Streaming Services Like Spotify and Pandora are Destroying Music

Categories: Sound Advice

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The law of unintended consequences is far-reaching. It's easy to see how it applies to things like medication, the environment, and Prohibition, but it also applies to the advances in the computerization of music over the past decade. The proliferation of the use of streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora coupled with the ease of creating customized playlists have radically changed the way people listen to music, and not for the better.

If there is anything people like to share on the internet almost as much as mothers like to share pictures of their children, it's their playlists. Websites like sharemyplaylists.com, bestspotifyplaylists.com and shareplaylists.com are teeming with submissions for all genres and every conceivable occasion. If you're hosting a Briss, celebrating Arbor Day or welcoming home a paroled relative, there is a playlist on one of these sites for you. People share playlists by touching phones, celebrities promote theirs through the iTunes store, and an entire movie was made about an Infinite one of Nick and Norah's (which, by the way, would have been a perfect soundtrack for "The Never-Ending Story").

Technology is (as always) the cause for this sea change in the way we consume music. Until the invention of the cassette tape, the only ways to play a disparate set of songs was to pile a stack of 45's on the record player, go to an establishment with a juke box or find work as an FM DJ. And although the cassette gave society the beloved and now ironic term "mix tape", if you wanted to make a 90-minute mix, your time commitment started with those 90 minutes and demanded great dexterity from your button-pressing fingers. Now it's drag, drop, play. It's typing the name of your favorite artist into Pandora to generate a stream of similar songs by artists whose names you are almost certain to forget instead of playing the album of that artist in the first place. It's going to iTunes to check out the band your friend told you about and just buying the most-often purchased song, because that must be the best one, right? It's not the way it's supposed to be.

What is wrong with playlists? As a tool to aid in the enjoyment of music, nothing. As an exclusive means of listening to music, everything. While much can be gained from the ease of throwing a group of songs together, much more is ultimately lost by not listening to albums in their entirety. Bands like Arcade Fire, the National and Tame Impala meticulously craft albums with overarching themes and songs that bleed into each other - they are created with the intention of being heard in order, not as one track in "Kevin's Perfect Party Mix." Listening to music exclusively with playlists, streaming from Pandora or listening to XM Radio in the car instead of playing an album beginning to end, in order, is not exactly reading a taped-together book where each page is torn from a different novel, but it's not exactly unlike that either. How many (if not most) listen to music today alters the way the artist wants you to appreciate his work and denies the listener the full enjoyment of the music. Not playing Radiohead's "OK Computer" in order from start to finish is like looking at a Picasso upside down.


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28 comments
DrSteve
DrSteve

I think that's what this dude, whoever he is, was saying - most people just use Spotify for playlists and random streaming, instead of as a resource for finding new bands.

TheBaron
TheBaron

I don't disagree. However, I'm an avid Spotify user and it gives me the opportunity to listen to infinitely much more music than I ever have before.  You aren't, of course, forced to create playlists or listen to handful of songs on 'shuffle'. When a new album is released, I can listen to it front to back, back to front if I like. Then if I so choose, I can pluck my favorite songs from that album and put onto a playlist of "Fave Tunes of 2013". It gives you more choices. 

Tom Lampe
Tom Lampe

Not a big fan of Creep, but the rest of OK computer is like a right-side up Picasso!

RFT Music
RFT Music

....In other words, apparently this is an even more divisive issue than I was aware.

RFT Music
RFT Music

From said letter: "Unfortunately as we evolve, due to downloading, into a strictly single based system, what is actually happening is that the decision of what to release often is in the hands of an A&R guy and not a real music lover. Those "other" songs I discovered will eventually not be recorded at all. We will be trending toward a system of spoon-feeding what may amount to a form of soylent green music-something that feeds the masses but denies that the variety that A&R people seldom connect with."

Erik Hahn
Erik Hahn

I think the problem is that it makes Pandora and the likes villans. Most major recording acts, with major labels, make pennies per album. They aren't the ones that are feeling this. The record companies are and they want to say how it's hurting their bottom line. They can kiss their bottom line as far as I am concerned. They are only interested in putting out the most generic, poppy bullshit and forcing it down peoples throats. Who cares if we hurt their bottom line. They've done nothing but ruin music for the past 40 years.

