Eras of Music Discovery, and Why I Just Can’t Spotify

I recently downgraded from paid Spotify to ye olde free version. They said, “Ooh, baby, give me one more chance…”

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…but I did not let them back in my heart.

So, I wasn’t really using Spotify, which is a great reason to quit. I found it inconvenient for listening in the car—plug it in! wait for it to connect! figure out what I want to hear! hope my service doesn’t go out!—unless I was going on a long trip. And artists don’t really make money from it, and I want the artists I like to make money.

But my #1 problem with Spotify was, and has always been, this: There’s just too much freakin’ music.

Before Spotify, I got into music in a bunch of different ways:

1993: Saw Free Willy, asked for a portable compact disc player and the Free Willy soundtrack for Christmas, listened to “Will You Be There?” through headphones at the dining room table (because if you moved the player at all, the CD would skip).

My first CD.

1994-1997: Friend’s eccentric dad made me copies of Weird Al tapes. Saw Alanis Morissette videos on VH1, purchased album at The Wall (lifetime guarantee!), listened to first few tracks on drive home with my mom, was mortified to learn that second track (“You Oughta Know”) contained the F-word, did not even know what “would she go down on you in a theater” meant. Saw Titanic five times –> “My Heart Will Go On.”

1998-2000: TRL. And the radio, of course.

2001-2004: I would hear a song I liked on some music-video channel—Fuse? The Box?—and download it using the file-sharing site of the moment. (RIP, original Napster.) This is how I ended up with at least 50 unlabeled CDs of random crap from this era. (I have them in my car. Paul likes to pop them in on long drives. One contained several Shania Twain songs. Another, several Blessid Union of Souls tracks. One had a song by City High that wasn’t “what would you do if your son was at home / crying all alone on the bedroom floor ’cause he’s hungry?”) My friends got me into Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer (and I’ll never forgive them). I also liked to go to Target and purchase albums that just looked cool. (How I got into Modest Mouse.)

2005-2008: College. I worked for a freakin’ music magazine. I was definitely not cool enough for the job, but many of my coworkers were. And once I heard of an artist I liked, it was easy enough to find an album through some program that let you download music from other computers on your network in the dorms. Hence: full albums from MGMT, the Decemberists, Death Cab, Kings of Leon (when they were cool), Justice, and on and on.

2009-Spotify: I went back to the high-school method—obtaining songs from the internet (not from a sketchy Napster-like service! ones that were hosted on blogs, through sites like Hype Machine) and burning random mixes to CDs. I’d find the songs through XPN, or Sirius XMU, or Stereogum.

And then I joined Spotify, and it became, “HOW MUCH OF THIS CAN I LISTEN TO?” instead of, “Oh, I like that song. I think I’ll check out the album, listen to it several times, and really give it a chance.”

And you have to do the latter thing in order for music to become a teleportation device.

By that, I mean, you know how there are some songs or albums you can listen to and they transport you back to a particular moment and/or era in your life?

Some personal examples:
“Landed” by Ben Folds = breaking up with my long-term high school boyfriend and finally settling into college
“Sentimental Heart” by She and Him = my first fall in the Lehigh Valley, trying to keep a long-distance college relationship afloat
“No One’s Gonna Love You” by Cee Lo = driving to Bethlehem (while belting this out) on a cold evening in December 2010 in search of my first solo apartment

If you only listen to everything one time, you’ll never build those connections. And there will never be a song that makes you feel the freedom of ending your first serious (and not awesome) relationship, or the bittersweet feeling of clinging to the past when you know you should really be moving forward, or like you’re going to go look at a shitty apartment because your roommate is moving to New York City and almost all your friends will follow her soon but you don’t know it yet.

Music is for emotions!

In conclusion, I bought a couple albums on iTunes today and thought, “I don’t have any blank CDs. This stinks.” And then a coworker was cleaning out his office and put a whole stack of blank CDs on the free table. It’s a sign. Spotify-free is the way to be.



About Meghan Loftus
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2 Responses to Eras of Music Discovery, and Why I Just Can’t Spotify

  1. Hey, I just learned about these two new bands by word of blog! They’re called “Parquet Courts” and “Cloud Nothings.” …Currently listening on Spotify.

    This post is great. Since college I feel like I haven’t really gotten emotionally into music in the same way. I’ve wondered if I’m just less angsty and deep in this old age, or whether my surroundings just make it harder to get into music the same way (like you say).

    • Meghan Loftus says:

      Maybe it is the lack of angst that makes getting into music so difficult! Or, maybe it is the lack of time spent walking around campus listening to my 4th generation iPod with a clickwheel.

      (I really think it’s just from not being willing to “commit” to albums, that is, purchase them and spend time listening to a physical copy of them. Paul made me a copy of Vampire Weekend’s latest — and he had a copy in his car — and it will forever remind me of going to Cape May and getting engaged, because that’s what was playing on the drive down. CDs, FTW!)

      (For the record, I also clung to tapes long after most people had abandoned them for CDs. “I can listen to tapes in the car! They don’t skip! Etc.”)

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