Back in 2006, after hearing about it on a podcast, I installed a music-tracking service known as Last.FM, using an iTunes (later MediaMonkey) plugin to “scrobble” my music into analytics that I’ve tracked over the years. In the nearly 16 years that have passed, the service never seemed to catch on, but I’ve remained a stalwart user, feeding my Spotify listening habits into the service. A few weeks ago, I finally scrobbled my 100,000th song and wanted to use that as an opportunity to reflect on my listening habits.
This is a follow up to my previous posts over the years
In my previous posts, I listed out these categories and gave a summary of my listening history with each artist. Rather than do that this time, I just wanted to give a reflection on anything that surprised me.
You may know that I’m an avid Podcast listener, going on for ten years and am currently subscribed to 105 different shows. With as much as I listen, few episodes stick with me, but this one from The Slate’s Hit Parade went back in time and blew my formative teenage mind, leaving me to question whether the formation of my pop music appreciation is a complete sham.
I read somewhere that the music you’re exposed to from the time you’re a teen into early twenties has the biggest impact towards your appreciation. In your mind, that is the most iconic period of music and since then has likely gotten worse. As I’m 36 now, my middle school and high school years occurred during this period that was covered in the podcast. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me a pretty wide berth in what I could listen to and buy, and I ended spending a sizable amount of money on albums throughout the 90’s.
Listening to this Podcast made some really deep cuts against my music psyche. If you went to high school the same time I did, I’d really suggest you listen to this, but the gist of the podcast is that the record industry severely ratcheted down the selling of single cassettes and CD’s of band hits to force consumers to buy the entire album if they wanted to own the song. As the podcast went through example after example of these albums, I realized that I ended up owning many albums by these one-hit wonders.
To a teenager, $15 was a sizable amount of money, often representing a couple hours of work. When I shelled out money for those albums, I had a strong incentive to not feel like I flushed my cash down the drain – and as a result not only did I listen to those entire albums, but I convinced myself that it was a good album, conditioning myself to appreciate all of the album’s tracks. The problem is that repressed, deep in the recesses of my mind, I secretly knew the album wasn’t good, and come to find out that in many cases the record companies felt the same way – but they just wanted to take my money.
That’s not to say that there weren’t iconic albums in the 90’s – Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs., Alanis’ Jagged Little PIll, Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness come to mind for me, but for every one of those, I also had the misfortune of owning Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping, Primitive Radio Gods Rocket, and Shawn Mullins’ Soul’s Core. Nothing against those artists, and being in a band myself I know that your music can’t appeal to everyone – but the point is that during the 90’s consumers who wanted to own your one hit song was forced to buy the entire album, with the record industry laughing their way to the bank.
I was on the ground level when Mp3’s starting propagating the landscape and giving way to Napster and iTunes, making the single once again accessible to everyone. This podcast goes to show that downloading wasn’t simply about stealing music, but was as much about disrupting a very corrupt business model. It’s crazy to think just how different things are today, with most songs available on a whim to be streamed on our phones. In today’s age, the value of the album has been questioned by many musicians, including myself. Artists are coming to grip with the fact that recordings have been reduced to a commodity, from once being the product to now being a tool to help market your product (your live shows and relationships with fans). People still put a lot of care into the constructing of albums, but many artists are now more concerned with churning out new music at a regular pace.
I don’t often wear my tinfoil hat, but it is mind-blowing just how much of our formative appreciation of art is decided by rich white guys in boardrooms. Give the podcast a listen and let me know which of those songs and albums resonate with you.
It’s taken 9 years, but I’ve eclipsed 60,000 listens, or Scrobbles using Last.fm. For those who don’t know, this is a site that tracks your listens and provides data and recommendations based on your interests. However in the years that have passed, streaming services have eaten the lunch of Last.fm’s latter goal and unfortunately it seems the site is relegated to tracking. Given how much data I’ve been pumping into them, I’m glad that CBS is still keeping them around – for the time being.
It’s taken over three years for me to amass the next 20,000 songs, which is probably slower than most given that I listen to podcasts during essentially every commute. As you’ll see below most of my rankings haven’t changed that much, although there has been a shift in the songs that have become more popular.
10. Ozomatli (517 Plays, New to Top 10). Ozomatli is still a mainstream in my listening, and is my default go-to band when I want to hear some music in Spanish. Top Album: Don’t Mess With The Dragon. Top Tracks: Can’t Stop, La Gallina, Cut Chemist Suite
9. Outkast (557 Plays, Previously #9). If there was one group that I wish would get back together and play music, it would be Outkast. Unfortunately with all things in life: it’s just not that easy. Until then I’ll just need to be comforted by my Andre 3000 playlist. Top Album: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Top Tracks: Ms. Jackson, Rosa Parks, Hey Ya!
