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Thread: Listening Habits

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    Listening Habits

    Between late 2008 and early 2009, thanks to suddenly making more money than I ever previously had, a suggestion from the shrink I was seeing to pick up a habit unrelated to alcohol (I chose collecting vinyl), and an exponential increase in both hard disk space and time spent in front of a listening device which contained my entire music library, I started buying a lot more albums every year. Like triple what I'd previously purchased. In 2009, I picked up over fifty new albums I'd never before listened to. That was a lot while working 70 hours a week, going to grad school, and trying to maintain a relationship.

    Within six months, I realized I was treating every album like it was a McDonald's product—in and out quickly, with little thought, and I'd only return to it if something immediately stuck and stuck hard; even then sometimes not because there was too much new to deal with. I found people would ask me whether I'd heard something and I'd say I had, but then I'd have no distinct recollection of anything about it. I couldn't say much substantive. As a teenager, after I first got serious about music, I was always proud to have memorized in order the titles of every track on every album in my collection; to have memorized the lyrics of every song by every artist I considered Top Tier.

    This was before home internet, so for some bands I was into, I sat and transcribed all the lyrics by ear on a series of index cards and filed them alphabetically in separate plastic boxes for easy access. I remember writing out the lyrics to the fast parts in "Gave Up" and "Ruiner" over and over to be sure I got them right while my friend sat across the room playing Wolfenstein 3D; they were the last two I needed to learn. Ironically, I didn't take notes in school.

    Obviously, as an adult, I don't have quite the same amount of time or intellectual/emotional energy to invest in listening that I did when I was fourteen—I'd need another six hours in the day. And even if I did, as someone who's always been pretty into exploring new music, every year I find at least one or two artists with whom I'd like to keep up and, well, over twenty-five years, you do the math. There's just too much.

    So, back then, I established some very baseline rules for what I expose myself to. I gatekeep myself hard, for starters; I don't stream music because the list of what I maybe might want to check out immediately becomes endless, which bothers me so much that I start to frantically move through it, and it turns into a frenzied McMusic situation all over again. I had to accept early on that I will never get to everything awesome much less all the "maybe might be intos."

    With the exception of maybe 30 individual tracks a year (usually one-offs from either artists who only have a few songs out, old nostalgia joints, or things I know are exceptions in an artists career and therefore don't warrant extra exploration), I only buy whole albums. Each album gets a guaranteed minimum of five attentive and undistracted listens—not like a spin in the background while I'm doing something much more consuming. And the fourth or fifth listen I spend reading along with the lyrics (if there are any); Genius has made this part much easier. I try to keep my ratio of new music purchases to about 80:20—current year:anything older—if only because I don't ever want to be the person who thinks art died when he/she/they were twenty-nine. Even so, I've got a running list of about 10-15 albums in my queue at all times (which I'd do just about anything to catch up with I have yet to, for instance, listen to Reznor & Ross' Waves).

    Still, I'm having some problems with my approach and I'm not sure which or how many I can rectify. I often feel a little overwhelmed by everything out there. I want to appreciate every new record I buy—even the ones I don't end up liking are worth spending some time with—and I don't want to do anything that turns new music into McDonald's product, but I'd like to be able to check out more because it feels like I don't have enough time. And as I get older, I realize I remember less and less of every year (thanks, monotonous and disinteresting jobs to which we sell our consciousness and labor for at least a third of every day!). A favorite novelist once wrote that memory is like a pitcher of water and, by the time you're eighteen, it's half-full. I was twenty-three when I read it and thought it was bullshit. I am just forty now and terrified by how true it seems to be. I've been wondering if I should alter my approach.

    So.

    The broad question is this:what's your listening process? How do you handle new music? But here are a few guideline questions which I'd love to see broken out in your answers by number (selfish reasons only: I feel like it will be easier for me to process them). Question zero kinda sets the tone for me—I probably have little in common with primarily streaming/playlist/individual track listeners—but I'm still interested. And no, I don't expect anyone to have exact numbers though, as you might have guessed even without looking ahead, I absolutely do. I just want to hear from other people.


