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Personal Media Consumption by the Numbers
The year-end tradition of Spotify self-evaluation.
A couple years ago, my wife got me set up with Spotify, the popular audio-streaming service. I was a late-adopter to streaming media, just like I’ve been a late-adopter to practically every technological media-advance of the last 50 years.
I held onto audio-cassettes for far too long, as well as VHS, film-photography, 8mm, CDs, flip-phones, and plenty other systems. And though I would still argue the merits of some of those virtually obsolete formats (I continue to buy vinyl records, after all), I also recognize the conveniences of — and increasing social reliance on — the new stuff.
In the case of streaming media, the listening and viewing quality almost always falls short of downloaded or fixed-format media. But streaming’s quick, easy, low-cost access to huge digital libraries largely makes up for it. You’re also made immediately aware of new audio and video releases that line up with your interests.
Something else I like about streaming are the analytics they bring. You can see which music, movies, and programs are popular (including with people who live nearby you). While others’ preferences have little-to-no impact on what I watch or listen to, it’s still kind of interesting. What’s more interesting to me are personal analytics.
At the end of the year, Spotify’s algorithms put together “year in review” reports (in a fun, appealing presentation) for each of its users. It’s a good rundown of personal media consumption, at least on that particular platform.
This was perhaps the most enlightening statistic for me this year:
17,548 minutes. That’s almost 300 hours!
I’d guess that roughly 80% of that listening was from my car, with the other 20% accompanying my inside and outside house chores (I don’t listen to anything while I write). As for what I listened to this year, it was no surprise: primarily political-commentary podcasts.
As I’ve mentioned in past newsletters, I’ve abandoned cable-news. Though some of those networks are still doing quite well from a business perspective, their model has become non-viable as an alternative for news-consumers interested in intellectually honest, informed commentary. These networks focus almost entirely on pandering to (and confirming the biases of) their respective bases… and doing so in short, crash-style segments that barely scratch the surface on even very important topics.
These days, while I probably read more news than I listen to (from sources I’ve come to trust), podcasts have become an excellent resource for fruitful, deep-dive analysis of various topics of interest. And my top news-source, The Dispatch, hosts some great ones, including The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg (which covers a variety of political, historical, and cultural topics), The Dispatch Podcast (for stories in the national-news cycle), and Advisory Opinions (likely my sixth most-listened to podcast that covers primarily legal topics). I highly recommend them all.
As for music, I did quite a bit of listening in that department as well.
Almost 500 hours. Yikes. I’d guess about 95% of that was in the car, with the remainder being very late-night listening, sometimes as I’m falling asleep in a living-room chair without enough energy to even make it the bedroom (though I usually get there eventually). In fact, sleep-listening may have skewed the above results a bit.
I’d probably disagree with how Spotify genre-categorizes some of its music. Still — no surprise — I lean toward Rock.
But there was at least one music surprise for me in 2022, and Spotify’s framing of it cracked me up a little:
To be clear, the “surprise” wasn’t which song I listened to the most this year (I had a good idea what it would be before Spotify’s report), and 2022 was by no means the “first” time I’d listened to it. The surprise was that particular tune finally standing out to me almost 15 years after it was released.
Every once in a while, a song from the past — that I previously hadn’t paid close attention to (despite it getting good radio play at the time) — grabs me, pulls me in hard, and opens my eyes to the artist’s broader body of work. It’s a difficult phenomenon to explain, though I’m guessing at least some of you can relate. It’s how I got into the White Stripes and Saliva (among others bands), and this year it happened with a band called Tickle Me Pink and their song, “Typical.”
Tickle Me Pink was a local band here in Northern Colorado that earned national exposure in 2008 with their debut album, “Madeline.” “Typical” was its first single, and though I heard it a number of times back then, and remember my wife kind of liking it, it didn’t connect with me.
This summer, however, I had a sudden inclination to pull it up on Spotify, and I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly ever since. I’m not sure if it’s the pacing of the song, the unique harmonizing, or the raw (and politically incorrect) lyrics, but I now find the tune infectious. I’ve become a fan of some of their other stuff too.
Tickle Me Pink went through the tragic death of one of their members just as “Madeline” was being released, and as one would expect, it had a lasting effect on the band. It was evident in their emotionally-deep later music, including after they went their separate ways in 2011. They were (and are) a talented group of guys, and they’re worth checking out.
Anyway, I guess the reason I’m kind of intrigued by (and don’t mind talking about) my audio consumption is that it’s one of the areas of my overall media intake that actually feels, well… productive — even healthy. Intelligent conversations and insight are good for the mind, and music is good for the soul. I can’t often say those things about social-media or entertainment-media. In fact, I’d feel embarrassed (possibly even mortified) to share how much time I spend in those arenas of mostly empty, sometimes debilitating media-calories. (It’s probably best that I don’t even know those stats).
I’m sure others can make compelling arguments that I’m wrong to elevate audio-media over some of the others, but for now, I’ll cling to the old adage that there’s virtue in being a good listener.
Do you use Spotify? If so, what do your year-end stats look like? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dragon Shot
Checking out the seasonal decor.
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I’ve been an REO Speedwagon fan since I was a kid (when I was a bit of a hopeless romantic). In fact, the band headlined the first concert I ever attended. One of my favorite tunes by them is “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” which was also the name of their third studio album released in 1973.
There’s some local significance to the song. It was written from an experience the band went through just about 30 minutes from where I grew up. While they were on tour, they got stuck in a Colorado blizzard, and rode it out in a bar in the city of Boulder.
The album version of the tune probably isn’t the one most people are used to. It was recorded with singer Mike Murphy, after the enormous-haired Kevin Cronin left the band for a few years. It didn’t become a hit until Cronin returned, and the song was re-released on a live album. And though I like Cronin’s version better, the original recording does have a certain psychedelic funk to it that’s pretty cool.
The album, which didn’t do great commercially until the band got bigger years later, also features “Open Up,” written, interestingly enough, by Stephen Stills.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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