Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Playlist is The Music

The Playlist is The Music, in so many ways.

Even just picking one song from one's collection, or deciding to listen to an FM radio station, or an Internet rebroadcasted radio station, or an internet originated radio station, or a station within a paid service (and which and which), or a particular song on a particular service, has long been a hard thing for me to do, and not getting much easier.

These things don't just come to me, as I imagine they might for a different sort of music listener, maybe even most.  Perhaps just people have something in mind as they walk into their audio room, or flip on their phones (I so rarely do the latter it barely counts).

Though to be honest, the biggest thing stopping me from always having music playing, in my post-23* audio decadence years is just to decide to listen to music, or even have music on (which is 95% of how it starts for me, as background music, though some considerable fractions of such become serious listening as the system is sounding so good it pulls me in nowadays, rather than seeming slightly astringent).

(*In my first few days of personal audio, as I quickly progressed from an Admiral radio alarm clock, tube based, to a beautiful and clean Fisher FM 80 I picked up for $20, to a tube based reel tape recorder, to a Dual 1209 with a handful of records.  Certainly before I got my records it was easyist, I simply turned on the radio (last station) or pressed play on the tape recorder.  But I don't remember any difficulty choosing music until at least 23 of age, about the time I started working for a high end audio store.  Perhaps listening became too serious or something.)

So a playlist makes this burden a lot easier.  Or at least you then only have to choose on thing: which playlist, and then all the rest of the music is selected.

I had this hope with computer network based audio systems I could simply let it choose music at random.  I started on that project in 2005 when I bought my first set of Sonos modules (I now have 6 active zones).  It has never proved to be satisfactory, despite endless work.

Towards this end, I have always organized my music in 3 different folders.  Sonos conveniently allows you to select an entire folder.  And then you can choose "shuffle."  I had the main folder with no-talk classical music, that I can listen to as background (I don't like talk in the background, it's distracting) or serious.  And then everything else, rock, pop, opera, are in a different folder.  Then a third folder of stuff I own but don't really want to listen to much, because it's too loud, or jarring, or whatever.

I did this folder shuffle play for several years.  But ultimately it became tiring.  Even as my collection expanded the sense of hearing the same songs over and over didn't go away.  I now figure that listening to a collection of albums as a collection of songs doesn't work.  If anything, you need to be able to listen to random albums within some category.  I haven't figured out how to do that in Sonos.

Sonos album selection isn't as nice as on some other systems either.  It gives you a huge scrollable list, either with scroll bar or alphabetic shortcuts or both.  Well that works if you know what you want.  But if you're trying to decide, a full page display of album displays works nicest for browsing, and I haven't seen Sonos do that.

As I never listened to pop radio much, I've never picked up on the hot music such a listener might find they have to have.  So how even does (or did) one decide what to get?  Possibly listening with friends, then extrapolating, that's about what I did long ago.  Now I do that again with the audio society, though not so much extrapolating.

Mostly for quite some time, including now, I get my original recording purchasing ideas reading audiophile magazines, Stereophile and The Absolute Sound.  Nowadays I'm cutting out pages with interesting reviews.  I don't actually save the magazines anymore, though I did once (and still have all of those).

I think it would be wonderful to have playlist compiled from such reviewing magazines, or reviewing sites, famous reviewers, etc.  Here's Prince's party playlist, this should be on every subscription streaming service.

I'd also like to be able to share playlists with my friends, say for example listen to what they listen to or play their playlists.  My network at work has had such a feature.  I'd like to have that kind of sharing with my audio society friends.

Streaming services need to have "stations" corresponding to sub genres.  A station is an endless playlist.  Pandora has been the best at letting me create stations according to my wishes.

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