We live in times of abundance. Too much music available, too many choices to be made. However, abundance doesn’t equal diversity. Most people only listen to what they know already. Not a problem per se, but we also live in times where curiosity is actively being discouraged, not fitting into the business model of the companies controlling our listening experience. Suppose you actually want to do something about this and find something new and refreshing, where to start, how to do this?
Let’s start with…THE BASICS
- Switch off Autoplay (and similar algorithms). Algorithms are designed to keep you as close as possible to what you know already. They are not meant to offer variation because variation only increases the likelihood you will switch off and do something else, which violates the business model of the companies controlling our listening experience. They force you down a rabbit hole of increasingly similar music.
- Ignore personalised playlists. Personalised playlists are not really personal, they are like horoscopes, they feel personalised because they are generalised and controversy-free, created on the basis of your past behaviour and therefore, again, very close to what you know already. Personalised playlists are like eating a bucket of chicken wings on the sofa while watching endless reruns of ‘Sex and the city’; comforting, not very healthy, addictive.
- Switch off Social Media. Challenging, I know, but think about it, what do ratings and recommendations on Social Media really mean? What is the essence of Social Media? To generate the highest possible number of reads, reposts and likes. It’s a numbers game, nothing more, advertising, which only works with what is already popular.
- Read up. The hardest of the basic strategies. It requires effort, defies the laws of instant gratification and reveals its prize only after (sometimes significant) personal investment. But, here’s the trick, a lot of music only comes to life once we understand origins, context and history. Knowledge broadens our horizon, makes us more receptive to change.
Now…the harder part starts, not just setting up an infrastructure for change, removing the ghost in the machine (or the machine itself), but actively pursuing a path of diversity. Now…we can REPROGRAM OURSELVES
- Revisit the past. Life is not fixed. It evolves, and so does our judgement. There is no need to stick to the choices we made under the influence of parents, friends, peer groups, stormy relationships and nasty break-ups. Open the doors, let in some fresh air and re-evaluate your past.
- Be patient. What we instantly like is probably, in the end, a bit boring and one-dimensional, like a sugar rush, fading as quickly as it comes. Allow yourself time to get used to something new. Listen once, twice, four times, eight times and wait for the magic to happen (or not). Postponse judgement and just listen, focus on listening as active experience.
- Go far outside your ecosystem. Start somewhere else, take the polar opposite of what you like and stay there for a while. Move from Death Metal to 60s Folk, from over-polished contemporary pop to atonal Jazz, from 2 minute Punk songs to 20 minute Progrock symphonies. Inhabit that space like you’re meant to stay, and get used to i .
- Redefine music. To a large extent we don’t like what we don’t understand, but increasing variation in what we like can do wonders for general appreciation. No one ever started their musical journey with listening to abstract electronic music, free jazz or atonal compositions, but investigating it, and finding out what you like and don’t like in genres some people refuse to call music will make you a better listener.
- Stop listening. Reviewers don’t know, your idols don’t know, not even your frends know, only you know what you like. Don’t be a follower, not on Social Media, not in real life.