I am ecstatic about music, and I could go on forever about it. I don't know what a love language is, and honestly it sounds like some new age rubbish, but if I have a love language it’s Spotify links in my inbox.
Around 11 am, my brain’s operational functions begin to lock in, and I can start trying to type something with one of the things going on in my head. I’ve been thinking a lot of nice positive things given all the love going around on my Facebook page right now, for a story I wrote on Friday. Yesterday, I was writing about music, a subject I could easily spend all day writing about, and it felt very good. You can ask anyone who knows me; I’ll never shut up about my favorite records, concerts, and artists. So, I was thinking of how to put all of that positive love-type stuff together with the feeling of writing about my favorite music.
One of the best things that anyone has ever done for me, and that I could do for anyone else, is to introduce them to the music that’s going to go on and enrich life forever. If I didn’t have my parents, the older kids in high school, aunts and uncles, and especially my cousin Phil, I wouldn’t be making these 22-hour-long categorical playlists and writing all these little blog posts about my favorite records. I’ve always said that my earliest memory involves the Paul Simon album “Graceland.” I wouldn’t even have my favorite band if my uncle Phil hadn’t been telling me about Dinosaur Jr. for all the years I knew him, not that I paid attention for the first ten. Now, I listen to my Dinosaur Jr. selections playlist every day. i don’t know if there’s anything in the world that i like as much as that band.
I have at least five text threads with friends devoted to sending each other music at any given time. My friend Pat and I have been trying to out-funk each other with obscure blaxploitation film-style funk music for nearly ten years. The first Spotify playlist I ever had, even before smartphones, was a collaborative playlist with the brilliant Boston Drum and Bass DJ, Glowworm, AKA Marianne, the girl I sat next to in 10th-grade art class. I met her just as the 2001 Bjork album “Vespertine” was making me rethink what was possible with the whole idea of music. She and I talked about it, as well as all of that golden age emo that was coming out around that time (Saves the Day, Cursive, Piebald). It’s fitting that years later she would tell me about what became my favorite part of the digital smartphone revolution: the streaming service. And we would work on a fantastic playlist that I still occasionally drop tracks on, eleven years later.
I know that Spotify and its kind are notoriously unfair to artists as far as paying them. I was watching an interview with Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, who has been as successful as anyone can be in that industry and always has great behind-the-scenes insights into how it functioned in an era where everyone just wanted to sign the next Nirvana, and how it’s changed since. He said that Spotify actually makes AI-generated music and puts it on their platform because the more music there is on the platform, the less it has to pay the artists per stream. I’ve also heard David Byrne say something to the effect of having to reach as many streams as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” did in 2012 (that’s a lot) in order to make a buck.
There is a workaround for that in something like Bandcamp. I haven’t really looked into it. My personal musical (and life) hero Mike Doughty uses Patreon to make a living from his art, which is what inspired me to have a Patreon. Big up to my two subscribers who are helping me keep my phone on so that I can listen to Spotify and spout all of this useless knowledge to all of you.
Here’s the thing: an artist has to make a living, so now they have to tour. They can’t slide on selling records anymore. I know I’m always mentioning bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish, but their business model of touring and playing great shows regardless of what they could do in the studio was almost like they could see where things were going with the music industry. The funny part is, knowing as much as I know about those bands’ history, they did it accidentally. Bands like that circumvented the entire structure of how musicians could get paid, ignoring conventional avenues like radio singles and MTV. Seriously, I’ve been in crowds of nearly 100k people to see one band that has never had a radio hit.
Play great shows, put your logo on anything you can think of and sell it. Talk to the people who like your music and get it to them directly. If your life is being made better by a musical artist and you want to help them, buy their merchandise. Not that Corgan is scraping for quarters, but I’m wearing a Smashing Pumpkins shirt as I type this while streaming Phish’s fantastic new “Gorge 98” archival release.
I’m not going to go off on a tangent about how good the Phish summer tour of 1998 is, with the Gorge being the pinnacle, but I totally could. That stuff is peak Phish, if you ask me.
Enough about how shitty Spotify is to everyone but themselves. I would never ever not have Spotify Premium. It’s like having a crate of records that you can never get to the bottom of. Real quick: big up to Lizzy for the invite to her family plan! It makes the timeless practice of making someone a personal mixtape easy and streamlines the process of telling everyone how incredible whatever music you’re smitten with at the moment is.
There’s this romantic comedy called “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack, where he owns a record store and makes mixtapes for these women that he’s involved with. He is a music nerd, like I am. It’s one of my favorite movies of the ’90s, and it informed how I would construct playlists forever. It is the reason why every playlist I make for someone has to end with my favorite Stevie Wonder song because that’s exactly where the film credits roll.
Every year, I start a playlist for that year. It’s not about what was actually released that year, but the music I find and listen to. When I put the lists on my headphones, I immediately go back to what was happening (good or bad), where I was, and who was there. It’s a mental time machine.
Someone asked me what I liked about myself, and I did actually come up with an answer. I think that I’m the kind of friend who introduces other friends to music, and that’s a good kind of friend to have. I’m not going to sit around and pat myself on the back for it. I just know how much I appreciated people like my cousin or this kid Keegan for turning me on to something so powerful like a favorite song or a new favorite album, and so I wanted to do it too. When I started getting Phish and Grateful Dead tapes from Furthurnet, I burned copies for everyone I knew. Someone back in Plymouth has got to have a disc rotting copy of GD1977–02–26 lying around somewhere even in 2023, I’d bet. When iPods came around, I obsessively hoarded MP3s, and it was step 2 in getting an iPod (if you knew me) to plug it into my 13" black MacBook to get it properly loaded. I was obsessed with an organized iTunes library, and I collected entire discographies on a 1TB external hard drive that cost me $200. Don’t tell Lars Ulrich.
I have days where I’m out to find something new to rock out to, and so I let the algorithm drive me to music it knows I’ll like (it’s known me for 10 years). I put it on my Instagram story and incessantly text the links to everyone and anyone I know. Look what happened when I discovered that The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn had incredible solo albums. I wrote a whole friggin’ blog post about it.
If “Spotify influencer” is a thing, that’s what I want to be. Seriously, I’d take 5 Spotify followers over 50 Instagram followers. I want people to want to talk to me about music because it’s really all I want to talk about (besides classic fighting games and ’90s movies).
I don’t know anyone who’s obsessed with playlisting as i am, theyre all public and i collaborate with others:
And there goes my brain’s function for the day. this is honestly a small fraction of how long i could ramble on about this particular subject, i just like to get a post out every day while my head works. maybe ill come back to it, like george lucas did to star wars, and make a special edition, but for now i’ve got to go have one of the sandwiches i like at the bodega on 3rd and Avenue d