The changes that drive social media will soon drive music


#1

For the last several decades musicians and record labels made their money in two main ways:

  1. Selling albums
  2. Selling concert tickets

People still go to concerts but very few people buy albums anymore. Everything is streamed online through services like Spotify or Apple music. This changes the model to be one focused on quantity. The more times someone streams a song the more money record labels and artists make. Earlier, once someone bought an album the money they made was the same regardless of if you listented to it once or a thousand times.

What’s happening now is that songs are being engineered like social media apps to be addictive.

Smash hits like Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off”, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you”, and Justin Biebers “Despacito” are designed to be as stimulating as possible to our brains so that they release our favorite neurotransmitter : dopamine.

Thankfully this is worst in Pop Music as that’s where most of the resources are concentrated. Independent musicians don’t have the financial resources to put behind engineering tracks. Either way, I’ve decided to take a break from music to see if I notice any changes. When i do go back I’ll probably stick with classics like Bob Dylan and classical piano Ludovico Einaudi.


My NoSurf Journey
#2

Just an addition, the recommender system is also making this worse, as you are given random tracks that may or may not be to your liking. I’d just say, it is better if you don’t try to ask for recommendation from such engine, and discover your music through buying physical CD (more barrier for action), if you don’t have tracks that you can just listen again and again. Also I’d recommend to read the book “in the realm of hungry ghost by gabor mate” before you do this. Make sure you’re aware that this can turn into behavioral addiction.


#3

Very insightful thread! Looking back at my past Spotify habits, I can totally draw parallels to my past surfing habits. I would fire up the weekly playlists they would recommend for me, and spend an hour skipping through the first minute of a each of the ~30-50 songs to find the 2-3 songs I actually liked off of the list. Then I would proceed to binge those 2-3 songs on auto-repeat until I got next week’s list.

The crazy thing is that through the years I found it would take longer and longer to get bored of the songs I was listening to. I must have listened to “Unforgettable” by French Montana no less than 300 times, which makes me totally buy that the music we listen to today is getting more and more addictive. Artists, sound engineers, and producers have all of the financial incentive in the world to understand on a deep and fundamental level the kind of music makes us tick, and then to capitalize on that knowledge.

What is interesting to me is that the changes in my Spotify use were gradual, just like with the internet. I didn’t start out using Spotify in a compulsive way. In the beginning I would actually listen to songs all the way through, and had a much more varied selection of what I would listen to on a weekly basis. I would search and discover way less, and in the beginning there were less recommendations. But over time, my brain learned that switching between tracks and seeking for the ultimate reward of that next incredible song was a reliable source of dopamine. Very similar to scrolling the mouse wheel on reddit, searching for that next great thread.

I’ve actually quit Spotify since, and I haven’t listened to music on a regular basis in 8 months. What I mean by that is I no longer use music as background noise throughout my day performing various tasks, and instead make it more of a dedicated event. One thing I’ve noticed is that now when I listen to music I actually really enjoy it. Very different from the kind of enjoyment I had back then, which I realize now was more enjoyment of the stimulation that the music provided, rather than an enjoyment of the music itself. Kind of tough to put into words, but before it was kind of a shallow instant-gratification type enjoyment vs. now when I take the time to actually sit down, close my eyes, and listen to a beautiful piece of music, it’s a fulfilling experience that leaves me satisfied and appreciative as opposed to hungry for more.


#4

I agree with this so much! I’ve recently really tried to commit to listening to music as an activity, instead of having it on while doing mindless stuff. I still occasionally let it run in the background (also because we have the radio running at work), but even just resisting a few times and really just sitting there enjoying the music has made a difference. :slight_smile:

Also thanks, now I finally know that song name I’ve been meaning to search for!


#5

This is basically why I stopped listening to music by and large. Only occasionally I re-listen some of my fav songs, and very rarely I accidentally stumble upon a new song. I never actively search for new music and never use my headphones outside of my home.
That said, I myself am a musician and composer.


#6

Apparently a lot of people are feeling the same way about music in general and going back to vinyl records. I kind of want to get a turntable and go back to physical media because at some point it “ends”. There’s only so much music I can listen to. I also feel like I don’t get the true “feel” of an album unless I listen to it several times. Things like spotify and youtube because you only listen to singles which really incentivizes artists to make a catchy single.

Since I’ve been listenting to albums the analogy I’ve come up with is that a playlist full of singles feels a bit like going to the a nice restaurant and ordering a bunch of meals where finishing an album is like a full 3 course meal.

There’s also a part of me that want’s to experience a fully analog life. Is that gonna be the new hipster thing to do?

I’m probably going to grab something like this eventually:


#7

Okay, I have to be honest: Since seeing this thread, I’ve been questioning music much more.

At first I thought the accusation of music being engineered to be more addictive sounds tinfoil-y, but after thinking about it, it kind of makes sense. So much about sounds and the interaction with the brain that we know through science by now, it does sound plausible that music is at least using those findings to cause a particularly immersive or satisfying experience leaving you wanting more.

