This article was written by Kenzo Kimura, class of 2019.
To my non-premium Spotify users out there: we’ve all experienced the unwarranted frustration and irrelevant hate over daunting ads of repetitive music and buzz words; the hourly pauses in between our tunes literally tuning out our “music vibes” through strangely melodic law firm promotions and fast food deals; and the need for a premium account slapped away with the reality of our empty wallets and “I’ll do it later” attitudes.
I could talk for hours about how much I abhor radio advertisements in general and how they stunt my focus on anything if I’m listening to music, but I won’t. It’s something else about Spotify — and every other music streaming app — that creates a revolutionary way of viewing music from a listener’s perspective. As a part of Generation Z, our open minds as well as availability to music through any digital port opened our eyes to new artists and genres, creating positive subconscious changes for users of various demographics. If there’s one thing I can’t hate Spotify for, it’s their revolutionary take on individual music taste.
Music taste on a whole new level of “interconnected” compared to food or fashion, and that’s because we allow music streaming devices to change the way we listen.
How does it work?
Playlists. Digital playlists build themselves off of users who pick certain songs and add them to folders of music so we can listen to the songs of our choice later. Sounds simple right? A Medium Corporation’s Tech writer Simon Owens wrote that, “[playlists] account for the majority of music listening on the app, and there have been several cases in which a previously-unknown artist has been catapulted onto the Billboard charts after getting prime placement on one of them. This has led to more song diversity among the top hits.” This creates exposure of different artists of different genres and backgrounds. “In the pre-Spotify era of the 2000s, there were a total of only 3,092 songs on the Hot-100, now there are over 4 million,” Owen wrote on Medium. “Songs spent less time, on average, on the list, but that meant more artists had a shot at breaking out into the mainstream.”
The formation of these playlists leads to recommended songs — songs that weren’t picked by us, but instead for us. Whether or not it’s the same artist we listen to or the same genre, music streaming services create playlists that base their new recommended songs off of your tastes, interactions with artists and plays.
Why Indie Rock is no longer “Indie”
Basic boy bands or female-groups don’t really resonate with people my age anymore, the main reason why the idea of a pop star or group is not the same ideal people had a generation or two back. People don’t appreciate celebrities as much as they did before, and maybe it’s because of our culture shift towards hating superficiality and glamour. Regardless if the music is good or if the artist has an eccentric style, some people don’t vibe with that — “wavy” and relatable music is the quintessence for younger listeners, especially teenagers. Because of this, genres such as indie have spiked in popularity. Artists like Rex Orange County, Cuco and even Bearface from Brockhampton have created a new face in edgy music, making indie the new “pop” music.
How does this have anything to do with “changing our music taste?”
Everything. Certain genre listeners such as those of rap, pop and indie rock have subtly shifted the way they perceive music as well as their respected genre tastes. Medium reporter Zac Lynch-Badley writes, “[Spotify and other music streaming platforms] have levelled the playing field for the average musician and massively helped remove commercial influence in the artistic process, allowing people to create real music that can really express what they are trying to say without censorship.”
As our society progresses along with our taste in music, music streaming devices become big influencers of our generation’s mood with music; suddenly that local indie band is no longer considered local; instead, it’s the band of the year. That rapper in Broward is no longer underground; he’s played at every college. Although the internet has somewhat distorted our original vision of spreading music through culture and local communities, allowing for the superficiality of genuine artists to rise, it’s created the beginning of a new era in how we hear (and see music).