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:
- Have support for playlists
- Have play/pause, skip forward/skip back
- 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: