Archive for November, 2009

Flying Saucer Rock & Roll Radio – Better, Longer, Less Often

Posted in music with tags , on November 8, 2009 by richardblandford

Behind the scenes at Flying Saucer Rock & Roll Radio.

A recent dramatic development in the Flying Saucer Rock & Roll Radio office has been my decision to compile it monthly, rather than weekly, and make it two hours long instead of just one.  There are no particular reasons for this, other than I just felt like it.  And it’s my show and I’ll do what I want.  So there. (Not that it’s actually a radio show, it’s just a Spotify playlist.  But you’re not paying for it so just get off my back, ok?  Jesus, some people.)

Anyway, you can access it as always by clicking on the ‘FSRAR Radio’ link on the sidebar, that’s if you live in a country that’s a member state of the SU (Spotify Union).  I’m not putting them up on Share My Playlists for posterity any more as I’ve decided I find their ephemeral nature arousing.

I have to say that Spotify has pretty much re-ignited by love of music.  Before, I was suffering from a form of musical ennui.  My record collection would sit glaring at me from the corner of the room, angry at the tiny amount of time I now gave it.  Absorbing new CDs seemed like a chore, what with most releases now being approximately nine years long as artists widdled away, trying to fill in every available microsecond of the CD format.  The fact that I’d paid money for it made me persevere, even though I knew really that it wasn’t worth my time.

Spotify wipes all those problems away in a stroke.  There is no physical object, so the question of whether a particular album justifies its place in a limited storage space is redundant.  Also, the very fact that no money has changed hands for a particular recording means that there’s no incentive to get your money’s worth.  If something’s just not doing it for you, it can be deleted from your playlist and it need never bother you again.

(The crucial psychological difference between paid downloads and Spotify is that with the former, you’re cherry-picking, deciding what you might want from a sample.  There’s no room for reflection.  Spotify returns the listener to thinking about albums as a whole.  You can hear everything in the context the artist intended before making a judgement about how much you like it.)

That’s not to say Spotify doesn’t have it’s downside.  Even Spotify Premium doesn’t yet have CD-level sound quality, although I’m confident it’s only a matter of time before it’s on its way.  What is there already, however, has to be seen as a major improvement on your average MP3, which loses 90% of the digital information of its source.

MP3s are to CDs, I believe, what piss is to wine.  They have a particularly thin sound which is fantastically unlikable.  Pre-recorded cassettes may have sounded like mud most of the time, but at least it was a nice, friendly mud.  And yes I know vinyl has a warmth to it that can’t be found in any other medium blah blah fucking blah.

Other issues with Spotify are that it’s not entirely stable, with record companies mysteriously pulling down albums that have been put up, and some albums being available in some countries but not in others.  And, of course, it doesn’t need mentioning that the adverts featured on the free service will eventually drive someone to suicide or worse.

But overall, by making me think of music as a resource to be accessed rather than a thing to be owned, Spotify has reinvigorated my relationship with it.  I’m listening to things I never would have done before, for reasons far healthier than ‘it’s there’ or ‘I paid for it so I better bloody listen to the thing’.

It’s not ever going to make me feel like a teenager buying my first second-hand Bowie album again, but what it does do is give me a framework for listening to and thinking about music that feels more appropriate for an adult.  So, to quote the supremely irritating man who pops up every five songs (at least until I can afford Spotify Premium), ‘Thank you, Spotify, a hundred thank yous.’

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