The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 9, 2012

Jeremiah Tucker: Spotify perfect for organizing massive music collection

JOPLIN, Mo. — My wife once joked that if I’m the first die to she is going to make sure my gravestone reads “I wish I would’ve read more blogs.”

It was a pretty sweet burn. But, in my defense, we’re living in a golden age of entertainment.

I read once, probably on a blog, that even though the middle class is evaporating, transformed into a mist blowing across the hungry no-man’s land that separates the lower classes from the wealthy, it’s difficult to compare Americans today to the robust middle class of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Because while most Americans today are burdened with crushing student loan debt, skyrocketing health care costs and stagnant salaries, we also have iPods, the Internet, flat screen TVs, mobile phones and a smorgasbord of video game platforms -- all relatively affordable.

These kind of luxuries, which were unavailable to our wealthier forebears, dull the crunch of being financially strapped -- or so goes the argument anyway.

While I find this reasoning kind of morally repellent, at least if it’s being used as a justification for dismissing social inequality, I worry about those long legal agreements I agree to without reading every time I sign up for something on the Internet. Not because of what they might entail, but how passively I click “agree.”  

It does make me worry about some dystopian future where in order to afford health care you have to sell your first born to the rich and bored who’ve developed a taste for human veal, and in response I promise myself I’ll post something about how outraged I am about my baby being devoured to Twitter just as soon as I’m finished streaming the second season of “Parenthood” on Netflix.

That said, this is truly an age of wonders! I realized this week that not only do I have access to anything I could possibly want to listen to, it’s all instant. Instant!

I finally signed up for Spotify last week, the music streaming service with an impressively near-comprehensive selection of artists. Had someone gone to the trouble of selling me on it, I would have signed up sooner.

As an informal test of what Spotify offered, I made a massive playlist of 1,121 songs comprising the top 100 alternative albums according to Spin’s 1995 “Alternative Record Guide.” Spotify had almost all of them, missing about 10 albums out of the 100, the most egregious blindspots being Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade” and “New Day Rising,” Lucinda Williams’ self-titled third album, “Meat Puppets II,” Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove,” De La Soul’s “Three Feet High and Rising” and The Pretenders’ self-titled debut.  

But given all that Spotify does offer, it would be insane to grouse too much about what it’s missing, especially when I try to imagine what my 16-year-old self, digging through used CD bins at Hastings (RIP), would make of this decadent music collection thrown together in one hour, including Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the Night,” Eric B & Rakim, the Vaselines and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

On Spotify you can also look at the playlists made by other people, including all your Facebook friends.

There are also apps on Spotify from major music publications.

Rolling Stone’s, for instance, offers a lot of playlists curated by famous artists and the magazine greatest of all time lists. The online magazine Pitchfork’s organizes virtually every album the site’s reviewed recently into handy playlists.

You can use Spotify for free, if you don’t mind some ads, and for $10 a month you can use it on your mobile devices, such as your iPhone, with access to your playlists even when you’re offline.

For me, this is perfect. I was getting tired of storing and organizing hundreds of gigs of music on external hard drives. Plus, if I have something Spotify doesn’t, I can always sync my personal collection to Spotify.

I’m sure there are downsides here. Spotify will continue to only be as good as its selection, and I’ve read its reimbursement to artists is paltry -- though better than nothing, I suppose. Also, I’ve noticed I’m sometimes overcome with a distinctly modern (and first-world) breed of anxiety, the feeling that even though I’m listening to something I enjoy there might be something even better that I could be listening to instead.

It almost makes me nostalgic for the ’90s, when my music collection was 30 CDs and some cassingles, the Internet was dial-up and the world seemed less shaky.

Almost.

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