Listening to Music

I've been an avid music lover for decades. My first gig was Green Day for their Nimrod tour at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1998! I remember scouring record fairs in convention centres for limited edition albums, walking around record shops in London looking for obscure EPs by Pinhead Gunpowder and hanging out at my local record (CD) store asking them to order music by “” (a good band, similar to Feeder, yet a terrible name in the age of the world wide web).

I mainly listen to albums from beginning to end, like I was listening to music on CD. I guess this stems from my generation of music access and how it was consumed. But part of the artistry of an album is the specially placed order of the tracks – especially with “concept albums” such as (Boys Night Out – Trainwreck) – so I tended to listen to albums in their entirety.

The Digital Era

In my early twenties, music slowly went digital. I got a silver Apple iPod Mini in 2003 and thus began my descent into playlists and managing my music differently.

When I used iTunes, I created playlists of “Best of the Year”, favourite tracks by my favourite artists or by genres. This allowed me to could break away from my often album-lead listening behaviour. I was still mainly stuck with the music I ripped from my CDs or purchased from iTunes.

Twenty years after my iPod, most music is now streamed on demand. With the boom in streaming services, people now had access to unprecedented amounts of music. People could like songs and albums, follow artists and create their own playlists.

However, due to the billions of tracks, this manual curation often got out of hand and came up against restrictions. There was a time when Spotify limited the amount of “likes” you could have on your account.

Sam Hardacre wrote in his post Reclaiming my Likes playlist

artists and albums were limited but individually liked songs had no limit. So as a work around, if I came across an album I wanted to save, I'd just like all the tracks individually.

I came across this limit and solved it the same way Sam did. This, however, led to my “likes” playlist becoming massive and rather unwieldy. Instead of being a nicely curated list of tracks, it became a junkyard where tracks were added to and then forgotten.

Luckily in 2020, Spotify finally removed its 10,000-song library limit, however, the damage had already been done to many of people's curated music. Like Sam, I spent some time removing entire albums from my likes, limiting it to songs I actually like.

The “likes” playlist is now more useful. Although listening to the playlist is a safe bet, the size of the playlist means listening to it in a random order, leaving the newer music I've found is often Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was.

Time-Consuming Discovery

Finding new music you like has never been easier. Spotify has “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar“ playlists which are updated every Monday and Friday respectively. They also have six “Daily Mix” playlists which are updated based on your recent listening habits. I often play these lists, but it is very passive consumption, with music playing all day while I work – songs usually go in one ear and out the other.

However, the act of actively discovering new artists is still an art form. And is time-consuming. There have been times where I've gone down a rabbit hole of similar artists, reading their wikipedia entries and researching other bands they've played in. Combined with the time taken to actively listen to the tracks you can easily lose hours to this process.

A Forgetfulness Problem

1996–2005 is my music nexus. If I think about a song, music or artist I want to listen to, my brain will automatically pick something from this era. There have been eighteen years of music since then. There are lots of bands I've discovered and hundreds of tracks I've loved, but I've often forgotten about them when I want something specific.

Unfortunately, this mental block also applies to new bands. If I find a new band, they'll be played a lot for a few weeks, then probably forgotten when I actively decide what to listen to.

This lack of remembering new artists means attending live music has dwindled. After two decades, most of my favourite bands have stopped making music and touring. All new gigs are by bands “I don't know” – which might not be the case, it's just I am not overly familiar with the newer band I have actually listened to.

I am trying to put some more effort into finding and remembering new artists, which will hopefully allow me to enjoy more live music in the future.