Currently there's over half a terabyte of music
February 3, 2019 7:45 AM   Subscribe

"Napster is the greatest thing to happen to mp3's since . . . well since anything I guess. Someone told me about it a couple weeks ago, so I downloaded their beta, ran it for a few days and I have to say that I'm very impressed. It's the newest killer internet app and an amazing tool for music lovers. If the recording industry knew about this, they'd probably shut it down."
posted by Vesihiisi (78 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Statute of limitations is only three years.
posted by spacewrench at 7:50 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


i have no idea how these people got their music wedged into their computers, or why
posted by entropicamericana at 7:50 AM on February 3 [23 favorites]


The past is a foreign country: they share music differently there.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:56 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


Napster's a new application that can best be described as a combination of the following: basic mp3 player, playlist manager, file transfer client/server, chat client, mp3 search engine, and community storage app.

Weird, I have absolutely no memory of Napster being most of those things. I just remember it being a place where you saw a giant list of files like "gin_and_juice_weird_al_with_phish.mp3" but I'm probably getting all my P2P music sharing apps confused.
posted by bondcliff at 8:00 AM on February 3 [16 favorites]


1999.
posted by doctornemo at 8:05 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Deep in the bowels of my music folder, there's a folder called napster_downloads. It's a junk food ghetto, a sugary cereal you'll always fondly remember but can't believe you used to used to ingest. What low bitrate crap is in there!
posted by Catblack at 8:09 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


It was the best place to get "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Bob Dylan.
posted by stevil at 8:18 AM on February 3 [45 favorites]


Fun fact: every single parody song on Napster was performed by Wierd Al Yankovitch.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:30 AM on February 3 [16 favorites]


I downloaded “Horse with No Name” by Neil Young back in the day.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:33 AM on February 3 [9 favorites]


And every punk rock cover of a traditionally non-punk song was by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
posted by glonous keming at 8:59 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]


Not a bad little article, the author wrote some other things like organizing an archive of ancient Mosaic versions. I wonder what ever became of him?
posted by Nelson at 9:26 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]


>Fun fact: every single parody song on Napster was performed by Wierd Al Yankovitch.

Fun Fact: Every file on Napster was misspelled or mislabeled.
posted by Catblack at 9:28 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Fun fact from the Napster era: a competing product was scour.net. It worked by finding people's unsecured Windows fileshares on the Internet and indexing them without the owner's knowledge so anyone could download their music files. This ethically challenged company was cofounded by none other than Travis Kalanick, who went on to found Uber.
posted by Nelson at 9:28 AM on February 3 [61 favorites]


No wonder MetaFilter fired him.
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:29 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]


Fond memory of obtaining Merle Haggard’s complete LP, “My Love Affair With Trains,” then out of print.
posted by spitbull at 9:37 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


This was how I got into Throwing Muses, back in the day. I also had dialup so downloads took approximately forever.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:45 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


I think I still have a copy of LimeWire backed up on an old external hard drive.
posted by tzikeh at 9:51 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


I just remember it being a place where you saw a giant list of files like "gin_and_juice_weird_al_with_phish.mp3" but I'm probably getting all my P2P music sharing apps confused.

This FPP pairs nicely with Your Kazaa Library.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:57 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Fond memories indeed.
posted by charlesminus at 9:58 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


It's weird to me to think that the Napster/P2P generation is a pretty specific cohort. Not that piracy isn't still around - hell, Soulseek is still around - but Napster and its successors were how I discovered music. I don't think that's how it works for most Kids These Days.
posted by atoxyl at 10:58 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]


a competing product was scour.net.

I think I interviewed there. At any rate, I was there for some reason, and I still have the scour.net mousepad they gave me. It was a weird time, but I guess you can say that about now, too.
posted by spacewrench at 11:01 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Fun Fact: Every file on Napster was misspelled or mislabeled.

I blame Napster for my mistaken belief that "Satellite of Love" is by David Bowie. Not completely wrong, but not right either.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:13 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Hehehe...this AND a post about skateboarding games, today.

