In the late aughts and the early teens, or whatever we're calling these decades, streaming music and social media began to merge; this, the geniuses of Silicon Valley, Alley, and Beach declared, would be utopia. Not only would it rain cash, but everyone's musical taste would improve.
And thus soon, whether you liked it or not, you knew what your friends were listening to at almost any given moment. The backlash was swift; in September, Spotify added a feature to let you listen to their service “privately,” ie without sharing it with all of your so-called friends on Facebook. In their story on the issue PC Mag declared it a win for those who with skins too thin to announce to the world their love of Selena Gomez. While we at West Coast Sound don't believe in guilty pleasures, we appreciated this feature for another reason: Because nobody gives a shit what you're listening to.
Now, this might sound strange coming from professional music critics, since we're presumably paid to give folks our opinions, right? Maybe, but you'll notice that in recent months we've dispensed entirely with album reviews. Wanna know why? Nobody read them. And we know this with certainty because not a single person has complained.
We continue to relish our modest role as tastemaker for Los Angeles music fans. But we think that's about more than simply telling you what to listen to; we prefer giving you the lowdown on interesting artists doing interesting things. And sure, we'll always be sure to put compelling new bands on your radar and discuss your old favorites when they're in the news.
But we're under no delusions that you're interested in the minutiae of our mp3 collection. It's hard to imagine a worse fate than having to hear what we listen to while jogging. (If you must, here's a chilling example.)
Be honest — when you see that Spotify logo come up on your Facebook feed, isn't your first impulse to unsubscribe from the senders' updates? Now that “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” has been retired from the military, can't we use it here?
Of course, this is not strictly a digital phenomenon. Folks have been boring each other in this way since the Victor-Victrola. Is there a greater conversation killer than someone discoursing on their music library? It always seems to happen with someone who's a couple of Sierra Nevadas in; it's his way of saying, “I'm interesting!” Put another way, it's like when folks talk about their dogs; they're actually describing themselves.
Which is not to say it isn't fun to talk about music. It's sometimes a blast to check in with folks about what's come onto their radar, and these streaming sites are great for sharing songs. And, if someone's really into a particular artist, we cherish good recommendations.
But the problem with the Spotify-on-Facebook mode of music discourse is it's never about “sharing” information. It's all about “subjecting” someone to information. It has nothing to do with whether or not folks out there are interested, it's about the person needing validation of their musical taste.
So now you know. And knowing is half the battle.