Since you made me question that, I’ve also noticed that 99% of people around me in buses and trains wear headphones, and observing that made me question if it’s the internet’s constant stimulation that caused this or if music is really getting kind of addictive. You know, of course public transport isn’t nice, and I think it wasn’t ever super interesting so people have always done other things on it (like reading newspapers and books); but I do think when our brains are constantly bombarded by things online and offline via advertisements etc, it can feel even more unsatisfying to ride a bus or train in silence with nothing to do and the brain craves stimulation to counter that. Also, Social Media is already very immersive and using all of our senses, so I guess adding music to the mix is really isolating us from the uncomfortable outside world while using the public transport system and other situations where we’d rather not be present. Situations we’d wanna skip. Sometimes rightfully, sometimes because our brains crave stimulation and instant gratification so much that our patience or our appreciation for waiting and pauses ceases.

The way we use social media and/or music really reminds me of dissociation oftentimes. I did struggle with that in the past; this detachment from reality, or feeling like I’m watching a movie instead of living (like taking a backseat), or seeing myself from above, or walking somewhere on autopilot dissociated and not remembering how I got there. I feel like the way we use music and in connection, social media, is really a kind of escapism from uncomfortable experiences. While the brain starts it in more serious stuff, we can now toggle it with our devices so we don’t have to consciously be aware and live through the daily uncomfortable situations like smelling strangers’ sweat next to you on the bus. The problem seems of course to be that it’s taking over a lot of our daily time, not just uncomfortable situations, so that a day doesn’t even feel lived.

But all of that makes me question if music is headed for a much bigger role because it is used in advertisement, YouTube videos, musical.ly, instagram and Snapchat stories, videos shared on Facebook, and seems to be the daily companion to excessive social media use in public to really not be aware of your surroundings anymore, to willingly dissociate.


#8

[QUOTE=“anthymn, post: 229, member: 20”]Okay, I have to be honest: Since seeing this thread, I’ve been questioning music much more.

At first I thought the accusation of music being engineered to be more addictive sounds tinfoil-y, but after thinking about it, it kind of makes sense. So much about sounds and the interaction with the brain that we know through science by now, it does sound plausible that music is at least using those findings to cause a particularly immersive or satisfying experience leaving you wanting more.

Since you made me question that, I’ve also noticed that 99% of people around me in buses and trains wear headphones, and observing that made me question if it’s the internet’s constant stimulation that caused this or if music is really getting kind of addictive. You know, of course public transport isn’t nice, and I think it wasn’t ever super interesting so people have always done other things on it (like reading newspapers and books); but I do think when our brains are constantly bombarded by things online and offline via advertisements etc, it can feel even more unsatisfying to ride a bus or train in silence with nothing to do and the brain craves stimulation to counter that. Also, Social Media is already very immersive and using all of our senses, so I guess adding music to the mix is really isolating us from the uncomfortable outside world while using the public transport system and other situations where we’d rather not be present. Situations we’d wanna skip. Sometimes rightfully, sometimes because our brains crave stimulation and instant gratification so much that our patience or our appreciation for waiting and pauses ceases.

The way we use social media and/or music really reminds me of dissociation oftentimes. I did struggle with that in the past; this detachment from reality, or feeling like I’m watching a movie instead of living (like taking a backseat), or seeing myself from above, or walking somewhere on autopilot dissociated and not remembering how I got there. I feel like the way we use music and in connection, social media, is really a kind of escapism from uncomfortable experiences. While the brain starts it in more serious stuff, we can now toggle it with our devices so we don’t have to consciously be aware and live through the daily uncomfortable situations like smelling strangers’ sweat next to you on the bus. The problem seems of course to be that it’s taking over a lot of our daily time, not just uncomfortable situations, so that a day doesn’t even feel lived.

But all of that makes me question if music is headed for a much bigger role because it is used in advertisement, YouTube videos, musical.ly, instagram and Snapchat stories, videos shared on Facebook, and seems to be the daily companion to excessive social media use in public to really not be aware of your surroundings anymore, to willingly dissociate.[/QUOTE]

I think it’s somewhat related to processed food in the sense that something natural that made us feel good was pushed to it’s limit by technology. With food, a lot of people don’t know to the extend it’s engineered to make it light up our taste buds and in turn our brain. Most people think of how food companies work in romantic terms like children being asked to taste ice cream and then rate it. Those days are long over. Now children are being placed into fMRI machines and the precise point of taste maximization is discovered in their brain and plotted by engineers so the minimum amount of ingredients (sugar, salt etc.) can be used to achieve that taste point.

Just some proof that this isn’t just my tin foil hat talking haha:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/16/459981099/how-the-food-industry-helps-engineer-our-cravings

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html

It only seems natural that the same forces the drove these changes would now be applied to music. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the same engineers who worked in the food industry and discovered the “bliss point” for food (point where food tastes best) now discover one for music as well.

