Confession: I have a Spotify account. That’s the same Spotify who, when not ransacking my hard drive for credit card details or photos of sailors in the buff, deign to stream music, directly into my ears.
I am not happy about having a Spotify account. Call it one of life’s necessary little evils; as someone who writes about music, and occasionally gets paid for it (see here for my recent Outblinker article; apparently I was also the first hack to interview Edinburgh’s hotly-tipped duo Man of Moon), it comes in useful, if only because I don’t own a copy of every record ever released. It’s all in the research; having drunkenly agreed to pen a Bananarama article (which you can read here), and having the grand total of zero Bananarama discs amidst the general clutter of where I call home, Spotify came in useful when matters Keren, Sara and Siobhan were pressing. Spotify saved me a few quid, and the louche effort of having to browse Discogs for a battered copy of Deep Sea Skiving. Hoorah!
I don’t like Spotify, and streaming services in general, for a number of reasons – all of which having been sprayed about in every other lazy piece concerning Spotify, but I never said I was original. It pays artists a pittance. Demeans album as format. Compresses the sound quality. Promotes instant gratification, when music of value should be strived for, worked towards, not spun out gratis to any old Herbert with a wi-fi connection and itchy fingers (music snobbism, whilst a tired trope, does at least convey the truth that music matters; this is not wallpaper we’re debating).
Spotify is simply just another chapter in the commodification of sound; of course I’m not going to like it. And then there’s its latest trick; the Discover feature. A prissy little algorithm that, based upon listening habits, advertises itself as “Your weekly mixtape of fresh music. Enjoy new discoveries and deep cuts chosen just for you.” Mixtape being used without irony. And who, apart from pseuds, uses the phrase deep cuts? I listen to records, you arseholes, not something I’m going to get dicking about with an electric saw.
Perhaps ‘Something for the Weekend’ by The Divine Comedy is a deep cut; I can’t think of any other reason why this track appears amidst the new discoveries the Spotify algorithm serves up this week. 30 pieces of music that change every seven days, and the very first time I browse the list, Neil Hannon starts stinking out the joint with his whimsical porridge for the TGI Friday generation.
The world is a complex and scary place; it’s never needed ‘Something for the Weekend’ – as contrast, or for any other purpose; that a piece of coding has recommended I listen to this feels like a technological cul-de-sac. End times. The Book of Revelations; such is the patchwork, hit and miss world of the Spotify Discover feature. A venue where Einstürzende Neubauten, Patti Smith and ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ – still one of my favourites by Polly Jean Harvey – rubs shoulders with Blur’s ‘Chemical World’ (which I can just about understand, having a soft spot for Modern Life is Rubbish), and derivative gimcrack by the likes of Elastica, Longpigs and the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, all of which have a soft spot missing.
It’s not so much the concept I have a problem with; recommendations are essential to pollinating taste and knowledge. It’s the actual choice of song where the issue sits, implying a lack of sophistication behind the programming. “Enjoy new discoveries and deep cuts chosen just for you.” Should be “Tolerate assorted gubbins and deep piffle chosen almost at random.”
Below the words: ‘Lawman’ by Girl Band. Partly because it appears on the afore-mentioned Spotify Discovery tool that I’ve just wasted words dismissing – one of the few occasions where it got things spot on. But mainly because their debut album Holding Hands With Jamie is out on September 25th; having got my paws on an advance copy (ah – so there are some benefits of writing about music for a living), I can confirm that it’s either the greatest thing you’ll hear all year, or will give you a migraine; quite possibly both.