Deep Within the Spotify Stream

I was up late at my office last night, as I have been every night this week, working on a research project for grad school. You want to know when I feel most like a grad school student? When I open up Spotify and try to pick the perfect playlist to write too. Most times, I can’t help but pull up the same music or genre of music I listened to the undergrad. This is one of my favorite webcomics ever:

I hate what teens listen to. Pop music peaked at the exact moment when I was most emotionally vulnerable to trite love songs.
Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

After running what felt like the gamut of what I listened to in college, I asked myself what felt like a crazy question, “I wonder if any of my music is on Spotify.” Although I spent roughly a year out of college playing guitar across the US, I haven’t actually recorded any music since the birth of the Spotify / streaming service era. But as luck would have it, one of my favorite albums I worked on is actually on Spotify.

This album was one that I recorded with one of my best friends, Shaun Six, between 2007 and 2008 (I believe the oldest song I wrote on here was written in 2005). He called me last week in the middle of a session at et4online and we chatted for the first time in roughly a year, which is what reminded me of this record. We had originally called the band Rainy Day Six when a friend told him all of his songs were fairly depressing and he replied, “Well just call me Rainy Day Six!” I tell this story to recognize that the band name was not us trying to fit in with a 2000s trend of “number bands.” 😉

I played guitar and bass on all eight songs on the album, wrote three of them and sang on another. We recorded the drums in the living room of the producer’s mom’s house and did the vocals in the bathroom. It is trippy to return to this moment in time. I’m full of various emotions about the life stage that both Shaun and I were in at the time. I listen back now slightly embarrassed at the level vulnerability that came out in a couple of the songs I inked. I also feel more refined as a musician and cringe at a couple of decisions we made to not retake specific parts of tracks. It is nowhere near perfect. But another side of me feels that the style is a little bit timeless and I’m proud to be able to listen to the album all the way through and actually stand it. I truly feel like this was a good piece of work.

I’ve been thinking a lot this passed year about the digital artifacts we create and what trails get left behind, some of which we don’t even remember we ever created in the first place. There’s a specific song on this record that I had completely forgot we ever wrote for instance. But I’ve been reflecting around whether we should attempt to gather our digital belongings, hoard them, and pack them away in one nice tidy box or if we should allow them to simply exist in the natural habit they originally were birthed in. I have music strung across Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, Myspace, Purevolume, CDBaby… Should I take the effort to remove the pieces I don’t one others to uncover? At minimum, retrieve it? Or simply let it be? I don’t have a good answer to that. A few years ago I took the time to backup and remove any old blog that I had up, shutting down most of the sites entirely. Was that the right thing to do?

Anil Dash has this fantastic lecture titled The Web We Lost and he talks about this story we frequently hear on the news after a social networking site gets sold:

Every single day we hear about a social networking service that succeeds. And what the conventional tech industry, the Silicon Valley startup industry, defines as success is 1.) you sell to one of the big social networks and 2.) you delete everybody’s wedding photos that they stored on your service.

I had a version of this happen to me. In college I had a radio show, as stereotypical as that sounds, and I would invite local bands every so often. I would then post recordings of my shows to Podbean and then embed the podcast on Blogger. The problem was that Podbean at some point decided to delete some (though not all) of my old podcasts. This became a painful experience when a best friend of mine, who I had recorded an interview with, passed away. In fact, his family told me that they would occasionally listening to the interview just to hear his voice. And then one day it was gone. After trying every which way to retrieve it, I received this message from their support about a year and a half ago:

Podbean Screenshot

And that was it. Now I take a significant amount of responsibility in not keeping a physical copy of this podcast. Believe me, I kick myself every day. But “times were different then” as this was a massive uncompressed audio file, cloud storage wasn’t as attainable, and hard drives were a.) much smaller and b.) much more expensive–particularly to college me. Even still, to this day, whenever I find an old flash drive, I check it for this audio file in hopes that it’s just sitting around somewhere.

So there are two very different sides here. There is something poignant about the ecology of the web, where artifacts sprout and vanish echoing our own cycle. But there is also beauty in the opportunity to see our work scale nearly infinitely and end up in spaces and on platforms that didn’t exist when the original work was created affording us the opportunity to reconnect with a version of ourself that we thought was all but lost. And maybe the most pure beauty is the ability for both of these exist simultaneously in a way that can’t be replicated in the analog world. While I continue to wrap my head around that, I’m just going to enjoy whatever the next thing I uncover!