Emma Gase | Medium Talk Co-Creator
It’s Wednesday, which means only one thing: I’m hungover. Not from alcohol or any of the other traditional means by which people unwittingly induce themselves to a Gatorade-and-Advil-filled morning. No, my hangover is from an over-indulgence in new music. I’ll elaborate.
Every Tuesday, Spotify releases a playlist of about 50-60 new songs (usually running 3 hours) in the aptly named New Music Tuesday playlist. The songs can be from any genre or artist—they can be re-mixes or singles or just a track from a new album. The one thing they all have in common is their novelty.
On Tuesdays, I awake with a sense of manic purpose that magically defies my “not a morning person” tendencies. I check my email immediately, bolstered by the slew of messages alerting me to the main reason I know I’ll get through the work day: It’s New Music Tuesday. 50-60 brand-spanking new tracks curated in one place, just for me and all 70 million of my Spotify-using friends.
The second I sit down at the office on Tuesdays, coffee and sad desk oatmeal at the ready, I plug in my headphones, tune out the rest of the world, neglect my emails, and begin clicking fiendishly through New Music Tuesday.
The ritual goes something like this:
1. Scan the entire list of new releases for a name I already recognize. If something catches my eye by an artist I already know, I listen to that first. Example: Miguel released two new songs this week. I listened to them for 30 seconds each, determined that they sound just about as pleasurable as any other Miguel song, and so subsequently added them to my “June” playlist.
2. Once I’ve tapped out the artists in my arsenal, I take my Spotify off of shuffle, and start at the top. If I don’t like the sound of a song within 30 seconds, on to the next one.
3. When I stumble upon a song I enjoy, I add it to whatever monthly playlist I have going that’s a dumping ground of new discoveries.
4. Once I’ve scanned all the new tracks, I return to my amalgamation playlist. I listen to the ones I added that morning to make sure I still like them.
5. I then listen to the same 10-15 songs (or however many I’ve curated in the current-month playlist) until the next slew of releases drop, or I begin to hate them. Satisfaction in my musical choices that made me so happy the day before starts to diminish by the minute, and eventually I’m right back where I started: Looking for the next best thing.
Frankly, this is no way to live. Endless hunting and picking and discarding rarely lead to the discovery of high quality releases with longevity. I wouldn’t wish this hamster-wheel system on any generation of music fans, but it seems like this is the inevitable lot with which we have been saddled. A barrage of endless, cookie-cutter releases that serve no other purpose than as the filler until the next batch rolls in. Find, listen, repeat, discard, move on. I’ve been in the cyclical daze for two years now, ever since my personal migration from iTunes to Spotify, and I see no signs of change on the horizon.
I miss the golden days of yore, when I used to leisurely peruse the musical blogosphere. Discovering a new band or artist that I liked was a big deal! It would come after hours, sometimes days of scouring. I’d read up on the musician in question, get the back story, and most of the time this would lead me to download an album or a handful of songs. Investment matters—when you work hard to find music that you end up loving, the search itself fosters the kind of loyalty that makes a true fan.
But in recent months, I’ve been feeling more burnt out than energized by New Music Tuesday. It’s all beginning to sound the same to me: another synth pop anthem sung by a breezy infantile female here, another trap remix of a perfectly enjoyable pop song there, maybe throw in a tired rap-with-a-singing-hook song produced by the ghost of DJ Mustard. The Summer Anthem of 2015 seems even more elusive than ever.
Does listening to a robot-curated list of 50-60 songs a week even count as discovery? I feel like a spoon-fed baby, incapable of taking control of my own consumption habits. But how did I even get here? Typical Millenial reliance on technology to dictate every facet of my life? Pure laziness? Perhaps it’s all the above. In order for us all to reclaim our independence in the world of Musical Pursuit, first we must understand the sociological and psychological effects that have been wreaked on our tastes, habits, and psyches.
The New Music Tuesday Effect typically forces people to fall into one of two camps:
The Addicts: Without question, I fall into this category. Finding a new song is like a drug rush—I practically inhale it, the high is minimal, and I move on just as quickly as I became obsessed. This is a subset of the Binge Your Media Lifestyle originally patented by Netflix and HBOGo. The New Music Tuesday effect encourages high turnover, lack of investment in artists, a decreased focus on music as art (disregarding albums in favor of singles, formulaic song structures), and removes the rewarding, warm fuzzy feeling that comes with hard work and true discovery.
Addicts are always listening to the newest shit first—but do NOT mistake newest for coolest. This is a common misconception, often perpetuated by the Addicts themselves in a barely-concealed effort to make themselves feel better about the turnover rate of their pet artists and playlists. What Addicts listen to any given month will likely be forgotten just as soon as the next month rolls around. It’s a shallow way to live, a hard habit to break, and one with no real solution on the horizon.
The Abstinents: Abstinents are in the same family as your friend who has been meaning to start LOST since it ended, but is simply too overwhelmed to make the commitment to begin a complicated show with six seasons. Too intimidated to jump in the musical game now that it exists on streaming services, they choose to simply abstain from the Streaming Lyfe altogether. The sheer volume of new music scares these folks off, rather than serving as a lure for the Addicts. Of course, Abstinents might not completely disconnect from modern times. While an Abstinent friend of mine may still be listening to the same Old 97’s album since 2002 (nothing wrong with that!), she is perhaps the most up-to-date person I know in following the movements—musical and otherwise—of Beyonce. At least for this sect, there is a semblance of balance, if not a slower trickle of new additions to their arsenal.
Is there antidote for this overexposure model? Are we fated to fall into these discrete camps of either rejection or obsession as the dominating sentiments? I’ve listed other options for those who reject the Streaming Lyfe in previous posts, but really, there is no immediate solution. Other than self-control on the bingeing front, that is.
The over-consumption model popularized by Millenials is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future until there is a clear winner in the Streaming Wars™. There may not be a cure-all panacea at the ready, but there are admittedly some promising boons coming down the pipeline. Perhaps Apple Music is the answer. It would certainly solve my library problems, since it incorporates your existing iTunes library into its streaming service. But for the time being, I feel bound to Spotify in lieu of other options.
And now: Back to my “June” playlist of all-new releases. I thought about listening to an old favorite Neil Young album, but I’ll be damned if I don’t hear the new Vince Staples track within 24 hours of its release.