I remember all the fun weird bands I used to find on Napster while trying to download tracks off of TOOL's then-unreleased Lateralus. One of them happened to be Pavement's The Hexx, which must have been intentionally mislabeled by some mischievous hipster with the inclination, "You ALMOST like good music! Here's a nudge, bud."

I became obsessed with the song but couldn't find it anywhere. Searching Google with lyrics (even those weird-ass Pavement lines that certainly didn't exist anywhere else) just wasn't doing the trick in those days. So I threw it on all my mix-cds and listened to it while getting stoned and watching my friends play Tony Hawk. Didn't figure it out until I was in college.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:14 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]


DOT, Jr. explained mp3's to a friend as "like printing off an internet article, so you can keep it around, because some people like that, I guess."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:18 AM on February 3 [18 favorites]


I was an Audiogalaxy woman. And my audio player of choice was Winamp, because I could skin it to my liking. I remember it taking almost a day to DL 3 songs from “The Queen Is Dead” on my Netzero connection, and it was because they were 192 Kbps files.

Were we ever so young (even though I was older than most of you)?
posted by droplet at 11:19 AM on February 3 [11 favorites]


The other day I had to convert a YouTube video into an MP3 like some kind of barbarian, and it made me think of Napster for the first time literally in years.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:20 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


A friend introduced me to Abe's MP3 Finder in 1999, which was the same basic idea as Napster but (I believe) pre-dated it by a few months. When Napster came out and got popular, I figured it was because the name made it much more fun to talk about.

There aren't many references to it on the web anymore, but in searching for it I did find this CNN article from June 1999, “Top 10 MP3 Utilities” that, like the FPP, is an MP3 time capsule, but from just before Napster arrived.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:31 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Playing music on your computer? Preposterous!
posted by tommasz at 11:51 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


A few times I remember playing "Stump Napster," and we'd think of obscure songs to see if they'd show up. Nine times out of ten they'd be on Napster. Maybe that says more about my and my friends' taste in music.
posted by zardoz at 12:01 PM on February 3


'owie hertz
posted by Twang at 1:06 PM on February 3


After filling my hard drive with mislabeled and incorrectly-tagged MP3s I found some program, I don't remember what it was called, but it would scan your MP3s and compare the, I dunno, checksum or whatever, against a CD database and automatically fix the tags. I'm sure the technology has been incorporated into everything by now but at the time it was one of the most amazingly useful pieces of software.

So for a while I became obsessed with having perfect tags on my MP3s and to this day I have several gigs of perfectly-tagged music files that I never listen to but if I ever want, say, the #5 hit from 1985 or the top 100 guitar songs according to Rolling Stone Magazine, I know I have it somewhere.

Of course YouTube has made that all pointless since you can find anything you want anyway, but I like knowing I have it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:23 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


YouTube is giving it a point again by injecting ads every 30 seconds.
posted by benzenedream at 1:49 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


I had my first office job with real honest-to-God T1 internet, which felt Jetson’s level fast compared to the dial-up in my shitty college apartment. Sometimes I’d stay at the office until midnight, downloading (in those days) all the Thrill Jockey/Drag City/affiliated electronic/experimental/ post rock stuff on Napster that I couldn’t ever find in the store. A lot of that stuff ponderous and full of itself , in retrospect, and i’m not even sure I enjoyed it then, but that also describes most of 1999, really.
posted by thivaia at 2:07 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


Oh, man. I remember using Macster way back in the day.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:15 PM on February 3


Ahhh so many music theft memories. I had that terrible Diamond Rio mp3 player that looked like a proto-ipod and held maybe 8 poor quality songs. One of the first songs I downloaded was by Matchbox 20. (Looking back, I'm really glad the music industry wasn't harassing the children yet. That would've been embarrassing.) I have an extremely terrible searching for Hole (the band) and seeing many copies of a file called Three Dicks in a Hole (presumably porn).

I remember trying to split the difference, ethically speaking, by purchasing the music I really liked. But I also remember spending $25 for a not great Natalie Imbruglia CD and feeling justified in hedging my music library bets. (It's very weird that you can get wonderful albums for $12 now. '90s CD prices were insane, and a huge part of why no one felt guilty about stealing.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:26 PM on February 3 [8 favorites]


bondcliff: "After filling my hard drive with mislabeled and incorrectly-tagged MP3s I found some program, I don't remember what it was called, but it would scan your MP3s and compare the, I dunno, checksum or whatever, against a CD database and automatically fix the tags."

