2014 was the year I gave up on “hearing everything.” I used to diligently go through new album releases, music blogs, playlists, and charts to hear as much of what was being made as I could. An impossible task, obviously, but one I set for myself. This year, I completely gave up on that. Instead, I just kind of let the music that found me find me.
Which isn’t to say I stopped discovering new stuff – I remain a music geek – just that there’s whole weeks where I was listening to an album I really enjoyed and ignoring the Hype Machine charts, and I refused to give albums that bored me after a couple tracks a chance unless a lot of people whose tastes I respect told me to give it a chance. So here’s the listening method of a non-completionist music geek.
The main service I used was and is Rdio. Both Spotify and Google Music came to Canada this year, and I tried each for a few weeks, but Rdio just works for me far, far better. A big part of what works is the design. Going through it actually feels like going through stacks of records. Below is the continue listening screen that shows you what you’ve been streaming lately. It feels just like sifting through a stack of CDs you’ve left in your car. It’s touches like that that keep me coming back. I also find the New Releases list (updated every Tuesday, just like a record store!) and individual playlists are a pretty good discovery method. Plus you can easily make your own playlists, complete with cover art and everything. And it’s easy to sync to mobile. And there’s remote control mode. I could go on, but basically, yeah, Rdio is my main music discovery, listening, and sharing service.
Secondary: This Is My Jam, Hype Machine, CBC Music
Rdio kept me busy most of the time, but I still want to be “hip” and “with it” which means you have to head to the underground once in a while. The place I spent the most time listening, aside from Rdio, was This Is My Jam. You’re only allowed to have one favourite track on there at a time, and you follow other people who also have one favourite track. That limitation is a strength, because once you follow the right amount of people you get a very manageable playlist of people’s absolute favourite tracks at any given time. It was also my preferred method of sharing my favourite songs of the year, as I basically stopped doing any music blogging on my Tumblr.
Behind that are a couple of old favourites, the Hype Machine and CBC Music (more accurately, the Radio 3 section of CBC Music). Hype Machine, which aggregates music blogs to surface the most buzzworthy new tracks has been quietly improving on an already great service, adding genre filters and apps, which I think are worth the price for the 30-second fast-forward mode that allows you to quickly preview a bunch of songs and come back to the ones you liked. CBC Radio 3, devoted to indie Canadian acts, remains an area I like to keep an eye on to find buzzworthy acts closer to home.
YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp
Obviously, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs remain another place of discovery, and most of the time tracks there are shared from YouTube and Soundcloud. This Is My Jam also plays tracks from YouTube and Soundcloud and the Hype Machine uses Soundcloud tracks in its aggregation as well. So I am technically using those services, but mostly with other layers built on top of them.
Bandcamp is also baked into This Is My Jam and Hype Machine, and remains a site I like to keep an eye on. If I want to buy an album, I’ll check if it’s on there, and a lot of my friends who are in bands put their music on there for me to purchase. I know they have discovery services and apps, but I don’t really use those, and honestly I don’t find myself listening to albums I buy on there much, either. I’ve fully embraced the streaming library and if an album isn’t on Rdio I’m not likely to go back to it many times.
One of my few frustrations with Rdio comes when I want to make a playlist but a song isn’t in their library. This is usually something like an unofficial remix I found on Hype Machine or an indie act from CBC Music. Enter bop.fm. I’ve only just started using it, but I’m fast becoming a fan. Essentially, it combines music libraries from Spotify, Rdio, YouTube and Soundcloud. So as an Rdio listener I can stream songs in their library, but if that unofficial remix pops up, it will find it from Soundcloud or YouTube. I can also share my Rdio playlists to Spotify users or to people who aren’t on either. It’s great for doing things like rounding up all the guest verses André 3000 has done since leaving Outkast or listening to all the “3 Artists, 1 Track” songs Converse has put out on disparate platforms. Bonus points because it lets me import my Rdio playlists, which is great since I still find it easier to use. If I want to make a permanent mix, complete with crossfades and everything, I’m going to upload it to Mixcloud, but for the rest I imagine Bop.fm will be my platform of choice.
So that’s it: the state of my music listening in 2014. By the way, I have probably used my iPod, records, and CDs a combined total of maybe… ten?… times this year. That’s probably being generous, too. We’ll see if that remains the case for 2015.
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