Spotify and our listening habits

Christmas is nearly here and with all the hullabaloo about shopping and gorging ourselves on mince pies we must also take time to reflect on 2018.

What kind of a year did we have? Where were the ups and down? Luckily, if you’re like me and last January seems like a decade ago, Spotify’s 2018 personal playlist wrapped is really insightful.

Every year Spotify creates a playlist for all of its premium users of their most listened to songs from that year. What’s really interesting, is that they’ve now started breaking down your data from the last year; in what the call “Spotify Wrapped.”


Now, 14,000 odd minutes of listening is by no means an extraordinary amount of listening from what I hear. One friend told me theirs was over 30,000 minutes – while another said she was into the 50,000-minute realm. She did mention, however that she just had music playing in the background constantly and so, she wasn’t necessarily actively listening all the time.

These playlists are funny because they have the power to bring us back in time to a seemingly insignificant moment. The first song I played in 2018 was “Proserpina,” by Martha Wainright. Now, I had never heard of this song before and it appeared on one of my weekly playlists, but the fact that it appeared on New Year’s Day (when I was a bit tender from the previous night’s jubilation) meant I played it several times that day.

I can’t describe the shock and confusion I felt when I read that stat. I was immediately transported back to by parent’s house on January 1st. This made me examine the rest of my list more closely and look for links between what I had listened to and what I was doing or interested in in 2018.


Some of the songs and artists on the above list are just related to me going to a Glen Hansard or Artic Monkeys concert. I’m more interested in the inclusion of “His Master’s Voice” in my list of most played song. This song – by Monsters of Folk – appeared in the soundtrack to hit film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. I’m less surprised by the inclusion of NWA, as I do remember listening to their Straight of Compton album a lot. What I’m more interested in is why I was listening to these tracks?

Simply put, it’s because of the Defiant Ones – the 2018 documentary about music producer Jimmy Irvine and former NWA member Dr Dre. I hadn’t thought about this documentary since I first watched it. I really liked it but I wasn’t bowled over by it. It wasn’t like I had been telling everyone to watch it for the last year. It was the moment I saw NWA on the list I made the connection.


I had a similar epiphany (if you can call it that) with “His Master’s Voice.” The soundtrack to Three Billboards had a lot of country music. Now I have always said I don’t do country music. But what I think I really have a problem with is Irish country music covers. The inclusion of this song and Willie Nelson on my top artists means I can no longer live in denial.     //

When I started writing this, I began thinking about the way we consume music now. When I was younger I would go through phases. I remember loving Queen and then the Dubliners at one stage. I would buy CDs or burn a copy of a friends. When I got a little older and started going to nightclubs I began listening to a lot of mainstream house music.

Artist like DeadMaus or Avicci were becoming popular at this time. Years later if you asked me if I liked house music I would scoff; as the world and me turn hopefully hipster-esque.

The above picture of Solomun, the German house DJ, is just one example of the way Spotify playlists can help you find new music and reconnect with genres you may have left in the past. The discover weekly playlist Spotify provide to its users is a way I’ve found new music over the past few years. It’s something I’ve become very protective of. I wouldn’t let someone else use my account for fear the listening habits would mess with my algorithm.

The only problem is, as with newsfeeds on Twitter and Facebook the types of music Spotify is throwing back at me now is becoming homogenised. My 2017 and 2018 most listened to playlists had a lot of the same tracks on them.

I know this is my fault too. I became to reliant on the technology. I used to read the “Ticket,” in the Irish Times at the weekend to see what the album reviews were like; now I never do. The last time I looked, this section of the magazine had become significantly smaller.

It’s great to have this facility to listen to almost any song at the touch of button. I do wonder though, if having to read about an album and research it before spending your pocket money on it made you appreciate it more. I started to wonder if I’m becoming like my friend, playing tens of thousands of hours of music just to block out the sound of the bus.

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