Probably Musicbrainz? Which is still alive and kicking.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:30 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I've found I get the best results by limiting my searches to a 128kbps bitrate (standard "near CD-quality" sound)

UH
posted by tantrumthecat at 2:34 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


'90s CD prices were insane

I always wondered how much the popularity of DVDs, which began about 1999 iirc, contributed to falling CD sales. My thesis is that consumers found them to be a better value: $20 or $25 dollars for sometimes multiple cuts of a movie, with deleted scenes, commentary tracks, and sometimes other extras like little documentaries, as opposed to the same money for 45 -60 minutes of music, with sometimes shameless quantity of filler with the 2 or 3 songs you wanted.
posted by thelonius at 2:40 PM on February 3


Find all the music for your Zune in one easy to get place!

L.i.m.e.w.i.r.e...F.T.W.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:45 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


A friend introduced me to Abe's MP3 Finder in 1999

Interesting to realize that 1999 was just shortly after a new search engine named Google debuted.

Napster was a revelation to me, for the first time allowing me to hear shitloads of music I’d only ever heard of before. I remember downloading lots of international music, Soca, & Rai, Bollywood, French pop & Brazillian MPB, much of it badly labeled or not even what it purported to be. But it was just amazing that you could just download it and hear it and decide if you wanted to pursue more of it. I also downloaded Nico, and Amanda Lear, and every Tori Amos bootleg I could find.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:49 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I will never forgive Metallica for getting me banned from Napster.

NEVER FORGET.
posted by Justinian at 2:50 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


'90s CD prices were insane

It was a racket. On the plus side, CDs are now unfashionable so thrift stores are a great place to find decent discs on the cheap.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:55 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


Yes I have many fond memories of Limewire, mainly scrubbing the malware off my daughter's computer that Limewire put there.
posted by M-x shell at 2:57 PM on February 3 [8 favorites]


I was chatting with a Sony Canada exec years ago and I'll never forget the venom with which he berated the file-sharing population.

Dude...these are your customers. You won't get them locked up. Adapt and embrace.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:03 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Ah, Napster on a university gigabit research network with other universities. Thanks to Metallica and lawyers, it was also the first application to ever be blocked on the border router. Which just set off a chain reaction of new applications to block. A whole 'Legal' section in the config files. Sad times. Luckily there was still anonymous FTP.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:05 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Oh the time when my friend discovered the uni computer labs were boot by USB first, set up an instance of damn small Linux, mounted an external drive to download to his hearts content and pick up in the AM .

It was beautiful.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:11 PM on February 3 [7 favorites]


I feel like the breadth of music available on torrent now is actually less than was available during the golden age of music piracy. Maybe a lot of it wasn’t even worth it when free. Also, when I was in high school, each of us had a band (Cure, U2, Clash, etc) and bought all our band’s tapes and made copies for the rest. Not that different.
posted by snofoam at 4:03 PM on February 3 [8 favorites]


My favorite part of Napster was being able to browse other people's libraries. Oh, you have that one song I was looking for? Maybe we have similar tastes, so I'll just download a bunch of other stuff from you I've never heard of. I got turned on to a few bands i would have never have heard of were it not for that feature.
posted by Panjandrum at 4:17 PM on February 3 [15 favorites]


As a huge anime fan in high school, Napster was great for downloading music I had no other way of getting in the US. (This is after snail mailing money orders to weird PO Boxes for fansubbed VHS tapes thanks very much) Always such a bummer when your parents picked up the phone to make a call and disconnected you 20 mins into a 30 min single mp3 download, though.

