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Guest Column: The View from the Back, Ep. II

Posted by - 12:03 PM on 12/02/11
Today we have the second installment of Paul Shirley's guest column - now entitled "The View from the Back" - to present to you guys. Today, Paul debates the negatives of Spotify and other music streaming services. Head to the replies to read this week's column called "Spotify and Menus," and remember you can talk to him on Twitter or send him an email if you want.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 55
12:04 PM on 12/02/11
#2
Thomas Nassiff
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Spotify and MenusLike most people with a duodenum and an Internet connection, I was thrilled to hear of the arrival on American cybershores of Spotify, the Swedish website that allows its users to stream music from a seemingly unlimited supply of songs.

I signed up and put Spotify to the test, probably with something by Slaughter. Because if you don’t have “Fly To The Angels,” you don’t have music.

I was cheered that Spotify seemed like an improvement over its predecessors – the Rhapsodies, Lalas, and Groovesharks that came and went like so many Kiwis. (The animal from New Zealand, not the people from New Zealand.)

But something was off. At first, I couldn’t tell what the problem was. Sure, I didn’t like the interruptions caused by commercials stumping the new David Guetta album, and the Spotify girl’s British accent was faintly off-putting. But I knew that those bits of shittiness would disappear if I did the adult thing and upgraded, for $10 a month, to Spotify Prime.

It took a recent car ride to clarify what I didn’t like about Spotify.

As I wheeled through the old iPod that is connected to my 2004 Volkswagen’s radio through one of those transmitters that is almost as reliable as a sorority girl’s promise to show up on time, I thought, You know, I could probably just pay the ten dollars a month and connect my phone to my radio. Then I wouldn’t have to carry my iPod around AND I’d have access to all of my music PLUS everything I don’t own.

And that’s when it hit me: I don’t want to have access to all the music in the world at once. I like my music collection the way it works now.

My music collection is like a restaurant’s menu. If I walk into a restaurant and find that it offers 52 different entrees scattered over four ethnic categories, (here’s looking at you, Cheesecake Factory), I don’t believe that its cook does any of those entrees well. I want the manager to have decided what his restaurant does best, and I want to be offered only those options. There’s no way that, as Waitress Kristi just told me, “everything’s good.”

In fact, there seems often to be a reverse correlation between the quality of a restaurant and the number of items it offers. The best restaurants in the world barely have menus at all.

My music collection is the same, except that I am the creator of the menu. And I have a lot of faith in my taste. I know that I – who is, of course, the person with the most insight into what I like – have vetted the music in my iPod. Thus, I can rely on that music to offer selections that I will probably like.

If I open up the options from Music I’ve Tried And Decided I Liked to Everything Available On Spotify, I’ve given up on my own taste. I’ve created a bad musical restaurant, in part because I’ve given myself too many choices, and in part because of another result of the same: by giving myself so many options, I’ve stopped forcing myself to concentrate on the options I have.

That was confusing, so I’ll explain with an analogy.

I’m beginning to think that the only way a committed marriage works is if both people take themselves off the market. No going to bars with the boys. No girls’ nights out. Moving to western Montana and setting up shop on 200 acres might seem extreme, but it might also be the only way to keep from cheating. We human beings are easily tempted by the shiny bauble of a mane of blonde hair or a well-shaped pectoralis muscle.

We’re also easily tempted by the idea that, if there are 65 million songs at our fingertips, there must be something better out there.

Often, there isn’t. Often, your wife is still the wonderful, perfectly matched human you married. You just forgot for ten minutes because, yeah, that girl in HR does have nice freckles.

Just as often, the new Antlers album is still the wonderful, perfectly-matched set of 10 songs you bought in May. You just forgot for four seconds because, yeah, it takes a few listens to love an Antlers album.

This doesn’t mean that Spotify has no use. Everyone would like to have a Blockbuster Music-style pre-listen of the albums they buy. And that, I think, is where Spotify shines. I don’t always want to shell out $10 for whatever album that girl I took to dinner says is good. I might want to have a listen first.

