One evening last week, while I was cooking dinner, I had a sudden craving to listen to Paul McCartney — not new Paul McCartney, but old Paul McCartney and Wings. And so I put on an album and listened to it through while I cooked. But I don’t own the album, and didn’t actually put it “on” anything — I set my MacBook on the kitchen table, typed “Wings” into the search engine on Rdio,* and about ten seconds later I was listening.
I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously I like being able to listen to whatever comes into my head, when it comes into my head. But using music streaming services sometimes feels like a lot of work. I don’t necessarily want to be my own music programmer; editors and curators have a nonzero value to me. And while I like the idea of shared playlists in theory, in practice they mean I have to do a lot of goddam digging and listen to a lot of stuff I don’t really like when all I really feel like doing is putting on some music and going about my business.
I have less than no interest in curating my own playlists — I never understood the appeal. (Other music-related things I never understood the appeal of: watching music videos, making music videos, caring about music videos.) So usually what happens is I think of a song, or an artist, I put it on, then it ends and a few minutes later I realize I’m listening to… nothing. Obviously back in the prehistoric days (i.e., when I was 13) when people listened to music using “record players” and “cassette players,” one album at a time, this was always the way it was. But can’t computers fix it? Or something?
This is the reason I keep my subscription to Sirius XM streaming radio, even though I don’t listen to it that often. Maybe I should listen to it more, because it usually leaves me in a good mood.
* Note: in a world divided between Rdio people and Spotify people, I am an Rdio person. Spotify makes it a bit easier to know what music your friends like, but that doesn’t help me much (no need to dwell on this, but a lot of the people I know are much younger than I am), and in all other ways I find the Spotify user interface exhaustingly hard to deal with.