Sposturing

Thanks to Facebook, I now know that a grade school chum is jamming to Talib Kweli in NYC and a college buddy is in San Fran listening to some band I’ve never heard of, but probably should have. I make a note to YouTube some of their songs later.

Spotify, the music consumption service that launched in the US this summer, has streamlined the music poser process. And by music poser, I of course mean 95% of the music listeners in the States.

Music, like all art, is deeply personal. Whether you’re in a packed concert hall or wearing ear buds in your bedroom, the way the sounds reverberate in your ear and the lyrics resonate in your soul is an individually unique experience. A song can evoke emotions from a decade ago or take on a completely new meaning depending on your mood and your growth as a person.

That being said, choosing to own a song or an album is a decision most make thanks to at least some outside influence. The vinyls on your bookshelf, the cassettes in your glove compartment, the CDs in your binder and the MP3s on your iPod all tell a story. Who you are, what’s your style, where you’re from. Since we can control the content of our musical memoirs, we cater our library towards fulfilling the profile we want to assume. The Shins and Shyne are neighbors in my iPod, so you can tell I’ve spent time as both a wanna-be gangsta and a wanna-be hipster.

When Spotify first landed Stateside, James Allworth wrote a post for the Harvard Business Review blog entitled “Why I’m Not Going Near Spotify (And Why You Shouldn’t Either). He made the obvious point that we consume music differently than movies or TV shows, and that paying a subscription fee could leave the library you build at the whims of a company known to make Netflix-like price hikes.

Allworth misses the point for millenials. We’re the generation that first stole music. We never really owned it because, in order to justify our giant thievery corporation, we had to trick ourselves into believing music wasn’t really “ownable” in the first place. A hard drive crash could wipe out our entire life’s savings of beats and tunes at any time. Losing our library? No big deal. We’ll just recreate it, but better this time. Transferring my CDs to my iTunes gave me that opportunity once, and I wouldn’t mind another round of Spring Cleaning

Spotify satisfies an on-demand culture’s musical cravings while simultaneously allowing us to posture in ways YouTube never could. Since users have to link their activity to their Facebook profile, they know damn well that all of their friends will see each and every song they choose to listen to. Each click of the mouse comes after the user weighs two factors: will I like this song, and what will others think of me “liking” this song?

In other words, nothing’s really changed.

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