But Spotify as cure-all?

Not for me.

I need to be limited.

I like the way I manage my music. I like knowing that I’ve built a base I can count on, and I like adding to that base slowly and incrementally. I like the musical restaurant I’ve built.

And sure, all (most) of the items on my menu would still be available on Spotify. But they’d be so obscured by the musical equivalents of mediocre chicken quesadillas and hastily-built Cobb salads that,
I fear, I’d be overwhelmed and run out the door screaming.

Is this old-fashioned – this attitude of mine? Maybe.

But it’s effective, too.

So, for now, I’ll stick with the place that has only five items on the menu.
Everyone else can eat at the Cheesecake Factory.
12:08 PM on 12/02/11
#3
Joe DeAndrea
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Cheesecake Factory sounds good to me.
12:12 PM on 12/02/11
#4
asthenia*
Never to see any other way...
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fantastic article. his marriage analogy works really well. these types of services overwhelm me. hell, being on AP half the time overwhelms me. there's just so much out there
12:14 PM on 12/02/11
#5
Rodney182
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This is brilliant and a nice change of pace from the overly praising spotify articles everywhere.
12:23 PM on 12/02/11
#6
Thomas Nassiff
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Cheesecake Factory sounds good to me.
By cheese do you mean http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=2362122

Jk those reviews are why I love you
12:46 PM on 12/02/11
#7
Jason Tate
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Loved this article.

Found myself laughing out loud at a few parts. Made me stop and think about a lot of things. Very well done. Will have to make sure we can feature these articles in more ways on the new AP.net ... this is the kind of thing, and content, I see us really stepping up with next year.

01:08 PM on 12/02/11
#8
Farley
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but if you love your music base the way it is, you can just access it through spottily via the library folder on the left... thats pretty much your iTunes...
01:51 PM on 12/02/11
#9
Thomas Nassiff
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but if you love your music base the way it is, you can just access it through spottily via the library folder on the left... thats pretty much your iTunes...
He did note that in the article....
01:56 PM on 12/02/11
Farley
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He did note that in the article....

i read nothing about a Library folder on the left...
02:01 PM on 12/02/11
I'm DC
I hope this terrifies you.
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That's pretty cool. I just saw him Tuesday at a T.J. Miller show and again when Thrice came to town (it is hard to miss him, he's very tall). Cool that he's writing columns for AP, hopefully he keeps doing this, I really enjoy his stuff!
02:04 PM on 12/02/11
Matthew Tsai
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Wow, some great thoughts here. I didn't realize I feel the exact way about Spotify until reading this article. Needless to say, I'm going to continue using Spotify because it's still better to have more music at my fingertips than less, but now that I'm aware of the "Spotify effect," maybe my listening habits will be a little more stable.
02:49 PM on 12/02/11
buckcheeks
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His book is fantastic, even if you're not a sports(basketball) fan.
02:50 PM on 12/02/11
Jason Tate
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i read nothing about a Library folder on the left...
And sure, all (most) of the items on my menu would still be available on Spotify. But they’d be so obscured by the musical equivalents of mediocre chicken quesadillas and hastily-built Cobb salads that, I fear, I’d be overwhelmed and run out the door screaming..
03:13 PM on 12/02/11
alexa_ATL
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Wow, that was a great article. I didn't really realize I felt this way too until I just read that and thought about it. There's a reason I have Spotify and Itunes open right now but i'm listening to the same old Matchbook Romance album on my itunes instead of Rihanna on Spotify. I definitely love the restaurant imagery you presented - I love having created a music library that I can call quality, not just a think of quantity.

Any music I like enough to give repeat listens is surely going on my itunes, so what's the point to listening to them on Spotify repeatedly? I mostly use the service for pregaming music (college ftw) since i'd rather "Take Over Control" not pop up on my itunes shuffle when i'm walking to class.

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