Anton Moglia

Goodbye playlists

I watched the Netflix series 'The Playlist' which tells the story of Spotify. At the last episode, I turned off the TV and started thinking about my music consumption. I used to be a pirate for a long time. Back then, I collected my favorite albums on my hard drive and eagerly awaited the release of the next album from my favorite artists.

But I lost that connection with the artists. Like everyone else, I adopted the convenience of streaming platforms a few years ago. After all, it costs a few euros to have unlimited access to (almost) all the music in the world, without ads, and without latency. In my digital library, I've piled up a few favorite tracks in playlists. I let myself be carried away by the platform's automated suggestions, from one track to another, like a comforting background noise.

What abundance! Ultimately, this abundance of music has made me lose interest in searching for and discovering new artists. Drowned in music, I don't know what to listen to, who to listen to, and why. I'm lost in the immensity of the catalog, and the immense field of possibilities makes the experience tasteless. Playlists make artists anonymous. You open Spotify, you launch the 'Rock' playlist, and let's go for hours of music, without ever asking yourself who's behind the mic! Listening to playlists, and even more so to algorithmic or pre-fabricated playlists, is the best way to lose sight of the artists who create that music. On streaming platforms, everything is sorted by genre, style, and mood, and you launch the playlist like a soup without knowing what ingredients make it up.

Let's go further: is this abundance model viable for artists? Not even close! Spotify generally pays between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream, which means it will take about 250 streams to earn a single dollar. That's nothing. And for most independent artists who want to make a living from their work, but who have a less mainstream style than Beyoncé... it's going to be a long run.

After some research, I tried Bandcamp and started buying albums again. It's so satisfying to send a real tip to an artist, reward the work and encourage them to continue (7-10€ for 1 album, equivalent to 1 month's subscription to a platform). Discovering one album after another on Bandcamp, I've regained the pleasure of listening to new things and being surprised by a new musical style, and above all by new artists!

Today could be a golden age for artists. Bands can self-produce and publish their work on the internet. Musicians have been freed from the constraints of record labels and can publish without intermediaries. After the era of piracy, this model of unlimited access is legitimate : it's normal that it has become dominant, knowing that the internet allows culture to be freely distributed. But I think it ruins our relationship with artists and makes them invisible. It's up to us to take a step back and ask ourselves if we haven't lost something along the way! Goodbye streaming!

#thoughts #music #art #en

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