RFT Music
RFT Music

I just re-read this thing, in light of the apparent outrage, and I really think it isn't so bad, folks. I probably muddied the waters with the headline I slapped on there (I suppose "Destroying" is a bit sensational) but I still think Dave makes some fine points within.

Erik Hahn
Erik Hahn

I moved from Grooveshark as soon as the shit hit the fan with them. I just used them as an example. Honestly, I use Pandora primarily. Put in a good musician and good things usually happen.

RFT Music
RFT Music

And Shae Hileman: We still champion music here at RFT Music, but we have disagreements on the merits of the various methods through which that music is procured.

RFT Music
RFT Music

Erik Hahn: Actually, all other issues aside, from what I've read Grooveshark in particular is one of the worst offenders as far as not compensating artists for streams of their tracks is concerned. I'd switch to Spotify over that one if you are indeed interested in the compensation of artists (which you seem to be, since you said you purchase full albums of the stuff you hear sometimes).

Shae Hileman
Shae Hileman

Whatever. I just totally disagree with the point of view and don't understand why it was even written. Pretty negative article from a publishment that I always thought was pro music.

Erik Hahn
Erik Hahn

Personally I've discovered more from Pandora and Grooveshark and what not than the radio. I've also gone out and purchased music from the people I've found on those sites because I liked the one or two songs I heard. Pandora and the likes have done nothing but take away the ability for main stream music to take completely over. It's a way for the independant artist and the guys on indy labels to get some play time and to get more discovered. Article is just ridiculous and very pretentious.

Justin P.H. Dixon
Justin P.H. Dixon

If you got kicked out of my school, you must be a pretty cool guy. Or girl.

RFT Music
RFT Music

Shae Hileman Hipsters aren't real

RFT Music
RFT Music

I mighta gone to that school too for awhile, 'til they kicked me out. Who could remember?

Justin P.H. Dixon
Justin P.H. Dixon

I can only imagine you've had the pleasure of knowing me at some point in your life.

RFT Music
RFT Music

Well, I didn't write it, Justin P.H. Dixon. Haha. Also your school wasn't uphill from anywhere, ASK ME HOW I KNOW

Shae Hileman
Shae Hileman

More ways to discover and listen to music makes it less enjoyable? I've discovered countless new bands through services like Pandora. Not sure what the RFT is about anymore. Maybe I'm mot enough of a "hipster" to get it.

Justin P.H. Dixon
Justin P.H. Dixon

Darn kids today and their playlists. Back in my day, we listened to cassette tapes in our walkmans while we walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. What I'm saying is that you sound like a pretentious old bastard.

RFT Music
RFT Music

We have an article somewhere in our archives that takes on the monetary issues as well, but I cannot find it at the moment. I think the primary point of this article is that albums should be taken in as an entire work, rather than piecemeal through playlists and streaming radio stations. Which I agree with. If you are the type of person who uses these streaming services to listen to full albums, kudos to you -- no problem then! But is that the norm?

Daniel Kelley
Daniel Kelley

This is one of the most pretentious and misguided things I've read in a while. Also, if you're such a fan of "Document", wouldn't you know which songs are on it?

Tom Eaton
Tom Eaton

I'm overwhelmed by the irony of a blog published by a newspaper about the internet destroying music. If you want to get down to it, music is really "meant" to be listened to live, not recorded at all. You don't get to tell anyone how to enjoy music. RFT, you can (and should) be better than this.

Mikey Wehling
Mikey Wehling

Yes Travis Bursik the crime here is really the money, or lack there of.

Travis Bursik
Travis Bursik

If this article was written from the angle of how Spotify and Pandora pay bands fractions of cents for each play, then I'd have been on board. Instead it sounds like grumbling about how the kids are doing it wrong.

Tom Lampe
Tom Lampe

Superman is not on Document. It is on Life's Rich Pageant.

walkermichael667
walkermichael667

@DrSteve  I get what he's saying, but what can you do? Some people prefer to listen entire albums, and some people would rather create a playlist on their own. Some people can do both. Nothing's wrong with that, it's just a matter of perspective. Anyway, if you're into streaming music and creating playlists, I recommend trying music.torchbrowser.com. It's a new cool site.

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