My first major electronics purchase with my own money was a $150 Samsun MP3 player. It held 8 songs. I got a cassette adapter for it so my friends and I could blast the same 8 songs (either anime soundtracks or lesbians with guitars, depending on our mood) over and over while driving around Midwestern suburbs. Oh, it was so good to be a late 90s geek.
posted by olinerd at 4:48 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


The mid/late nineties were also when radio starting going rapidly downhill, with every station playing the same forty songs on repeat (which coincidentally happened to be whatever crap the record labels were pushing that month). Between the payola and the absurd CD prices, the RIAA dug their own grave. In their quest to funnel as many people as possible towards a very small and profitable subsection of mediocre bands, the labels invalidated their legitimacy as gatekeepers. As a surly teenager, I was more than happy to screw them over.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:20 PM on February 3 [12 favorites]


I was too busy using Hotline and Usenet during the Napster era. Then it all moved to blogs and Soulseek.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:08 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Re Metallica and Napster. I’m old. Old enough that I knew someone in Metallica and was allowed to take tapes made from their soundboard at shows, take them to the U.K., where I would hand them to someone who duped them and then got shared all over London. Years later, when they sued about Napster, I testified that Metallica had not only condoned, but facilitated distribution of their music outside their publishers. Needless to say, I don’t know anyone in Metallica anymore.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:21 PM on February 3 [18 favorites]


Remember when the RIAA tried to sue people for each song they downloaded, with a claimed value per song that would have made a full 10Gb iPod literally the most valuable object on Earth?
posted by Naberius at 8:24 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Ah yes, I had one Metallica song because I had watched their Behind the Music and got it stuck in my head. What assholes.

This brings back so many good memories of discovering music. The rush I would get when finding a new band to explore and waiting all day for a couple songs! I still have MP3s from the Napster era, now backed up to Google Play. I did spend my tiny paychecks each week on CDs from the indie music shop in the next town over, but my lust for new music was far beyond what I could afford.

Alas, I spent so much time downloading Dave Matthews Band live albums because I had a big crush on a girl who was obsessed with them. I’m sure DMB got lots of people laid but that girl and I each took years to come out of the closet, so it was all wasted hours on the dial-up.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:42 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


A freezing January day in Ottawa on the bus to work. I watch an early-20-something guy ask a same-age girl which CDs she likes. "Actually, I just listen to MP3s now" she replies, brushing him off, and I knew things were changing. One month and one cable modem later, I saw how.

And like Douglas Coupland, I'm not sure I would keep things like they were during that cold January if I had that option. My kids grew up in that post-CD era. I figured out how to stay viable economically and actually had a good time doing it. But I still miss a lot about the '90s, and can point you to a good youtube playlist if you're interested.
posted by morspin at 9:47 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I still remember the first .mp3 I ever downloaded, on dial-up (hours and hours of dissembling required to justify the phone line busy for hours and hours): a five minute and 56 second live version of "my name is mud" by Primus. 64kbps? maybe?

Years later, having discovered soulseek at university, I befriended a member of an anarchist art collective after noticing they'd directly downloaded from me about 20 GB of the shrieking noise I loved playing on college radio. Got a couple of enormous posters populated by intricately drafted insects acting out various leftist economic and political theories by way of thanks a month later.

This current future was supposed to be way more awesome when we looked forward 15 years ago.
posted by hototogisu at 12:42 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I miss being able to reliably find obscure music, covers, and bootlegs (or just like, Drag City)on any platform outside of youtube.

I miss my Cursive MP3s with the stuttery artifacts right where I remember them.
posted by es_de_bah at 12:47 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I feel like the breadth of music available on torrent now is actually less than was available during the golden age of music piracy.

You need soulseek.

My favorite part of Napster was being able to browse other people's libraries.

You also need soulseek.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:49 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


Blast from mai past...I was Principal, Information Security Officer for Napster under the Bertelsmann AG reboot. Quite an oxymoron of a title, after a manner.

Bertelsmann was willing to put up $5 billion to make an honest company of Napster.

They were one of the more fun and fascinating start-ups I worked for here in Silicon Valley.

It's interesting how they came to shutter doors suddenly...Shawn Fanning's uncle walked in one day past my cubicle with a claim of money he'd loaned his nephew years earlier and tried to hold up Bertelsmann for millions. They didn't play blackmail. Doors closed within 3 days after that cringy overture.

Afterwards I put together a panel discussion comprised of Napster alumni for the hacker convention DefCon.

