Have you heard anything good lately? This is a serious question. For music lovers, there has never been a greater premium on a decent recommendation. I’m part of a monthly “Album Club” in which a group of men – okay, bald, middle aged – get together and listen to a record. The problem isn’t picking classics from the past, it’s finding something for the future.
Yet there has never been more new music at your fingertips. Services like Spotify and Apple Music mean your new favorite band is probably already sitting there on your phone, just waiting to dazzle. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Billboard 200, America’s singles charts, featured about 500 different artists per year; 30,000 new albums would be released every 12 months.
By 2015, these two figures had doubled. Now, in an age when anyone with an Internet connection can “drop” a song or album, new music is spouting out like a spur of the moment. In February of this year, as part of Spotify’s “Stream On” event, the company proudly announced that more than 60,000 new songs are now ingested by its platform every day. That’s 22 million songs a year or a new single every 1.4 seconds.
There are over 8 million of what Spotify calls “creators” on its system, up from 5 million in 2018. “I think by 2025 we could have up to 50 million creators on our platform, including art is enjoyed by a billion users around the world, ”said Spotify founder Daniel Ek. “It’s not a prediction or a goal: it’s really both a challenge and a great opportunity.”
To me that sounds like a threat. If the amount of music uploaded to Spotify increases as the number of “creators” on Spotify increases, by 2025, around 375,000 new songs will be released every day. That’s around 137 million new songs every year. Note: there are approximately 38 million minutes in the average human life, including sleep. Spiral numbers are the kind of thing that might make you want to give up on finding that awesome new band – with such a big haystack, who would be a Needle Seeker? Music lovers need help.
Thirty years ago, help came from friends, but mostly from the radio. When I was a teenager John Peel was Britain’s quintessential music curator, with his live sessions and nightly twists and turns, but there were plenty of other box diggers to help separate the wheat from the chaff. . I had shoeboxes full of C90 tapes from Pete Tong’s Essential Selection (note the title) and Tim Westwood’s Rap Show. Jo Whiley, Steve Lamacq, Mark Radcliffe, and later Annie Mac all served as filters and champions, and when they started posting Radio 1 playlists to dance magazines was defining for me. Listen to the track, identify the track, buy the track. Then, impress your friends with the depth and diversity of musical knowledge and a vast collection of records. There was a cache in being the person who introduced so and so to what was to become his next obsession, as if you had put him in touch with a keeper.