Zia Hassan

Social Music Is Unnecessary

When Spotify came out in the US, I was among the first people to use it. With a seemingly endless catalog, it was a dream come true for a music fan like me.

Up until Spotify, I’d gone through a record player, walkman, many discmen, a Creative Zen MP3 player, an iPod, and even an iPod Touch. For acquiring music, I went from records to tapes to CDs to Napster to Limewire to BearShare to Kazaa to AudioGalaxy and finally to invite-only Oink torrents.

I remember the first few days of having Spotify on my phone worrying that the music would drain my battery, so I carried my iPod in my pocket as a backup. It took a few weeks to drop this habit. I now have a charging case for my phone. I also had an Amazon music account, which at the same was just a storage locker for MP3s. I used this for any stray MP3s that I couldn’t find on Spotify. I’m pretty sure those Mp3s are still sitting there in the cloud.

One of the features that was interesting and new at first was that you could see what other people were listening to. It was really cool, actually. Instead of getting recommendations, I could just jump on to whatever my friend with good taste was listening to. And I thought it was kind of cool that people could see the stuff I was listening to, since I’m pretty good at finding new music that people like.

But after a while, I got self conscious. I realized that many of the songs I listened to were part of my spelunking process, in which I would listen to a bunch of unknown random songs hoping to find a gem. I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to that.

Secondly, I realized that there wasn’t much value in seeing what other people were listening to. And that the act of sharing their stream might change what they put on.

I know it did for me. Knowing that people were watching what I was listening to made me think twice before putting on something like Ariana Grande (what will people think?) or maybe people would think that I skip around too quickly, that I don’t spend enough time on one song…

The social feed, then, is simply a way to inspire judgment, positive and negative. And if there’s one experience that we probably shouldn’t ruin by introducing judgment?

It’s listening to music.