    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.
    Last edited by Sesquipedalism; 09-21-2020 at 03:00 AM.

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    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    In 2020, I have acquired 395 new songs, 39 of them are stray tracks. So about 9%.

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    2020: 33
    2019: 28
    2018: 28
    2017: 42

    Looks like my average is about 33 new albums a year.

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    2020: 09/33 or 27%
    2019: 11/28 or 39%
    2018: 13/28 or 46%
    2017: 14/42 or 33%

    Looks like it's about 12 or 36% of my new purchases every year are by unfamiliar artists.

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    2020: 20/33 or 61%
    2019: 27/28 or 96%
    2018: 24/28 or 86%
    2017: 33/42 or 79%

    Looks like my average is somewhere around 82% every year, so I guess I'm sticking near my goal. Good to know.

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    Every album, regardless of how bad it is, gets five undistracted listens. The number of listens might go up, but it can't go below five. Sometimes, of I don't really like something and I've already given it a fifth spin, it'll get a sixth spin if someone I really trust insists it's good or if I just don't know what to do next. This has, in a few cases, led to drastically altered receptions.

    The most memorable was in 2010, when I was working a bunch of back-to-back 80 hour weeks, when I got to spin five of Local Natives' Gorilla Manor and was bored by it, though didn't dislike it. I couldn't decide what to buy next and was too harried to really think of an old favorite to put on instead. It just kept playing. And by listen ten I was totally into it. By listen fifteen, I wasn't convinced it wouldn't win my Album of the Year.

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    Less often than I want to. This year, thanks to lockdown and unemployment, I did it a lot and found I should probably do it more. There are albums in my collection to which I've given four or five stars that I haven't returned to in years. That seems dumb. That aside, there are also things that I found just okay which I feel like maybe didn't get the best shake from me that I'd like to go back to again.

    I was a massive Grizzly Bear fan, for instance. When I got 2017's Painted Ruins, I wasn't really in the headspace for something that sounded like that, but I listened anyways. I listened extra as an attempt to make up for my interest deficit. I never warmed to it. Right now, I couldn't name a track on it. "Painted Ute"? Was that one? I remember the first song came from aborted recording sessions in Marfa and the rest of the album did not and it very much showed. None of it was bad, I'm not sure any of it was particularly good, but the point is, I don't really remember. And I wish I did. This is a band I really like. I feel I owe them that. But tick, tick, tick...

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    In general, I find it hard to justify doing this because there's always so much new stuff I want to do and which has unlimited potential to impress me. This seems like betting on a losing horse but, in a perfect world, I'd want more time for it anyways.

    Again, this year's unfortunate circumstances led me to do this a few times—primarily with Marilyn Manson. It proved interesting, though not really fruitful, which is to say my mind didn't change about anything except one track. The other old stuff by other artists which I hadn't been into was as I'd left it: disinteresting or distasteful to me.

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.

    It really depends on how much I liked them and, perhaps not at all oddly, when I fell in love. I'll probably never stop picking up Marilyn Manson records, for instance, despite his thing not really being my thing for about sixteen years. But I fell in love when a band was still a thing you could live your life inside and, despite not being terribly interested or impressed of late, despite wanting to stop after all of the allegations, I still listened to the new one. More than the minimum requirement, though I wasn't particularly into it.

    I keep buying Decemberists and Death Cab records despite the last time I was really into either one being during Obama's first term. I finally quit Iron & Wine after three albums that didn't do shit for me, one that was just okay, and two (and a half) in a row that were life-shaking. Shepherd's Dog is one of my Desert Island Discs.

    Baseline?: I guess if I ever put a substantial emotional investment in a performer, they get three to four disappointing-to-utterly-disinteresting releases before I start to really check out. If I bought one album by someone and really liked it and they released another, I'd probably buy it. But if it did nothing for me and, in my opinion, showed no promise, I probably wouldn't move on to another.
    Last edited by Sesquipedalism; 09-21-2020 at 03:02 AM. Reason: I forgot to answer my own questions.

