21 November 2010

Digital Music and the Greater Lemming Community

When it comes to digital music services, there's a pet peeve of mine that even Lala could stand to be scolded for: the social networking component. If there's any value whatsoever in keeping apprised of what everyone else is listening to, it's to be able to avoid listening to it yourself. One can certainly use the information that way, but I suspect that's not how it was intended to work:

eMusic is about the love of music. Based on your listening preferences we take you to great new music as well as tell the story behind the classics. We unearth forgotten gems, make connections that lead you to new music and make the music you already love a little richer. Call it a curated approach. eMusic is perfect for people who love music but don't have 20 hours a week to stay on top of what's going on. We make sense of it all so you can find and enjoy the music you love.

It takes a hell of a lot more than 20 hours a week folks. Get over it. No one can truly "keep up" anymore, including you. Keeping up isn't the point anyway, unless you already know everything about all the music that was made before you were born. This conceit of a third party distilling the cumulative musical ferment of society down to the "right" two albums a month is not only impractical, but a little scary. I don't care how "indie" you are, if you're in business, I don't trust you to do a better job digging up new music than I can, and I certainly don't need a profile page so that the other lemmings can cop my shit.

Even being something of a modernist curmudgeon, I still tend to end up with an assortment of music in my collection that defies collaborative filtering as it is currently constituted, or at least it would seem this way since the "people who bought this also bought..." lists never seem to contain anything I would touch with a virtual ten foot pole. Based on the generally more eclectic tastes of most of my acquaintances, I have to think that it's probably even worse for them. So while I can't avoid unwittingly contributing to the lists that pop up on other people's screens, I won't be filling out my emusic profile and I won't be viewing anybody else's. If you really care what me, myself and I are listening to, you'll have to ask.

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