Sunday, 16 May 2021

Why I'm now on Spotify

Here's an important question. If you like music but don't listen to much radio how on earth do you find new music? Or even remember old music that isn't your favourite band?

I am old enough to remember (and really miss) swapping mix tapes with friends. There was also Pandora. Remember that? You'd give it a song and it would generate a playlist of music with the same characteristics as the seeding song - a fantastic way to find new music which was shut down presumably because someone had to pay some license fees somewhere.

I used to spend a lot of time in music shops and have a large CD collection. Remember when digital media came in circles? Anyway. For me, the best time for buying music was back when I was a student and a glorious music shop called Fopp opened in town. They had a sensible pricing policy (none of this £4.99 nonsense), a huge collection of decent music, and they actually played music you could buy in store. Seriously; the number of times I'd be in HMV and would like the music playing and nobody in-store could tell me what it was. In Fopp, it was being played by the staff themselves and the CD would be by the till - wouldn't even need to talk to anyone.

Happy days.

I was also working in a student radio station during this period and between the two I discovered and bought a lot of music. But then Fopp over-extended and imploded, and the adult world happened and it all went horribly wrong.

Like most, I've been listening to music via streaming services for some years but despite its obvious popularity I've managed to avoid having a Spotify account. I've had a Google Play account for ages, which also strips the ads from YouTube (a huge benefit to me) and because I got an Amazon Prime account I also got their music service bundled in. Between these two that really seemed like enough music to be going on with - they both have large collections, and while there is the occasional notable hole it kept me more than happy enough to avoid yet another streaming service.

However, since I've been working from home I've been able to listen to a lot more music (when I'm not in a damned meeting...) and I've notice that an alarming amount of the time, I'm just hitting "go" on my repeating playlist. So, despite having pretty much all of music from all time available to me I'm actually listening to about 15 songs on repeat because it means I don't have to think about finding something new.

That brings me back to the opening question - how do I find more music? Spotify has a "radio" feature which is remarkably like the fondly remembered Pandora service. You give it a seed song, start the "radio" and it plays a load of stuff that is kinda like it. It's a bit hit and miss (nowhere near as good as my memories of Pandora) but it's more than usable and it is also exposed through the Sonos interface if you know where to look. As far as I can see, neither of Google Play (or YouTube Music as it is now) nor Amazon Music has this feature, and certainly not through Sonos.

So at the cost of another monthly subscription, I've finally got a music discovery service. I think I have listened to more new music in the last two months than I have in the last five years so it is definitely working for me. Next up, I need to look at the Spotify playlist features and see if this can be used to resurrect the old world of mix tapes...

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