Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two ways of listening to music

It seems to me that there are two ways that people listen to music.

Some people listen to their music usually on shuffle. They also pick songs they are in the mood for to play, or to add to a new playlist. They will often buy new music as individual tracks. When buying an album, they tend to listen to the singles first.

Other people listen to their music by album. They listen to whole albums at a time and rarely skip tracks. They almost exclusively buy new music as albums, and will listen to the whole album through many times when it is new.

This isn’t a hard and fast duality, and I am sure there are people between these two extremes. I myself am much more like the second type, though I do also have a playlist of all my favourite songs which I listen to on shuffle sometimes. But in general, I listen to music as albums. For me, there are several reasons for this:

1. If I listened to music on shuffle, I would face two problems:
a. Most song transitions would frustrate me (e.g. Linkin Park into Enya, or Tim Hughes into Foo Fighters, or Holst into Anberlin).
b. I would be far too tempted to spend all my time sifting through and picking songs to listen to, which would be a waste of time.
2. The whole of an album is often greater than the sum of its parts. It is only possible to understand what an album is really about by listening to the whole thing.
3. Artists construct albums as albums, not as individual songs. It seems to me slightly insulting to the artists to effectively pick and choose parts of albums to listen to. I can’t explain this point very well, but it does seem a bit rude.

This is not to say that the second way of listening to music is necessarily any better or more valid than the first, but it’s a bit of an explanation of why I listen to music in the way that I do.


Anonymous said...

I'm so with you on the listen to an album as a whole piece of music thing.

There are some albums that are much more an album of singles but often the bands really do put thought into whole to arrange the album to transition from one song into another. So, when I'm listening to my music on computer on or iTunes I listen to whole albums.

I found though that on Spotify I vary that, sometimes listening to whole albums but have also created a playlist of individual tracks I really like. Still, I've spent time arranging them so that even though they're pretty diverse there's a nice progression between tracks.

I did a bit of research about ipod usage in Durham Bus Station (of all things) and found that those who shuffle really like the suprise of the way that tracks are juxtaposed but tend to have a narrower band of music with which they shuffle to ensure that they still have control over the mode range of the music.

James Doc said...

Completely agree with you Ben, the track order of and album is really important to me, and then to shuffle that would be problematic at best.

Also to shuffle albums like Cities or Glo would just be sacrilege.