorite band!
Whether you enjoy the newly evolved social components of music or prefer a more solitary listening experience, the tools are at your disposal to discover a veritable treasure trove of musical delights. Recently I was listening to my “Discover Weekly” playlist and came across a band by the name of Sad Lovers & Giants. My immediate thought was “Wow–they’ve really perfected that post-punk/alternative 80’s sound that I just love!”
I detected hints of The Smiths and of The Cure’s early work and wondered how they came to sound so utterly vintage. Well, it turns out that they are a band that is, well, actually from the eighties! I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem, perhaps an inkling of what a paleontologist must feel when unearthing a new type of dinosaur.
So anyway, what about you? What have you discovered?
Feel free to comment in the comment section below and, as always, thanks for reading!