For my analysis, I will focus on three experiences: my workout (personal experience), at Tea Bazaar (social experience), and finally at C.R.A.V.E practice (social experience).
During my workout, I listened to a pre-made playlist using Spotify as the streaming software. I did not know all the music included in the playlist but this highlights the benefit of using this technology as a medium for introducing and listening to new music. I chose this playlist because I needed music that was energetic, fast-paced, and active that would motivate my workout. I also chose rap because it is my favorite genre and because I know a lot of rap songs, knowing the lyrics and the beat of the music would help me focus and continue my workout. Throughout this experience, I used the technology of a streaming service. Because of this, I was exposed to new songs that I previously didn’t know; in a way it made listening to music easier (especially when also preoccupied with another activity) because you don’t need to choose songs back to back or spend time creating your own playlist. Spotify allowed me to choose a pre-made playlist based on my preferences; I could take what someone else created (pertaining to the genre/playlist I was searching for), and it shaped the type of music I listened to. I also listened to more diverse songs within the genre of Rap/Hip-Hop thanks to the playlist, as Spotify, like other streaming services, are changing the way consumers discover new music.
Spotify has made accessibility to new music extremely easy, which pushes an increasing desire that we, as consumers, have to keep listening and using these streaming services. It is also attributed to the recent rise in the music industry. As such, Spotify brings value to discovering new music and therefore, one of Spotify’s main appeals is its “Discover” page that lists a range of playlists that one might be interested in based on their preferences; it is designed to get you exploring the world of music. Playlists are created by personal Spotify users, staff or specific algorithms. Spotify gathers data on you and other listeners in your friend circle or near your geographic location and subsequently delivers playlists based on what Spotify thinks the listener might like, marketing music directly for them. They also look at which songs get played the most, are played on repeat, get skipped etc. and form playlists based on this information. During my experience, I chose to listen to a playlist made by a specific Spotify user. This user’s playlist has 67,440 followers, which demonstrates the significant potential that Spotify playlists have to reach a more global and expanded audience.
In the past, music listeners either relied on CD’s, the radio, purchased music online, or illegally downloaded songs. However, with the implementation and rise of Spotify and other streaming apps, illegal downloading has greatly reduced because now, everyone has access to free music. While some streaming apps require a monthly subscription, one can listen to Spotify on a free account, giving them access to billions of songs. With that said, it can be argued that Spotify detaches the listener from the experience of discovering new music. When vinyl’s or CDs were the epitome medium of listening to music, it brought excitement to listeners as they searched through bins before deciding what to listen to. This was also a social experience as people in the shop could push you in a new direction. This was a unique display of how listeners made active decisions to choose what they listened to rather than being directed by somewhat immaterial data points. Therefore, Spotify can make discovering new music much easier but it may not be as rewarding or enjoyable for the user, as it takes away the active role of the listener. Moreover, unless an individual turns their Spotify account to private, other users can search for them and look at what they are listening to. This insight into a personal experience could possibly deter users to listen to what they actually want to listen to, since they fear they might be ridiculed or judged, based on their choice of music taste, which could hinder their own experience of music.
My experience at Tea Bazaar and at C.R.A.V.E practice were both social, which effectively changed the way I experienced and listened to the music. At Tea Bazaar, I was sitting in the back in the hookah section, which is a social area as groups of friends are sitting around. The music was selected by a customer that was sitting next to me, who was with a large group of his friends. His playlist choice of heavy metal/slasher and hard rock music increased his social capital among his own friends. Because I do not listen or know this genre very much, I feel like I didn’t appreciate this music during my experience. I thought it hindered my interaction with my own friends because the music was loud and distracting. When the customer chose that music, I believe he was trying to implement a specific atmosphere for himself and his friends, that was achieved with this music. However, in some way, he included all of his friends (and any other consumer who enjoyed this type of music) in this social experience and excluded anyone else (like me and my friends) who did not appreciate, or understand, this type of music. This hints on a power dynamic that inevitably occurs when two different groups whose personal music tastes clash. In this case, his power was demonstrated when he chose the type of music to play for everyone, not just for him and his friends. This subtly puts him on a superior level then everyone else. However, if the roles were reversed and I had chosen the genre of music to be played, I would be superior and would subconsciously exclude anyone who was not part of my preferred habitus.
Listening to music is heavily linked with the atmosphere. Upon reflection, I find that I may not have appreciated the type of music that was being played because a hookah café should be relaxing. The entire social event is surrounded by sitting around in a calm environment and talking with friends. By playing the heavy metal/slasher music, it took away the mood of the hookah café, fueling listeners with more energy and slightly more stress rather than evoking a relaxing atmosphere. On that note, it is important that restaurants and bars etc. play music that is in line with the type of atmosphere they want to create and the type of consumer they want to attract. This can effectively make or break a business. For a business that involves a conversation between customers, owners should play music that is inviting but somewhat discrete, so it doesn’t distract from personal conversations. Loud, distracting music can also take away from our other senses and therefore reduce how we taste food/drinks/hookah.
Lastly, during C.R.A.V.E practice, the president will play various playlists to be our background music when practicing model walks. During this experience, music is our motivator; it fuels us with personality, creativity and expression, specific to the genre of music we are listening to. Listening to music in a group setting allows you to experience this seemingly personal activity with multiple people, so how they experience it also becomes part of your unique enjoyment. Other people’s likes and dislikes can influence how you react to music; I find that I enjoy music more when other people around me are visibly enjoying the music as well. In a group setting, you will also be exposed to different music. Similar to how Spotify offers you a playlist of songs you may like, so does being a group setting, as you will inevitably hear new songs. Furthermore, in group settings, music can also regulate mood and is an important expression of social relations. Music was created to be shared. Dating back to the first invention used commercially for sound recordings, the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison, followed later by the gramophone, invented by Emile Berliner, allowed individuals to share the experience of listening to sound recordings. This was so popular because sharing music was and is a social aspect. In connection, since music taste is extremely subjective, being asked to play your music in front of a group of people is associated with a significant sense of vulnerability. Music choice is personal and sharing this with a group of people, especially those who you are not comfortable with, can be nerve-racking and may defer an individual from expressing their true music taste. However, connections can form through similar taste of music and successfully sharing music can break down the barriers of not knowing someone very well and create a more inclusive atmosphere.
Overall, music plays an important role in both personal and social settings. It enforces a means of connections between people and cultures. Music has a significant cultural imprint and its reception and inclusivity is a fascinating point of analysis throughout all points in history.