Also start to notice how frequently music is played around you. Sports games, bars, coffee shops, dentists offices, everywhere. People can’t really deal with silence anymore.


#9

Man I don’t think I realized I had a problem until today. Whenever I’m using a computer I have spotify open and blasting some random song playing in the background, even while I’m typing this. If I give up Spotfify, listening to new music will be near impossible. Hell, I love music. I play guitar, too.

I kinda have tinnitus though, maybe it’s cause spotify is constantly blaring in my ears.


#10

Is your tinnitus strong? I have tinnitus from army shootings. It was unbearable at first but now I just barely notice it, though it’s still there.


#11

It was strong as hell the night I posted that, but after I went to bed it went back to normal where I barely notice it.


#12

How do I know which songs are made to be listened over and over again, designed to be addictive, and which songs are actually just for me to enjoy? I’d like to know so I can rethink my music-listening habits and the kind of music I listen to. I’d lik to know if I’m listening to a specific song because I enjoy or if it was made with the purpose of having people listening on repeat


#13

Good question. If i’m being honest I don’t know, there’s no way to be 100% sure without asking the people responsible for making the music. Without that we can only guess.

In general, I think as long as you avoid any music that’s very mainstream and popular you should be fine. Any artist/song that’s considered “pop music” should be avoid. Also if somethings on the Billboard top 100 or getting a lot of airplay on radio stations you can bet it’s been engineered to be popular.

Most of the music that’s from an older era should be fine. 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s. Probably once 90’s and onward is when you should be wary. Right now I’m listening to Michael Kiwanuka, Lights (she’s pop but I only listen to her acoustic albums), Bob Dylan, Ludovico Einaudi, Florence + The Machine.

One way is to pay careful attention and see if you like the song because there’s substance to it or if you’re enjoying it because it stimulates your senses unnaturally. A good analogy is with food. I like steak and roasted potatoes. It tastes great and is a wholesome meal. I also like the tastes of McDonald’s cheeseburgers. But the latter leave me feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled after. I feel kind of “dirty” internally after eating junk food even though it tastes great. I think processed music would have the same effect mentally.


#14

There is a predictable pattern to certain mainstreams song that enjoy a lot of airplay.

In general a lilting autotuned hook, with repetitive drum heats seems to be the framework that can make any song addictive. Whether this is intentional or not remains to be seen as perhaps it can be just a result of what is currently in fashion with the current taste people have for music.

Some examples of a repeated pattern in music:

“White Iverson” by Post Malone
“Delicate” by Taylor Swift
“Unforgettable” by French Montana as mentioned by @stdin_stdout_stderr
“Love” by Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari

(probably a few more that follow this exact pattern).


#15

months later, but it’s an interesting topic.

…remember that music (especially pop) has always been constructed to be addictive, it’s just that the design for addiction has become more effective.

Another angle to this that I have hit is the short-term payoff to it all, not unlike a slot machine. I’ll find myself getting on youtube, banging through some old jazz performances (a real God-send in some ways), listen to the head & a chorus or two, get bored, go to the next tune. As a player, I can excuse this as ‘research’, but it’s really more a sign of web-borne mental failings I think.

Listening to a complete song becomes as much work as reading a weighty tome.


#16

So since making this thread I’ve pretty much stopped listening to most mainstream music. In the past I mostly consumed Hip Hop and EDM. I went several periods where I cut out music entirely and then came back to listen to it occasionally here and there.

An interesting thing has happened: I really like classical music now. I listen to it on the Pandora station all the time. I remember finding it really dull and boring when I was younger.

I can’t help but think that music I listened to (most of it crap) was having some effect on my brain that prevented me from truly experiencing really, really high quality music.


#17

I have to agree with you. I too stopped listening to nowadays pop and EDM and now I listen to old songs, ranging from 30s to 80s (not 90s and later), mainly Traditional Pop, Soul, Pop (the old ones) and R&B, but I listen to other genres as well (not Rock tough, and not any post 90s song).

Never before have I thought I’d one day be listening to this. It’s not a huge amount of songs, I usually add more songs every once and a while, but I like it. Nowadays music was helpful because I looked up samples from some songs I now to get started on genres I knew very little, so some songs I listen to are similar to some nowadays music but better.

Also, I learned about the “Millennial Whoop”, a pattern used in most songs nowadays so the songs sounds familiar: https://youtu.be/MN23lFKfpck


#18

Its funny that I logged in today and came across this thread.I wish I had seen it earlier.I’m on a similar page,I was even a part of the twitter fandom thing(twitter stan community,can write a whole page about my experience lol glad I’m over that phase)and I believe I wasted some good amount of time on there.I’ve been a die hard fan on Eminem since my school days,but its time to take a step back.