Yaz...wild ride through the courts, and we had the same basic re-launch business model that was later used at iTunes.

Thanks for the FPP...twas good timez...AMA.
posted by Dunvegan at 1:21 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


I had that terrible Diamond Rio mp3 player that looked like a proto-ipod and held maybe 8 poor quality songs.

I had one of those too! I think the big selling point was you were supposed to be able to take the back off and swap it out with another with more storage/different songs etc. But I only had one so I compressed the hell out of my music just to get more to fit.

I got a cassette adapter for it so my friends and I could blast the same 8 songs (either anime soundtracks or lesbians with guitars, depending on our mood) over and over while driving around Midwestern suburbs

I also had one of these! I actually still prefer it but its getting harder and harder to find a car that has a cassette player anymore. Blue-tooth to car just isn't a reliable as that hardwired connection.

Anyways...I loved Napster. I still have songs on rotation that I downloaded from there. I remember when Napster was mostly shut down and I had moved on to AudioGalaxy, which had two particular features that I remembered that Napster didn't: 1) if the connection was interrupted the download would pause! and pick up again later! 2) you could see what other people who downloaded the same thing also liked. I found so much music that way.

I also still buy CD's because that's my hard copy back-up. And how can you browse someone's music tastes if they're all hidden on a computer or ipod?
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:37 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


On the plus side, CDs are now unfashionable so thrift stores are a great place to find decent discs on the cheap.

This is the truth. What's funny is that in '99, you could still build a good vinyl collection from the records people discarded when CDs came out. Now it's barely worth looking at thrift records, but CDs are plentiful because everyone's either gone back to vinyl or streams.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:18 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I never used Napster or other music downloading programs. I forget how I got my music. But I don't think I'll be experimenting with other like programs because of ↓

Oh boy! I wanted to see what that software did, how it looked etc. I'm not sure what happened, but I went to play something and no sound. I looked around and found that somehow all my audio devices were gone. Completely gone. I nearly shait myself. Fortunately, I have a geeky/nerdy house guest and he fixed it. And I just found out that AVG flagged it as dangerous and I didn't notice.
posted by james33 at 6:47 AM on February 4


Another person here who still buys CDs when I see good ones in thrift stores (which is all the time), especially '80s and '90s hip-hop. I like having a physical backup and I've never really gotten into listening to streaming music at home.

I can't even remember the last time I downloaded an MP3, but like millions of people when I discovered LimeWire (or Napster or Soulseek or whatever) I went nuts and downloaded untold gigabytes of music that is currently collecting digital dust on a couple of hard drives because sheeeeeit who's got the time to listen to that much music?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:09 AM on February 4


Since everyone's nostalgic here for the good ol' days I'd like to put a shout-out for Spotify. They do an excellent job delivering an enormous catalog of music to me. With good discovery tools. And the warm feeling that somehow I'm doing the right thing by paying for the music I listen to. (Shh, don't tell me how Spotify doesn't pay artists enough.)

The only knock I have on Spotify is the lack of diversity. I was about to say you'll never find Jandek on Spotify. But in fact there he is, or at least 3 tracks where he happened to show up on compilation albums. With a reasonable artist page, and 20 related artists I could spend the rest of my day listening to. It's a pretty great music catalog.

For the stuff too obscure / unlicenseable for Spotify we always have YouTube. If you told us in 2003 that Google would one day run the greatest collection of pirated music, we would have been shocked and upset. We talked for years about adding music search to the search engine but always concluded there was no way to do that without inviting copyright nightmares. And yet somehow with YouTube, Google found a formula for playing fast and loose with licensing that kind of works.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on February 4


I remember I was playing around with BeOS at the time, and using BeShare, a delightful file sharing program that worked like Napster, except it was on BeOS where most users were obsessed with file organization (BeOS had a file system with searchable database functionality) so the files were properly organized and named, and (being a fringe OS) the industry wasn't paying attention to that peer-to-peer traffic.
posted by davejay at 7:44 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Stealing from Deadspin's Let's Remember Some Guys series:

Let's Remember Some Music Piracy:
  • Adding money to your AllOfMP3.com balance through some shady-seeming online credit card processor.
  • There was an arms race between Google and folks that would craft complicated custom searches to search people's unprotected FTP servers.
  • OiNK's Pink Palace
  • For a long time I had no idea who sang "Dream On" because, despite the tags on the mp3, I knew it didn't sound like Aerosmith.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:45 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


If you told us in 2003 that Google would one day run the greatest collection of pirated music, we would have been shocked and upset

2019 me to 1999 me: In 20 years Google will provide you with the opportunity to listen to an almost unbelivably large library of music, music videos, recorded live performances, and music documentaries!

