For a long time now I’ve been a holdout in the world that seems determined that all music should stream through services like Spotify or Pandora. It’s something I really got thinking about this weekend while sitting through an excruciatingly slow series of traffic light changes – and I think I know why I’m so resistant to a change that should theoretically be more or less painless.
There are a couple of things at play here, in my estimation. First, I’ve lived through the change from cassette tapes to compact disks to MP3s. In some cases that means there’s music I’ve now purchased in three different formats… and now the streamers want me to pay rent for them on top of it. There’s a bit of adding insult to injury there and is definitely part of why I hold on grimly to the way we use to do things.
But there’s another, probably more important factor.
As I flicked from song to song in my heavily curated iTunes playlist, waiting for the light to change so I could pull a few car lengths closer to being able to turn, each song that came up spurred a very specific memory of time and place. Some of them from high school, some from college. Some late nights with good friends. Some bitter, heartbroken mornings. Every single one of the thousands of possible songs I have teed up evokes thoughts and feelings otherwise lost to memory.
Creedence, Queen, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Genesis, Waylon Jennings, Good Charlotte, Lou Reed, Louis Armstrong, Mayday Parade, Steve Miller, and an absolute shit ton of others are all jammed into my phone. They sing the songs I want to hear… and I didn’t need any artificial intelligence to pick them out for me. Maybe that’s old fashioned of me, but I’m ok with that.
I’m not one of these people who thinks all new music is awful. New stuff finds its way onto my lists when it speaks to me. Having the internet serve up what it thinks I might like after running me through an algorithm just doesn’t hit the same way as organically finding the songs “in the wild.” It’s been my experience so far that music by algorithm is about as useful as Facebook trying to decide what random articles and information I want to see on its platform. Sometimes it gets close, but it never quite gets it right.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, I’ll keep on with my own way of doing things until I’m absolutely forced into making a change. It feels a lot like messing with something that’s working for me to achieve very little gain in function. I’ll take a pass.