Thursday, 16 May 2013

This Is How I Jammed, Jan-April

For me, the music itself is only half of the fun. How we consume and, especially, discover the music we end up loving is a fascinating process to me on every level. 

In the past, I've toyed with This Is My Jam, the musical social network which gave this series of blogs their name, read a variety of blogs and magazines, documented every song I listened to, stolen from friends...

So far in 2013, three new methods have presented themselves to me. Shall we take a look?

SPOTIFY TEAM PLAYLIST

An idea nicked off'f Kieron Gillen (aren't they all?): select a few of your most musically-minded friends, set up an open playlist, and watch the tunes roll in. It's so easy it almost feels like cheating.

I've been fascinated by Spotify pretty much since the moment I discovered it, but this team playlist has fiercely reignited my love for it, so much so that I finally took the plunge and went Premium, instantly revolutionising my music-listening habits. Offline playlists now dominate the paltry 8GB of space on my iPod (and on my phone, and on my laptop), and that's led to me playing with a few other methods of music discovery which... well, we'll come to those.

The playlist is here if you want to listen/collaborate. If nothing else, it's a great set of songs, thanks to everyone who's taken part (and thanks, to everyone who's taken part). Just don't blame me if clicking that link ends up costing you £10 a month.

Song highlight:

SONGDROP

At any given moment, my web browser of choice (Chrome, if you're curious) .will have about 50 tabs open. Half of those will be songs I've found, mostly through blogs or friends' recommendations, and have listened to once or twice. They haven't taken over my brain yet, but I'm not ready to let them slip away into the ether of the net. If they're not on Spotify yet, I have no way of storing them.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

SongDrop is simply a piece of technology I can't believe didn't exist before. It adds a button to Chrome, which when pressed detects any music on the current webpage, and allows you to drop it into a single centralised playlist. It's a tool I've barely scratched the surface of yet, but like the best ideas, it solves a problem I barely I knew I had.

You can access my drops so far here.

Song highlight:

THE MINCER

Two tracks enter, only one leaves.

This is an idea I stole, just for the sake of variety, off'f Tom Ewing. The Mincer is a way of gamifying music playlists, by pitting songs against one another.

You take 64 tracks, put them in a playlist, randomise it, and then as you listen (no skipping allowed), mentally pair the songs up. Pick which of the two you'd rather hear again, and delete the other one. Rinse and repeat until the playlist is finished, then top it up again. (You can find my exact step-by-step method at the bottom of this post.)

It's a great way to encourage listening to all those songs on your hard drive, or in your Spotify playlists, that haven't received the attention they deserve. It puts a neat framework around the whole thing, which helps to make listening to music less passive, and really forces you to concentrate on what you're listening to.

I've been thinking that the issue with the mechanics of The Mincer's 'game' is that it has slightly too many tracks, which you don't get intimate enough with to make choosing between two tracks (on the second go-round particularly) as hard a decisions as I'd like. I've been thinking of running it tournament-style, until only one song remains.

But it's only reading the rules again now that I realise I've actually been doing it wrong. You're meant to run through the playlist until only 32 of the 64 remain, then shuffle and start again until you have 16 before topping up. Seeing this now, I can see how it provides a neat middle-ground between the method I've been using, and a full-bore tournament.

Expect to hear about these variations on the formula next time on Those Were My Jams. But for the next month or two... that's all, folks.
Song highlight:


My Mincer Method
1. On Spotify, create a feeder playlist with all the songs you want to mince. (ideally you want this playlist as large and varied and possible) and an empty Mincer playlist.
2. Select all the tracks, copy, then paste them into this randomiser tool. Press random (a couple of times, if you enjoy the ritual of this), then copy and paste back them over the original tracks.
3. Take the top 64 tracks, cut and paste them into the Mincer playlist.
4. Repeat step 2 for this smaller playlist.
5. Play the tracks (with shuffle turned off).
6. After each pair of tracks, decide which you'd rather hear again, and delete the other.
7. Repeat until the end of the playlist (you can do this in bursts, as long as they are even-numbered bursts), leaving the 'winning' 32 tracks.
(Here's where I've been going wrong. Remaining steps courtesy of Ewing's original post:
8. Randomise again.
9. Play (no skipping allowed).
10. Go through the shortened playlist until you have 16 tracks.
11. Add another 48 tracks to the playlist.
12. Repeat.)

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.