  3. #3
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    Your OCD is definitely as bad as mine is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erneuert View Post
    Your OCD is definitely as bad as mine is.
    I’m more intensely organized and methodical in certain ways; I don’t think I actually cross into Obsessive or Compulsive, as I can let go of stuff at a level which allows me to function. I do happen to keep track of a lot of strange data though, and have the wherewithal/patience/curiosity to calculate it, which allows me to be the kind of precise in situations like this that may make me look a lot more crazy than I am.

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    0. albums 95%
    1. 3? depends on what my approved artists release :^)
    2. zero or one
    3. 0? :-)
    4. I buy = it's always good from approved artists. :-) Abandon... I remember trying U2's new album and it sounded terrible -> U2 removed from approved artists.
    5. screened? this is too complicated, I give up on this topic. ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.
    0. Albums 99%/100% (the 1% variable is if I'm buying a track just to use on mixtape and I'm already familiar with it)
    1. 2019 I purchased ~98 records and a smattering to digital releases (maybe bumping me to like 115 in total)... this year is different since I've been collecting albums for a project for someone else, but they aren't things I'd normally chose.. so while I've picked up 30 or so for myself, I've picked up another 45 for this project. And then there's Covid to think about this year... I'm not browsing stores in-person.
    2. I don't make a point of counting... but if an album catches my eye and is within my budget I'll give it a go (I can think of 4 off the top of my head from last year)
    3. I don't. I pay attention to a few labels/bands/artists via Twitter and sometimes things on these forums will look cool, so I'll check them out.
    4. Once. Initially. At that point I can tell if is grabs me in some way that I want to explore further... if not, I just let it go to a second hand shop that a friend of mine runs. If I don't like an album, I consider the sticker price to be the price of admission to check out the new "ride". If something grabs me (and I'm pretty flexible on what I like), then I've already added it to my digital archive and can access it whenever I want to check it more (I encode every new purchase right away).
    5. Often. Usually when I'm trying to select tracks for a mix I'm working on or when I'm streaming the audio out to the internet for others... rarely do I take the time for myself by myself... but I did pick up some nicer headphone last year so I have been doing it more...
    6. Depends on how clear my memory of the album is... but hardly ever. I don't keep them around... I'm harsh that way.
    7. When they sound boring to my ears. And then maybe once more to see if I still trust them... but unless where a big shake up in the sound (and I hear about it, that's important... if I stop paying attention to a band/artist I really stop paying attention), then I might check it out if I remember.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.
    Great topic!

    0. 95% albums, 5% individual tracks. These individual tracks are usually ones I stumble on when watching TV, or listening to artist mixes on Spotify (for example ďDavid Bowie RadioĒ, which will play stuff by said artist, plus tangentially related tunes).

    1. 2020 - 18 so far.
    2019 - 22
    2018 - 28
    I have statistics going back further, but will leave it there. I also havenít counted EPs, love albums, compilations, etc. Just albums.

    2. 2020 - 6/18
    2019 - 13/22
    2018 - 13/28

    3. 2020 - 2/22
    2019 - 1/18
    2018 - 2/28
    I guess this is evidence that for me, I really donít have my finger on any sort of contemporary pulse.

    4. 8 listens, uninterrupted, without distraction, per release. Listens 1 through 3 I listen actively and take notes. 4 through 6 I do an analysis on the mix. 7 I analyse lyrics. 8 I settle on an opinion. I then put the release aside for some time, before revisiting it in the coming weeks, often in a less-controlled environment (e.g. car, instead of headphones).

    5. At times, when I listen to an artist with whom Iím already familiar, I will preface the new release with a revisit of prior releases.

    6. Rarely. Unless it is part of an artist re-visit, prior to the release of a new album.

    7. I have found it difficult to stay in touch with artists with whom Iíve fallen out of love. Simply by virtue of the fact that there is so much to listen to, and I listen to so few releases as it is.

