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Spotify Needs A Dictionary (1/15/21) | main/menu with nicholas grayson

main/menu with nicholas grayson
Spotify Needs A Dictionary (1/15/21) | main/menu with nicholas grayson
By Nicholas Grayson • Issue #12 • View online
// Hello, welcome to main/menu, a weekly newsletter about video games. Every Friday, Fanbyte Social Editor+ Nicholas Grayson will hand deliver a bunch of words about the intersection between games and culture to your inbox. If you have questions or comments, you can hit me at
Okay, time to do the newsletter! //

Start Up
Hey! Welcome back to main/menu. I’m back and ready to roll in 2021. After a slow start to the year I’m excited to get back in the saddle with you all. As always, we begin this newsletter with Start Up, where I usually give you a non-sequitur about something mundane that happened to me this week.
My partner Kati and I subscribe to a subscription box that delivers recycled, surplus, or otherwise imperfect foods. It comes every two weeks and the Monday before we get it we get to decide what goes in the box based on what they have in stock. This week we accidentally ended up with six cucumbers because we didn’t see that they’d already added cucumbers, so we added 3 more.
If anyone has any ideas on what to do with six cucumbers (well, maybe 5, we’ll make pickles) please let me know by replying to this email.
The Discourse
For this week’s The Discourse, I’d like to turn our attention away from video games and onto another form of entertainment – music.
Many moons ago, a small business called Apple released a program called iTunes. It was a music player that you downloaded onto your computer. Baked within the program iTunes was a marketplace called iTunes Store. It sold individual songs for .99 cents (eventually, it increased to $1.29). You could listen to music on your computer in the program, or you could attach your iPod (and eventually your iPhone) to listen to your music there. It was, for a while, really good. Revolutionary, even.
the first generation ipod shuffle
the first generation ipod shuffle
The first music player I owned was the first generation iPod Shuffle, which was really just a USB stick with a headphone jack attached. It didn’t have a screen so you couldn’t see what songs you had on it unless you plugged it into your computer. There was a switch on the back of it that you could slide to change the play mode from Repeat (the iPod would play each song on it based on the order they were added via iTunes) to Shuffle (which made the iPod play each song on it at random. It was incredible for me, an 11 year old idiot who had music tastes that mostly consisted of Weird Al albums and the theme song to the 4Kids adaptation of the One Piece theme song.
Every time I used the iPod it was a little different. The songs were fed to me in a new order, the storylines that I made up as to why these songs were playing in sequence rewritten on the fly. It was a novel experience for me, a person who had until then only owned CDs and one tape of Radio Disney Jams Vol. 2. It was like the radio and it ruled.
Now, 15 years later, iTunes is dead. It has been succeeded by Apple Music, a platform that itself is built upon Beats Music, another dead product. In the interim, streaming music services became popular. Rdio (rip) came and went and in its wake rose Spotify, the little green orb that could. It proposed something incredible – $10 a month for literally all of the music you could ever want (except Taylor Swift and Beyoncé). It was stupid. It continues to be stupid. It doesn’t make economical sense for anyone involved that isn’t the dude in charge of Spotify. Artists notoriously make a fraction of a cent per play. It has changed the way artists create and release music, incentivizing singles over albums.
In any case, streaming became the de facto way to consume music in the modern era, with Spotify at the forefront. I subscribe to Spotify and have for almost a decade, signing up for the service back when you needed a Facebook account. I’ve watched it evolve and grow, watched it pivot to video and then to podcasts. I was there when they made their first foray into algorithmically generated playlists with Discover Weekly, a feature that I could not shut the fuck up about in 2015. I told Dan Ryckert to sign up for Spotify just because I loved them so much. I’ve used the platform for a while, so believe me when I say this:
Spotify no longer makes a good or functional music player.
A music player only needs to do a few things to be considered functional. It should:
  1. Have support for playlists
  2. Have play/pause, skip forward/skip back
  3. Have shuffle, repeat, and song repeat buttons.
That’s it! It’s really easy, actually. All three of those things should function and if you get all three of those to function, you’ve got yourself a competent music player. WinAmp figured this out in 1997.
When you shuffle songs in Spotify, it will just play the same tracks over and over again. I took a 35 minute shower earlier this week and hit shuffle on one of my normal playlists, which has over 100 songs in it. I only listened to four tracks. Hitting shuffle will sometimes do what it says on the tin, and randomly play the songs. Most of the time, though, it feels like it does some algorithmic bullshit to play the tracks that it decides you like listening to over and over. This is not what I want. It is basic functionality that doesn’t work. It does the same thing when you run out of tracks in a playlist and it shifts to a radio station based on that playlist. Casey Malone, a Twitter acquaintance of mine, had this to say after I complained about this earlier this week:
Casey Malone
@godsewa "Play radio based on this song."
"Gotcha, so play that song every 15 minutes."
"No, I want music LIKE it."
"Oh, so off the same album and also play that song and also some parody songs for some reason."
"I pay you $10 a month for this."
And he’s right! It’s terrible! I don’t like using Spotify to listen to music anymore because I can’t tell if it will do the things that I ask it to. I have to listen to playlists from strangers now because I can’t trust Spotify to introduce the music in my own playlists to me in a way that makes me feel good. When I hit shuffle, I want it to play the songs in the playlist at random. It doesn’t do that.
It sucks.
Spotify, fix your shit.
Now Playing
We’ve got so much good stuff on our website you should read. There are no video games out until Hitman comes out (and we’ve got plans for that) but that doesn’t mean we don’t have good stuff to read!
Dylan Roth reviewed the first pair of episodes of Marvel’s WandaVision, a show that I am very excited about.
Wandavision Episode 1 & 2 Review
We also got a couple of incredible folks from USGamer (may it forever rest in peace) to write some stuff for us, and both pieces are great. Kat Bailey write about Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Eric Van Allen wrote about how Hitman’s Agent 47 is just alt world Bugs Bunny.
KOTOR 3 Was the Biggest Missed Opportunity of the EA Star Wars Run
Every Hitman Level Is a Punchline and Agent 47 Is the Fist
Sound Test
It’s me, John, and Kahlief (from Spawn On Me). It was a hell of a lot of fun to record this, and it came together so, so fast. It’s called Corner Three and you can listen to it on Spotify:
Corner Three | Podcast on Spotify
It’ll come to other podcatchers very soon!
Good Stuff Zone (GSZ)
On this week’s Good Stuff Zone, I have a video of my dog crunching on leaves at the park this morning. I hope you like it.
The Closer
This week was hella long. I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Tell your family (blood or found) that you love them. Also did you see that Armie Hammer wants to eat people? That shit is wild.
Anyway, bye! Catch y'all next week.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Nicholas Grayson

From Fanbyte Social Editor+ Nicholas Grayson comes main/menu, a newsletter about the conversations surrounding video games and technology.

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