I’m not the sort of person who ever goes to record shops to check out new releases and picks stuff up on a whim. I have friends who are music heads. They are listening to stuff all the time, everywhere. They have encyclopedic knowledge of at least one genre of music. They have record stores of choice that are independently owned.
I do not consider myself a music head. But that seems to be evolving.
It started when I started attending SXSW and found out that every year there’s an unofficial SXSW torrent with which you can download one song from each showcasing artist. For free. So I’ve downloaded 5 GB worth of music every year and listened through the whole damn thing. (Mostly. With a lot of tracks I can tell within the first few seconds that I’ll hate them, so I skip/delete them. Punk and metal fall into this category.)
What sparked this post is that I’m fighting to get through my to-do list and music helps me do that. It occupies one part of my brain so the rest can work. Due to a weak signal, I set my Rdio iPhone app to Offline mode and fired up my “Listen Again” playlist.
Let’s pause for a few words about Rdio. I’ve been using Rdio for the last several months in the following ways:
- To listen to a bunch of new-to-me music that some trusted friends who are music heads listen to. This has lead me to some amazing new stuff that I can’t imagine I would have ever stumbled across in the first place.
- To listen to the full catalog of artists I’m familiar with and flag the tracks I really like. This lead me to the realization that for certain artists (e.g., the Dave Matthews Band) I think of their albums as one long experience. There aren’t necessarily single tracks on an album that I like, but I do enjoy (and remember my inital experiences of) the album as a whole.
- To finally listen to the full catalog of artists I thought I knew or artists that I never took the time to check out that everyone else talks about. This lead me to realize that while I may have liked one or two tracks from some artists (e.g., Radiohead), I don’t actually like them as much as I thought I did (or at all). Or that I had mis-categorized an artist based on the context of observed discussions of them. There’s really no substitute for just listening to the music yourself.
What’s weird is Rdio is not the sort of thing I’d ever even sign up for in the first place. It never occurred to me to seriously consider subscribing to last.fm which I’m only using in the first place because of the scrobbling feature which tracks everything I listen to and makes nice charts out of it. I never bothered to check out eMusic or other similar services. But I succumbed to Rdio’s pretty face. It is a beautiful web app. I especially love the queue feature. I love the sync-to-mobile feature because, as I mentioned, sometimes (i.e., at work) I’ve got a weak signal which makes streaming impossible. Rdio’s Twitter help account has been helpful! (I try not to be lazy about things, but I can’t access their site during the day from my work computer.) I tried the 7-day free trial and was completely hooked. I considered the $4.99/month web-only subscription, but quickly decided that mobile access would be critical to my Rdio experience, so I’m currently subscribed at $9.99/month.
Okay, back to playlists.
So I have a playlist in iTunes uncreatively titled “new music” that is comprised of saved songs from SXSW showcasing artists torrents, The Current’s Song of the Day podcast, and Radio K’s new Track of the Day podcast. And then I have this “Listen Again” playlist in Rdio also comprised of music I listened to for the first time that I liked on first pass and wanted to check out again. What’s exciting about these playlists is that the music is fresh and new and still unfamiliar, but there’s a high degree of assurance that I’m going to like whatever comes next. I might strip a few more upon subsequent listens, but the hard work is done.
So it seems I am becoming a bit of a music head in a 21st century way.