    I have stats going back further than 2018, but will leave it there. A background in statistical analysis, audio engineering and a current role in a Library makes for a particular approach to hobbies like this. Itís rigid as fuck, but works for me.
    Last edited by muad'nin; 09-21-2020 at 06:32 AM. Reason: Missed one!

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    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?
    90:10 (albums:single tracks)

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?
    Hard to say. A lot. Whenever I discover a new artist I will work my way back.

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?
    Idk. About 30?

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?
    Not too much. I check for new releases by bands I follow. Very rarely I screen music outlets for the newest "best new music". It's about listening to music I like, not about to know every music that's released.

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?
    At this point I've got a lot of trust in my ears, my taste in music. So... on a first listen I'll know whether something is for me or not. If it is, I'll keep going back to it, buy it, burn it, listen to it in the car, etc.

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?
    Often. I go back to albums depending on my mood, nostalgia, reading about the artist, etc.

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?
    Whenever I revisit an artists work, usually sparked by a release I dig (of the same artist). Then it becomes "was that album really that bad?"... but I feel pretty free about erasing songs from a sequence while adding in others that were left off the album, but appeared on a single as a b-side or something. I'll executive produce albums to make 'em better suite my tastes.

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.
    Whenever I most likely won't like a new album or I moved on from a certain sound and/or genre.

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    This is an interesting idea for a thread. Thanks to Last.fm and my listmaking habits I should be able to answer some of these questions. It will take some time though... And probably a real computer to work with, not just my mobile phone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    4. 8 listens, uninterrupted, without distraction, per release. Listens 1 through 3 I listen actively and take notes. 4 through 6 I do an analysis on the mix. 7 I analyse lyrics. 8 I settle on an opinion. I then put the release aside for some time, before revisiting it in the coming weeks, often in a less-controlled environment (e.g. car, instead of headphones).
    Whoa. Someone with a serious routine. This makes me happy. And also looks like something I can't imagine having the time for. Was 28 new albums in 2018 high for you? I can maybe imagine doing this if I cut back to like 60% of my current new-to-me intake. Which might be a thing I should do.

    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    A background in statistical analysis, audio engineering and a current role in a Library makes for a particular approach to hobbies like this. It’s rigid as fuck, but works for me.
    All of that is just awesome. Cool to see a education, lifestyle, and hobby so well-concinnated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by r_z View Post

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?
    Idk. About 30?
    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?
    At this point I've got a lot of trust in my ears, my taste in music. So... on a first listen I'll know whether something is for me or not. If it is, I'll keep going back to it, buy it, burn it, listen to it in the car, etc
    I guess you'd kind of have to be willing to dismiss upon first listen to handle 30 albums by new-to-you artists and the unbelievable horde of more familiar purchased releases each year which that implies. Do you no longer encounter growers? Or are you willing to sacrifice them in pursuit of things which don't have to grow? Actual questions; not judgment.

    There's a lot of music this past decade that I might have cast aside on first listen if not for my system which ended up in my brain and heart as some of the decade's most meaningful and best music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Substance242 View Post
    0. albums 95%
    1. 3? depends on what my approved artists release :^)
    Quote Originally Posted by MrLobster View Post
    0. Albums 99%/100% (the 1% variable is if I'm buying a track just to use on mixtape and I'm already familiar with it)
    1. 2019 I purchased ~98 records and a smattering to digital releases (maybe bumping me to like 115 in total)... this year is different since I've been collecting albums for a project for someone else, but they aren't things I'd normally chose.. so while I've picked up 30 or so for myself, I've picked up another 45 for this project. And then there's Covid to think about this year... I'm not browsing stores in-person.
    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    0. 95% albums, 5% individual tracks. These individual tracks are usually ones I stumble on when watching TV, or listening to artist mixes on Spotify (for example “David Bowie Radio”, which will play stuff by said artist, plus tangentially related tunes).
    Quote Originally Posted by r_z View Post
    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?
    90:10 (albums:single tracks)
    The fact that everyone's at 90% or above shocks me. It makes me fucking ecstatic, don't get me wrong. But it shocks me. I know precisely one other primarily album listener, and he's an album musician. You think this is a fluke in that the kind of person prone to answering this sort of question would also be a primarily album listener?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Substance242 View Post
    3. 0? :-)
    Quote Originally Posted by MrLobster View Post
    3. I don't. I pay attention to a few labels/bands/artists via Twitter and sometimes things on these forums will look cool, so I'll check them out.
    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    3. 2020 - 2/22
    2019 - 1/18
    2018 - 2/28
    I guess this is evidence that for me, I really don’t have my finger on any sort of contemporary pulse.
    Quote Originally Posted by r_z View Post

