Spotify, Metacritic, and Pitchfork

For the first time since the first Bonnaroo in 2002, I’ve bought a 3-day pass to a music festival. This is partly due to the fact that I have a day job now, so I don’t need to work at concerts to get in. This is also partly due to the fact that I’m a little long in the tooth to be jumping the fence. I couldn’t top jumping the fence into Lollapalooza in 2007 anway. I ended the day Rockin in the Free World [3:35] on stage with Pearl Jam, Ben Harper, Dennis Rodman, Lance Armstrong, and Tomas Young.

The other reason I bought a 3-day pass is because I’ve got the resources to be up to date on new music. I’ve got a way to find bands that I like and a way to listen to them without too much effort.

Finding new music

Since I’ve left academia I’ve replaced the coffee shop with the office. This means that I’ve had to find a way to introduce myself to new music. There are no more recommendations from the barista/DJ. Thankfully, my office doesn’t pipe in music to the whole office. Otherwise everyday would be Throwback Thursday and I prefer my Salt-N-Pepa in small doses.

I’m a busy guy and I don’t have the bandwidth to work through all of the taste-makers' websites; e.g. Gorilla vs. Bear, Sound Opinions, Hype Machine, Pitchfork, etc. Instead I take a cue from my data science work and sample the consensus opinion; i.e. ensemble all the opinions! Luckily there are a couple of sites that already do this: <> and You can follow the best and latest new releases on metacritic’s top albums in the last 90 days list. I also gave a bunch of albums a second chance after they landed on the Best of 2014 list.

I am by no means unique in using these sites. A friend gave me grief when I tried to explain metacritic to them… jerk. This isn’t undiscovered country. It’s just a good system for me. I’ve still got my ear to the ground for new bands and old concerts. Last week I saw mtvghosts at the revamped California Clipper. They were amazing. And I’m still trying to get my Grateful Dead ticket for Soldier Field this summer… Who’s got my extra?

Listening to new music

Now I’ve got all these great albums to listen to, where do I get to listen to them? FInding full length albums on Youtube can be a crapshoot and not everyone is giving away their stuff for free like mtvghosts. I used to be a Pandora guy because the commercial free version was super cheap at $3/mo ($36/year) and its algorithmic mission of curating music seemed like a noble pursuit (although ignoring the social physics of music still seems like a mistake). I cancelled my subscription when I moved to China and when I moved back the price had gone up to $8/mo (~$100/year). When it came time to pay for music to avoid commercials, I went with Spotify at $11/mo (~$130/year).

I like Spotify because you can pick the songs and download them to your phone. For a bike commuter that uses a mini boombox (headphones on a bike is a bad idea) for my morning commute, not having to stream all of my music prevents my data plan from running out quickly. Most albums are available, unless you’re into Taylor Swift.

The band I’m most excited to see at Pitchfork right now: Ought

Taken together, I’ve finally got the right resources to find new bands, listen to new albums, and enough money to buy proper tickets to see these bands. Most bands have known this was the new music economy for some time. The only problem is that it leaves a lot of music executives out in the cold. It’ll be interesting to see where the industry goes. Let’s talk about it before the next concert, just not when the band starts :)