A Spotify Story. (With reading goals bonus)

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The finest thing about a hobby is that you can’t do any pretending about it. You either like it or you don’t. – Dorothy Draper

One of the strange offshoots of the whole people should leave Spotify / Neil Young’s movement was my attempt to leave Spotify as well. Now I was not actually leaving Spotify because of Joe Rogan or to gain some sort of street cred or even to get my Joni Mitchell music back on my streaming service.

No, I had this nagging urge to leave Spotify for a while now. It had become a second job.

When Hobbies become (unpaid) work.

I had 130 different curated Spotify playlists. With a total of 46K songs. At least four times a year, I would spend an entire day cleaning up the playlists; removing songs no longer on the service; removing duplicates; and creating new playlists as the current ones got too full with new music.

Every morning, as part of my morning routine, I would randomly choose a playlist for the day. Clean that specific playlist and listen to that choice for the day in question. Even if I was not in the mood for religious songs or comedy hits or polka that particular day. It was a bizarre OCD style approach to music curation. I couldn’t listen to what I wanted. I needed to mix it up and give everyone a chance.

I have found myself using this just try something randomly approach in all sorts of media and hobbies and I am becoming done with it. Leaving it up to the fates can bring a hidden gem every once in a while. And in theory, it will help me see things through. But for entertainment and a hobby, is that really a goal?

I tried someone new. It lasted an hour.

So I went over to Amazon Music. Being a Prime member, I had a 30-day free trial. Its homepage featured Neil Young, of course, as it courted all those fine progressives fleeing the Swedish-based Spotify for organic small batch Amazon. I immediately checked if Amazon carried the three holy grail albums that Spotify had lost. (The soundtrack albums for Airplane, Conan the Barbarian, and Scarface.) This story honestly might have a different ending had those albums been there. But they were not.

In fact, the music selection on Amazon seemed very similar to that of Spotify (except for Neil Young and, if my research was correct, Garth Brooks). Various posts on social media were touting special programs, allowing you to carry over your music from Spotify to the new service. You won’t lose your playlists they touted. But I didn’t want to bring my playlists over. I didn’t want to lose hidden gem artists and songs I had discovered, mind you. But I did not want to start a new service with 130 playlists and 45k songs.

Identify the Problem.

The interface for Amazon music was okay, but a little slow and clunky. It would take me a decade to manually enter my music on the thing. And that wouldn’t solve the problem. I wanted to listen to Pomplamoose or the original broadway recording for Little Shop of Horrors. But my song list was filled with classical music where you could hear audience members coughing, Metallica concerts, and the soundtrack to Insidious: Chapter 2. Why?

The reason is once you create a playlist called, say, Horror Soundtracks, you need to fill it. So when you see a soundtrack album for Insidious: Chapter 2 on it goes to the playlist. The problem is that while I am sure in the movie’s context the soundtrack to Insidious: Chapter 2 is very good. As a stand-alone piece to listen to in the car, it is actually pretty awful. When I entered new music, I was more concerned with getting it into all the right categories and playlists without answering the fundamental question if I wanted to listen to it in the first place.

Blow it all up.

The solution was a simple but radical one. I erased all 130 playlists. It felt really good. Now I have 46k songs on random and if I like them they go on only one playlist called Julian Songs 1. When that playlist gets full I may start a Julian Songs 2. If I don’t like a song I unheart it and move on. Off the list it goes. Even if it is a song by an artist I otherwise like or it is hip, or makes me youthful or smart, it does not matter. It is dead to me. Goodbye Carpenters’ version of Ava Maria.

Spotify is no longer a job but is back to being a useful tool and a bit of an adventure. I am enjoying being ruthless in my pruning. Why shouldn’t I just listen to what I enjoy?

Seems Like you could use this in other areas?

Yes. My book reading should simply be what book am I in the mood to read next. (Or even what kind of book.) Do I have a book that fits that bill already? (The answer will almost always be yes) but if the answer is no, I simply go buy the book, I am interested in reading. (Good news for the rights holders of Domain: The Rats Trilogy Book 3 by James Herbert.)

As for video games, it is (pardon the phrasing) a game changer. No more charts, graphs and how to choose random games. No more spending an afternoon or even an entire day planning out gaming choices. More to the point, no more spending more time watching videos about video games rather than actually playing them. (I know I am not alone in this sin). I claim I have no time to game anymore, but in reality if I just gamed instead of watching videos about upcoming games I would have plenty of time.

What about this collection of yours? The one you are claiming you want to sell?

I know, right? I want to eliminate 95% of my, let’s be grandiose for a moment, comic book holdings. But I am facing a paralysis. I think part of the issue is that I am not sure what I want to keep (If any). The fact I am clearly not excited about keeping all that many comics, if any, makes me seriously question the thousands of both dollars and hours I have spent on this hobby. Why? I don’t have an answer. As with Spotify, my reaction is to burn it all down. Unlike Spotify, I am afraid the solution is a bit more work. (Or not. Nothing outside of pride and unrealized losses is preventing me from loading up the Kia and simply donating the lot to charity. That may be better for me.) Watch this space.

Finally, a story about insanity.

To measure my insanity, One Saturday, I had a date with Brooke, who was feeling a bit under the weather. The Spotify playlist of the day was Fallout. Which consisted of the soundtracks to the various Fallout Games as well as BioShock and a lot of forties and fifties radio hits. Well, twenty minutes into our drive to the burger joint, Brook expressed a true “What the Hell am I listening to?” as Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney sang a duet. I honestly panicked. I had not “cleaned” any of my other Spotify playlists that morning and could not imagine switching off the one I had randomly chosen. That is when you know you have a problem. (At least one problem, if not more.)

I am not alone in my insanity. In the video posted below is a woman who does not read long books because it affects her how many books have your read on Goodreads score for the year. Think about that for a minute. You are manipulating your relaxation due to a measurement that means nothing. You are doing it wrong. (No issues, so am I.)

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