So, as you swipe through your Spotify Wrapped this year, don’t be too harsh. It’s been a long year, and whatever you listened to helped get you through it. Post your stats on Instagram — or don’t. I promise nobody cares as much as you do.
It’s not new that Spotify is extracting data points from the kinds of music that people listen to at different times of the day. But what is new, is that a few months ago Spotify was granted a patent by the US government that allows it to monitor users’ speech for a wild new range of data collection.
With the ultimate sexcapade comes the ultimate playlist — that’s what 13 year old me thought as I sat in geometry class crafting the perfect progression of Spotify songs to accompany my first time. Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”? Perfect. The entire soundtrack from 50 Shades of Grey (though I had never seen it before)? Epic.
One time I was having a classical music listening session with a friend of mine, and when he asked what we should listen to next, I suggested some of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He acquiesced, but not before mentioning that my choice was a very “mainstream” one. Whether I’m a classical poser or not, there are several moments in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that are — for simplicity’s sake — exemplary. Take, for example, the sudden thematic shift in the second movement, from an inevitable, definitive minor to an unhindered, lively major. Beethoven hinted at the possibility of such tonal fulfillment earlier in the movement, but it is not until this stark contrast that the extent of his creative vision is recognized.
A little over a year ago, my close friend and I decided it would be a fun experiment to start a collaborative playlist on Spotify. We had been sharing music for many months, sending songs in inboxes and chats, but we struggled to keep track of the tracks as our conversation diverged. We wanted a semi-permanent space to retain our varied musical interests over time. It would be a scrapbook of sorts, an arena for us to indulge our nostalgia as well as discover new content in the days before “Discover Weekly” became popular. And so, “Friends,” the playlist, was born as an endearing effort to keep the mixtape culture alive during the age of digital music.
In every music-happy kid’s upbringing there’s a parent who they learned about music from. You know — the one you inherited your weird decade taste-quirks, vinyl or (in my case) illegally-downloaded CD collection and general music-related perspectives from. You spent car rides exploring albums together, they shed tears of joy when you got really into their favorite old crooner and you showed them how to use Spotify (which they either never really took to, or began furiously trying to ruin your reputation as a Person with Pretty Cool taste by jacking your account and playing solely the Bee Gees and Mariah Carey). For me (and probably for most of you, although that’s another column), it was my Dad. My dad had a tremendous and hazardous impact, not just on my music taste, but on the way that I thought about music in general.
Over the past few years, it has become accepted wisdom that you cannot write comprehensively about music listening without writing about streaming services. According to Digital Media Ramblings’s statistics report from May, more than 350 million people use streaming services, and almost 200 million use the big three — Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio. The numbers do not include multiple service users (myself included, as a patron of Spotify, Pandora and 8tracks), but the point remains — people stream music a whole lot. The streaming coin has two faces. Artists and cynics allege that, as music becomes hyper-accessible, listeners’ appreciation of the musicians plummets.