8. Jimmy Eat World (562 Plays, Previously #8). I still haven’t seen them play live yet, and I’m wondering if that window is starting to close. Top Album: Chase This Light. Top Tracks: Here It Goes, Open Bar Reception, A Praise Chorus
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers (733 Plays, Previously #5). RHCP may have suffered from not being on streaming platforms for part of the last three years. They finally got their stuff together and sre still putting out great music. Top Album: Stadium Arcadium. Top Tracks: Under the Bridge, Soul to Squeeze, Dani California
6. O.AR. (737 Plays, Previously #6). I’ve really liked a lot of their new stuff that they’ve put out. I’m a little surprised that Peace didn’t make it into my top three tracks, given how much I’m listening to it. Top Album: All Sides. Top Tracks: Love and Memories, This Town, Fire
5. John Butler Trio (816 Plays, Previously #7). Their plethora of great new music helped them swap places with RHCP. I’ve actually done drum covers of Used To Get High and Close To You. Top Album: Grand National. Top Tracks: Used to Get High, Daniella, One Way Road
4. Five for Fighting (872 Plays, Previously #5). I’m sad that my favorite singer-songwriter isn’t really releasing new material at this point. Top Album: Slice. Top Tracks: The Riddle, 100 Years, Slice
3. Michael Franti & Spearhead (924 Plays, Previously #4). I’m really enjoying the latest stuff that Franti and Spreahead are putting together, with the messages being more in-line with their earlier stuff. Top Album: Stay Human. Top Tracks: One Step Closer To You, Hey Hey Hey, We Don’t Stop
2. Muse (1,216 Plays, Muse #2). One of my other favorite bands who don’t seem afraid to try different things with different albums. I’ve had a harder time getting into their new stuff, but that has more to do with the fact that they’re releasing so much, so fast. Top Album: Black Holes and Revelations. Top Tracks: Time Is Running Out (another fun drum cover), New Born, Hyper Music
1. Dave Matthews Band (2,812 Plays). No big change except for the fact that I can’t get enough of my favorite band and am hopeful they can release some new material this next year. Top Album: Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King. Top Tracks: Two Step, #41, So Much To Say
Thank you for checking in on this journey with me. Just for kicks, I also grabbed my top 5 favorite songs (statistically speaking) from the last year:
Mark Ronson – Feel Right
The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face
Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Enrique Iglesias – Bailando (Spanish Version) – my daughter loves this one
1 Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk
It’s that time of year again, SXSW (South By South West), the HUGE interactive/web/music conference have compiled their annual torrent of artists that played at the conference. This year’s compilation has over 6.5gb and 1150 songs – so if you feel like you’re in a music lull, download a bit torrent client (like uTorrent) and then point your browser to http://www.sxswtorrent.com/
In face, you can go back and download the torrents from back until 2005. There is some great stuff in here, especially if you’re interested in discovering new music. Check it out!
Over the last few days I’ve had my head down over my drum set, learning new song for Ken Stevens’ band. To expedite our timeline for being able to play out, we’re supplementing the originals with covers. Part of the reason I’m so excited for this project is that it’s pushing my musical boundaries, but it also means learning some songs that I’m not familiar with. To help, I’m mapping out each song into a 4×3 notebook.
While I could go out and either print out drum tabs or listen to the music or transcribe the songs into sheet music, but that would be a lot of work and could make me reliant on the sheets, especially when I’m playing in a genre that isn’t as accepting of music stands. Instead, I’ve gone ahead and created a “cliff-notes” version of each song, writing some highlights.
Some things that I start off with some basic: What is the meter? 4/4, 6/8? What’s the tempo (In BPM, or may just a note a general feel)? Do I go with sticks or should I use brushes or the Rutes?
Next I move onto the structure of the song. What do the drums do during the intro (or is the intro drum-less)? How many repetitions are there in each part of the song? Is there a point where I drop out? What are the dynamics? Is there anything else special to take note?
The intention is to be able to read through these notes right before I play this song, and in combination with concentration and muscle-memory, be able to work my way through the song. Obviously with practice I should be able to commit these original and cover songs to memory, but this is a good way to cheat my way through an evening of music.
What other ways do you use to get through songs? For my friends who are not drummers, does a method like this work for you? Do you have any other tips on how to learn new music in a relatively short period of time?