1999 me: ヽ(•‿•)ノ ヽ(•‿•)ノ ヽ(•‿•)ノ ヽ(•‿•)ノ!!!

2019 me: ... and after every one, it'll recommend a neo-fascist rant to you!

1999 me: ヽ(• _•)ノ ヽ(•_•)ノ ヽ(•_•)ノ ヽ(•_•)ノ!!!
posted by octobersurprise at 8:08 AM on February 4 [5 favorites]


I remember the whole Metallica blowup around Napster, when they were screaming that Napster had hurt their sales. Specifically, I remember laughing and shaking my head with my friends who loved early Metallica and hated the new stuff, and Metallica not getting that the reason we weren't buying the new stuff had nothing to do with Napster and everything to do with the quality of the new material.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:20 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Since everyone's nostalgic here for the good ol' days I'd like to put a shout-out for Spotify

I get that, and it has been recommended to me many times but I just don't think I can pay for streaming music. (I know that they have a free option but the features are pretty limited compared to the pay option.) I am terrified of having this huge library in Spotify, which now I have to keep paying for to continue to have access to, whereas I can just buy a CD once and I'll have it forever (or at least until its too scratched/degraded/etc.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:22 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I semi-seriously believe that P2P is morally superior to streaming (see at least in the former case nobody is making money) but now that last comment raises the question - is using a streaming service at free tier and blocking the ads equivalent to piracy?
posted by atoxyl at 1:22 AM on February 5


Spotify .....good discovery tools.

Can someone enlighten us on what these tools are?
posted by thelonius at 4:37 AM on February 5


is using a streaming service at free tier and blocking the ads equivalent to piracy?

Yes, but it's more legally defensible because if Spotify could detect you blocking the ads and kept serving you music, that would imply that they condoned it. Also, the RIAA would go after Spotify before they went after you.
posted by suetanvil at 7:05 AM on February 5


Also: given the rates Spotify pays artists, using Spotify at all is pretty much equivalent to piracy as well.
posted by suetanvil at 7:06 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Spotify .....good discovery tools.
Can someone enlighten us on what these tools are?


Oh, perhaps you haven't found all the neat stuff Spotify has! (*)

Try looking at that artist page for Jandek. There's a button there "Related Artists" ("Fans Also Like" in the app), with 20 different musicians that Spotify has decided are somehow related to Jandek. It's not perfect of course, but I've often found several interesting musicians there. Works best when it's someone I've vaguely heard of before, say Merzbow, and it's a prompt to listen to them.

There's also Spotify Radio. Basically for any song, album, or playlist you can tell Spotify to play music kind of like that. I find this works great when I'm discovering a new genre of music. Say Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician I know nothing about. But the radio station I get off his top song has an appealing mix of other Afrobeat musicians and now I have two hours of new music to learn about.

There's also explicit user playlists. It's not hard to go from a song you like to a playlist some user created that includes that song. Sometimes those playlists are great. This doesn't work so well for me, but it does allow for explicit human curation instead of some machine algorithm.

Finally Spotify occasionally generates playlists "just for you", based on your musical preferences. Right now I've got "Your Top Songs 2018" and 5 different Daily Mixes. I don't use these often and wonder if they're payola-influenced, but they are handy when I don't want to think at all and just play some new music. I'm particularly impressed with the way they segregate my musical tastes; they don't try to mix the Jandek with the Fela Kuti, they show up in different mixes.

A lot of these discovery tools are evolutions of ones originally pioneered by Pandora. And as with all AI, they're imperfect. But I think Spotify has done a particularly good job tuning the algorithms to give me a mix of familiar songs I already like and then the occasional new song I might or might not like. And of course there's always the fast forward button if I think it made a mistake.

