Back in the pre-Internet days, the only music that reached us was carefully (ruthlessly?) curated/filtered by record labels, radio stations, music magazines and video channels. Today, though, streaming gives us instant access to something approaching 40 million songs.
Cool, right? You bet. But with all that choice comes a certain amount of anxiety. Sure, you might like what you’re listening to now, but what else is out there that might be even better? What are we missing? What is everyone else listening to? What should I hear to make me cooler than my friends?
This is the stress that comes with the tyranny of choice. The Washington Post explores this very modern phenomenon.
For listeners, the world of streaming music should feel a little bit like utopia — a magical place where we can access millions of songs instantly and effortlessly. So why is everybody so freaked out about it?
Our anxiety seems to surge in waves. The first big one came a few years back when we learned that a single stream on Spotify earned our favorite artists mere microns of a penny. Last year, a second wave of worry began to crash — the nagging hunch that streaming platforms were impoverishing our listening, transforming us into passive consumers who no longer gave unfamiliar sounds the time they needed to bend our brains.
A third wave came last month when Spotify filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, confirming the Swedish company’s dominance as the most-used streaming platform, with 159 million active users, including 71 million paid subscriptions at the end of 2017, according to the New York Times. But Spotify has always seen itself as something bigger than the world’s premier music library. In 2014, founder Daniel Ek explained his company’s philosophy in the pages of the New Yorker like so: “We’re not in the music space — we’re in the moment space.”