How Weird Are You? Music Consumption Habits In 2013 1490 words · 7 minute read

By Chris Rucks | Music Dealers 

I was checking out a series over at called “How I Listen,” that profiles the music discovery and consumption habits of various industry folk. And I got to thinking…. I don’t know if I’m weird. Well, no, that’s not true. I do know that I am weird. What I don’t know is if the way I consume music is weird. I mean, is there such thing as “weird music consumption” in 2013?

Production, distribution, marketing, funding; all of these facets of music have been uprooted and mutated, subsequently evolving into this new music industry we have before us. With these changes, the way we consume and discover is entirely new. Below are some music consumption and discovery facts about myself, but what I’m really looking for is information on how you consume music, so I can get some insight and gauge what’s normal today. Give your two cents, comment, and let me know!

Music In marketing (of course!)

I process music visually, which is optimal for someone who once wrote music video treatments. While I’ve always appreciated the musical/visual relationship, it’s only in the last several years that I’ve learned to truly appreciate music through use in TV and film, and specifically, advertising.

Music is the trojan horse left outside the gate of the subconscious, waiting for an unsuspecting consumer to assume the marketer has retreated from battle, upon which the horse’s trap door flops open and marketing marines stream out to invade the brain with messaging. The music continues to ransack your mind; the message lays pillage to your thoughts, until you’ve married that song and marketing message in your mind. Then you’re whistling the tune while overcome by a random urge to buy a beer. And you don’t even drink beer. Gasp

Some pieces are completely unforgettable for me, like that Hewlett Packard commercial featuring folk singer Melanie’s little ditty about new roller skates (it took me months to get that song out of my head!), or those great Stella Artois pieces with the swanky jazz soundtrack. I love when brands and agencies go the extra mile and find the right piece of music because it truly makes the message memorable.

From Pandora, to Mog, then to Spotify About 5 years ago, Pandora was the equivalent of $3 happy hour shots of quality libations. I was intoxicated by fantastic music, maxing out my free hours monthly. Then I discovered Mog and its substantial catalog of jazz and soul, which for 5 bucks a month, allowed me to listen to whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Alas, behold the juggernaut Spotify, which did to my use of other services what salt does to slugs. Given the range of Spotify’s abilities, I need Pandora and Mog like Kanye West needs more ego.

I have a ton of vinyl in my basement, but I rarely stop to listen to it

Vinyl has made a resurgence of sorts in the last few years. I’ve seen various articles about it and I’m not sure if hipsters are trying to be cool or if connoisseurs are hoping to boost the experience of consuming music and the quality of sound.

In today’s go go go era, I have not disciplined myself to repeatedly get up, walk over to a stack of records, choose one, place it on a turntable, listen, get up, turn it over, then listen again. And I used to devour vinyl not less than 5 years ago. All of that physical movement only lives within the tip of my finger. Scroll. Play.

I have not handled an actual physical CD in months 

A CD? What’s…that? A colleague here at Music Dealers mentioned ordering the actual CD of an album. I looked at him like he was speaking ancient Egyptian. I hadn’t heard of anyone ordering a physical album in years. If I bought a physical CD, what would I do with it? Sit my glass of whiskey and ginger ale upon it? Bury it within the dark and misty graveyard of my iTunes library?

The radio only serves to keep me aware. It’s important that I stay up to date on current trends, so the radio is and has been for some time only a reference point. Do I hear something every once in awhile that I think is dope? Yes. But rarely is the radio a source of music discovery. It is, most often, a source of drudgery. How can you kids listen to the same 7 songs all day? You poor creatures.

The sorrowful demise of sound - earbuds

Sadly, the experience of listening to rich sound has been severed from the experience of listening to music. Craft-mastering engineers spend ample time manipulating and enriching the sounds of a piece of music, breathing new sonic life into a recording in the process. It must annoy them their work will, most often, be consumed through bassy headphones, high-frequency-boosting, ear-splitting buds, limited laptop speakers, or some second-rate bluetooth handheld speaker connected to a cell phone ten feet away.

And I’m pretty sure that I’ve sabotaged some of my ability to appreciate fine sound. You eat double cheeseburgers everyday; your palate acclimates, and the delectability of an $80 steak flies right over your head.

SoundHound is fantastic for discovery

Most folks probably use the app Shazam, somehow I missed that boat and got a hold of SoundHound instead. It’s great when you’re out at a bar or a coffee shop and you’re feeling courageous, so you grab a chair, stand on it, and hold your phone to the speaker above to find the music, looking like an escaped mental patient for 30 seconds or so in the process. I’ve found some fantastic tunes this way. A less frequent means of music discovery it is, but one of the most fun.

Right now, Spotify is my music deity

The fluid movement between acquisition of music and consumption of music has long been one of my most important factors for music discovery. When iTunes really got cooking, and you could buy music, maintain, and curate playlists in one place, then simply connect your device and transfer, it was a magical time. A few years later, for me, that process became the equivalent of traveling via horse and buggy.

Before I could enjoy Spotify, I had to take all of my guilt surrounding the meager payments to artists and bury it, deep down, where I couldn’t reach it. No buying, no transferring, everything is there. On Spotify, musical discovery is only limited by your own imagination. And anything I come across that’s ridiculous, I do buy. (digital, not physical)

As well, I like to understand a man by understanding what a man listens to, so I certainly dig the social aspect of Spotify’s service. I can identify fellow connoisseurs and offer them a digital head nod the way two well-dressed gentleman in passing along a city street acknowledge each other’s garment game.

There’s so much music it stresses me out

When I have to unfold a restaurant menu like a map, I drop my head in defeat knowing that the plethora of options means it’s going to take me a week to decide and order. That huge menu that unfolds 8 times is the music industry today. Musical options are completely overwhelming, and this incredible volume is a matter of great interest among industry thinkers.

For personal use, I have to concentrate on one platform (Spotify) or else I’ll go mad. What sucks about this is that I constantly encounter fantastic music on sites like Bandcamp, Pitchfork, and Soundcloud, listen intently, and then doom that music to the black hole of my browser bookmarks. There’s just too much, in too many places; it’s infinite option paralysis.

So I often look like an escaped mental patient when holding my cell phone to an out-of-reach speaker at a bar; I have a love/hate relationship with Spotify; I haven’t touched a CD in months; sadly, I usually only experience music through average headphones; I have a mountain of records but rarely listen to them; and I love music to death, but am completely overwhelmed by the options. This is my normal. But as I stated in the opening, this piece is more about you than me.

How do you consume music today?

-Got a first-generation iPod, or still carry around 500 CD’s in one of those huge black books? 

-What are the must have devices or services for you? 

-What are the most important pieces of the consumption puzzle for you? 

-Do you too stand on chairs in public to hold your phone to speakers and discover music? 

-How do you deal with so much music? 

-Do you have any music consumption habits that you think are weird?

Is there such a thing as strange in 2013’s wild west of music consumption and discovery? Comment and let me know.

Photo Credit: lauralizzy13