(*) Or maybe you were just being snarky and back-handedly trying to suggest you don't like Spotify's discovery algorithms. In which case, well, say something insightful or constructive instead of just sharing your misery.
posted by Nelson at 7:37 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Oh thanks - I knew about that stuff (although I don't think I have used the Radio) - I was wondering if there were more things that I did not know about.

Their playlists are really quite good.
posted by thelonius at 7:38 AM on February 5


(possibly you should not scold people for things they aren't doing but you think they might be, I might add, since it helps make Metafilter a moralizing Orwellian hellhole)
posted by thelonius at 7:40 AM on February 5


Back when disc space was more of a problem for me, I uploaded all my music to Google Play (and backed it up elsewhere), and now I pay $8/month for the storage and the access to streaming for their 35+ million songs (Spotify has the same). I think it's $1 more a month now for new signups. Google Play includes YouTube Red, as well, which I don't really care about but occasionally I have found some obscure track on YouTube so it's an okay bonus. You can stream at 320 kb/s, same as Spotify.

It's saved me a considerable amount of money because I can add albums/tracks to "my" library and download for offline use. It is frustrating that I stop owning this music the second that I stop paying for it, but I feel like that's true of so many things in my life these days (hi, Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office 365!) so, meh.

Anyway, the real reason I decided to go with Google Play, beyond wanting to keep my ridiculously large library of pirated music and not have to move it around each time I got a new computer or device, was because they acquired Songza and folded it into their "Curated Playlist" feature. Songza, while it was around, was how I discovered a whole bunch of music — they claimed to have curated their lists from music experts for each genre and you picked a playlist based on mood or time of day. It's lost a bit of the magic of Songza now that it's on Google Play, but it's still trustworthy enough that I can let it play if we have people over while still retaining my smug "yes, I am very good at choosing the right tracks for this ambience" sense.

Anyway, Google is evil in a different way than Spotify, but overall I'm thrilled that I can find nearly song I want on Google Play. The Curated Playlists are free to anyone if you're curious.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:25 AM on February 5


I downloaded hundreds of singles -- country, pop, rock and roll -- that I'd not ever have found any other way. Of course today they are all on youtube.

As many others up-thread have said, I also would look through someones collection if I liked what I saw. A great way to discover music.

Can't judge a book by its cover, nor an album by a title. But I downloaded "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea" based upon the title of that album. I thought then and think now that Harvey is great, I went and purchased the CD, and I've purchased more of her music since. I did at least pay some attention to getting the artist paid.

There were many used CD stores, one that De Etta and I would walk to on our lunch hour, and here are all of these musicians I'd heard of but didn't know, which is how I came across Nirvana and god only knows what other bands. I'd maybe not listen to the CD for a year -- who knew, it was just a way to stay open -- and then I'd be blown away. Or not. But it was fun.

A huge influence upon me, probably the biggest in my life, was Larry Monroe, a disc jockey who was so much more than a disc jockey. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of blues artists, and rock and roll artists, and most particularly Texas artists. He had four shows every week. It was one of the best surprises of my move to Austin. I can't tell you how many times I'd grab a pen and paper and write down as I was driving (I know I know, total dick move) who the hell it was and go buy it, I had the KUT phone number by heart and would call him as ask "Who in the hell is this?" and he'd patiently explain who/what/when/where/why. I had a sweetie lived in Baltimore, and we'd internet chat for hours, both of us total night birds, and KUT streamed and I got her to start listening to it as we chatted, and I called Larry and told him what the deal was, damned if he didn't come up with this huge set of songs about Baltimore. What a great guy. What a huge talent.

His heart took him out, maybe five years ago now, a damned shame, irreplaceable IMO. I have maybe sixty of his shows that were streamed, 3 and 4 hour commercial free incredibly good music. But I don't get to hear what he thinks of Leonard Cohen's last record, or Dylan singing Sinatra standards, or how outstanding Jo Carol Pierce is, and on and on and on. A big loss over here on Riverside Drive...
posted by dancestoblue at 6:36 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


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