When I was a child, my father always complained of a problem both my brother and I had; The Problem of Plenty. It was a generation problem in his books he said because we had access to so many things, we wanted everything. He was always right about many of his strange concepts, especially this one. Even more so now whenever we have a conversation about music discovery.
I went to Berklee Valencia last year. There, my Econ professor spoke about the consequent problem called ‘Paradox of Choice.’ Barry Schwartz, an American psychologist, has written a book about this same paradox which in simple words, explains that a large number of choices cause the feeling of less happiness and less satisfaction.
Let’s take this further, you log onto YouTube, where a number of videos added per day on average require 7 years of continuous watching to be fully consumed. What do you pick out to watch? Everyone who thinks they know exactly what they want to see, what if there is something out there that will interesting YOU more? You just don’t know about it. None of the algorithms took you there.
The internet is so wide, you don’t know what you want to know anymore.
‘Problem of Plenty,’ that’s what my father spoke of many years ago. Being in the IT industry, he warned us back then it would create a problem for the future. But who listens to fathers at that age?
The internet and technology are going full throttle on the path of innovation. Five-year-olds can now operate a smartphone better than you could at twenty. This means two things; things are getting easier and humans are getting smarter.
The music industry today is practically digital. We’ve gone from vinyl, to cassettes, to CD’s, to digital downloads and now to streaming. With this current trend of digital music and streaming, many more people have access to much more music, and all this for a much cheaper price than before. Consequently, this problem of plenty leads to the paradox of choice.
Now, there is a fashionable word going around, “curation.” There are probably many more specific definitions to this but in my dictionary, curation is to take in a bulk of information on a specific topic and present the best of the lot.
When you log into Spotify or Soundcloud wanting to find new music, there is a whole multiverse of options for you, where do you begin? This is why all these applications started writing algorithms to help find suggestions for you, along the lines of something like the Spotify ‘Weekly Playlists’, that is curated specifically based on your consumption. Simultaneously, they’ve started giving importance to the people who create interesting playlists and attract a large number of people. Some of these people have now become influencers in music, they’ve helped artists and bands get a new kind of organic reach to a completely new wave of fans.
Did you know? A playlist curator is, in fact, a full-time job for people whose playlists attract a decent number? Another great thing about being a curator or finding the right one for yourself is that you then find someone who has a similar taste in music as you and most often has a similar personality to you as well. These people are exposed to a set of genres that you like but might not be exposed to, and you might subsequently be able to offer the same. Thus, playlists can act as a conversation between people with similar tastes, just by sharing music.
Further, playlists push you into a set direction. 20 songs from 20 different artists – You may like 5 and go on to explore the those. At the end of it, you might have 3 new artists that fit perfectly into your personal collection. Thus, Playlists set you in this direction where finding new music is just, simpler. Sometimes, you find these artists on other playlists and look, you made another friend.
You might agree, this is like hitting many pigeons with the same stone.
Now, after saying all this. I look back at The Melomaniac Society group where I have discovered more music in the past than I have been able to share. I see some amazing people with unique tastes, sharing music passionately. Think about it: Why not start making your own public playlists and be a tastemaker in the world suffering from ‘the paradox of choice’. If you ask me, I say let’s make The Melomaniac Society ‘THE TasteMaking Society ‘, at least in India. Show people what you love, let them love it with you and help a few artists in the process as well.
What’s stopping you? Make your taste matter, be a tastemaker.