I have a couple friends that are obsessed with music discovery. For them it’s a 24/7 pursuit. All day, every day they’re listening to the latest releases and playlists, skipping over anything they’ve already heard. I asked one of these friends once when he was compiling his Year-End Best-Of list how many times he’d actually listened to his favorite album from the past 12 months. His answer was something like, “Oh, maybe two or three times at most. I just can’t go back and re-listen to things with so much more music to discover.”
Theoretically, I get it. He wants to be in-the-know, up on the latest trends, or to satisfy his inner collector. But emotionally, I don’t understand at all. I get obsessed with songs or albums that move me, not the process by which I discovered them or the promise that there’s more great music out beyond the horizon. When I fall in love with an artist, their CD stays in my car for weeks or months. Their songs are on repeat in my Spotify (and now Apple Music) player.
So for me, and I imagine for most people, the problem has never been music discovery. I’ve got plenty of music-geek friends who can make solid recommendations. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I have a few go-to sources I can check online when I need to try something new. And we can all dip back into the past to mine the classics we missed, too.
No, the problem has never been music discovery, it’s finding enough time to fully appreciate the music I’ve already come in contact with. Or to put it another way, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never — that NOBODY can ever — hear it all, so I try to concentrate on having a deeper experience with whatever good stuff happens to cross my path. Quality, not quantity.
Plus, given that my favorite music of all time is stuff that I had to listen to three or four or twelve times before I really saw the light, I’m wondering how much great material is being overlooked by people that treat an album as a single brick on the endless road of music discovery. Or maybe these friends are so brilliant and in-tune that they can assess everything fairly upon first listen. I’m not that quick or smart.
If those die-hard music discovery friends are outliers, as I suspect, then music discovery may be far less important than we’ve assumed over the past 10 years. What does “music discovery” even mean, anyway? Is it worth anything if the listener never follows up, buys a CD, or signs a mailing list? Are most people using Pandora to find new music, or do they just want to hear the stuff they already love?
An article call ‘The Fundamental “WHY” of music discovery’ by Cortney Harding on Medium takes a really interesting look at this topic, both in terms of listener behavior and how the assumed value of music discovery has driven countless business decisions (made by start-ups and existing tech giants).
What’s your take on music discovery? How do you define “music discovery?” And what’s its value for listeners and artists? Let us know in the comments.