I read an issue of Warren Ellis’ newsletter this morning, and it’s sent me down a number of rabbit holes, as it often does. (Which is why I generally only read it on Sunday mornings, when I have time for rabbit holes.) I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately (again). Since I got my AirPods, I’ve been listening to a bit more music at work. I’m sure that’s partially due to the novelty of having a new toy to play with, but it’s also related to other factors that have given me more “heads down” coding time recently, vs. some of the meeting-heavy weeks I’ve had over the last couple of months.
I keep two music playlists in Overcast, one for “song of the day” podcasts and one for longer music podcasts. I’ve usually got enough stuff in those playlists to keep me happy, but I’ve been catching up and emptying those out recently, so I’ve been using other sources too. The Radio Paradise app lets you cache a couple of hours of music for offline listening, so I’ve been using that too. Radio Paradise plays some really good stuff, and it’s all commercial-free. (I really should donate some money to them…) And I’ve been downloading some random stuff from Amazon Prime Music to listen to offline, including some Swans and Mountain Goats. Prime Music is a nice side-benefit of having a Prime subscription, except for the too-frequent prompts to upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited. I’ll admit that I’m starting to think about giving in and finally subscribing to one of the streaming services, though I still don’t really want to. It just kind of feels like that’s the way things are going, and doing anything else is swimming against the current.
Getting back to my Warren Ellis rabbit hole, he linked to this essay by Mat Dryhurst. It’s a really long essay, and gets into some “deep thoughts” about streaming music services and the economics of making and selling music these days. He also gets into what he calls the “war between music from nowhere, and music from somewhere.” I’ll admit that, for music I’m listening to at work, I am sometimes looking for that “music from nowhere” category: stuff to drown out conversations around me, so I can focus on work. An exemplar of that kind of music is Focus @ Will, which tries to use music to optimize productivity, and has no artistic goals at all. I’m not so dedicated to productivity that I’d pay for a service like that, but I do sometimes use ambient music for this purpose. The Future Astronauts podcast can be pretty good for that. Often, the music on that podcast just flows together and I stop noticing it. Sometimes, though, something jumps out at me and I find myself looking at the show notes and following a link to somebody’s Bandcamp page and bookmarking it for later. Which kind of cancels out the productivity aspect, but having something new and unexpected or just pleasantly distracting pop up is always appreciated, even if it does mean I lose five minutes of “productivity.”
Zoe Keating has been tweeting about streaming music recently, and some of the discussion that’s arisen out of her Twitter feed is pretty interesting. I will admit that I’ve been listening to her Snowmelt EP on Prime Music, which probably gets her no money at all, rather than buying it on Bandcamp, which would only cost me $4, most of which she’d probably get to keep. Heck, buying her entire “digital discography” on Bandcamp only costs $12.35. Really, though, I have dozens of albums bookmarked on Bandcamp, and I rarely get around to buying any of them. I’ve been thinking that I’d actually be getting more money to artists if I just subscribed to Spotify or Apple Music and listened to them there. It wouldn’t be much, but it’d be automatic, vs. the current situation, where I just bookmark a bunch of stuff and never get around to buying any of it.
If I do decide to pay for a streaming music subscription, maybe I should try Deezer, since they’re at least trying to pay artists more fairly. (Assuming that this whole UCPS thing isn’t just a marketing stunt, and actually does result in a better deal for artists.) (And that would still be swimming against the current somewhat, since Deezer isn’t exactly the most popular streaming service and will probably get stomped out by Apple/Amazon/etc at some point.)
One alternative I’ve considered is setting aside a $10 per month “Bandcamp budget” and setting a reminder to myself to buy something from my Bandcamp “bookmark backlog” with it at the end of every month.
I’ve been working on this post for way too long, given that it’s all just navel-gazing really, but it’s a rainy Sunday morning, and I guess it’s better than a lot of other things I could be doing. Still, I should probably stop before I turn into Indie Rock Pete. As a way out of this particular rabbit hole, I should go back and reread this article about Mister Rogers’ anti-consumerism. What would Mister Rogers have thought about all this? I think he’d probably still be a vinyl record guy.