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?
    Not too much. I check for new releases by bands I follow. Very rarely I screen music outlets for the newest "best new music". It's about listening to music I like, not about to know every music that's released.
    This also kind of surprises me, but I think just because I honestly didn't know what to expect from anyone. The adults I grew up around were very much of the ilk who believed rock music peaked and then died before 1975. I know people now who think music past 1990 isn't real music. I know plenty of hip hop heads who can't stand anything from 808s & Heartbreak on; who think Kendrick is overrated and would rather stick to real rappers like Tupac and Nas.

    I've never wanted to be the kind of adult who couldn't see that music is still music and a lot of what's new is very different, but good. I've also never wanted to be someone who's looking at a certain period, going nuts trying to mine it and then, after exhausting it, has to deal with music as a limited set.

    Is becoming musically stodgy really not a thing anyone else worries about? And that's not judgment; perhaps I'd be better off kicking my urge to understand and appreciate the contemporary further down my list. It's not like I have anyone to impress nor like "keeping up" has anything to do with any job I could do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    This also kind of surprises me, but I think just because I honestly didn't know what to expect from anyone.
    Ah see, I took it to mean as making a point a to pick up albums just because it's new. As in "Oh this just came out and I need to buy it!" (there are people are out who just pick up everything on a the new releases rack and call it good).
    Let's see if I can describe what used to a be regular stop to a local record store...

    Walk in, acknowledge the clerk behind counter (almost alway behind the counter) and then walk to the Soundtracks section to look at what's available... then to Reggae to look for the Dub hiding in there. A pass by the new releases to see if anything catches my attention. Then over to Electronic Compilations to check out what's happening there. And if I remember I'm looking for something in particular or to see if I want to be tempted, I'll take a stroll through the A-Z of Rock.

    If I want something specifically, I'll ask the store if they can bring it in and if they can't, I'll order it online (from the Artist/Band site, larger online record store or Discogs...).

    Some of the things I go looking for I actually research before heading in but I rarely preview a full album first...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    The fact that everyone's at 90% or above shocks me. It makes me fucking ecstatic, don't get me wrong. But it shocks me.
    I don't understand buying "the artists/bands one *GOOD* song"... like, how exactly do you know that's their only good song? Is because it was on the radio or you saw a video? Because... while, yes, that is one metric, it's not a very good one in my opinion. Yes, some albums I only keep around for one song because I've used it in a mix somewhere but that's not because it's the only "good" song, it's just the only one that connects with me on that album (and most of the times, it isn't the single).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    Whoa. Someone with a serious routine. This makes me happy. And also looks like something I can't imagine having the time for. Was 28 new albums in 2018 high for you? I can maybe imagine doing this if I cut back to like 60% of my current new-to-me intake. Which might be a thing I should do.


    All of that is just awesome. Cool to see a education, lifestyle, and hobby so well-concinnated.
    2015 had 41. 2016 had 42. My life was a little different back then; less time commuting to and from work, therefore more time to listen to music at home, and so on. I haven’t hit those dizzying heights since.

    I truly do wish I had time for more albums, but I hit a point a few years ago when I was listening to all of this new music, and just couldn’t remember anything much about it after a few weeks had past (sound familiar?). Looking back on my teens, I had always found myself obsessed with getting to “know” albums; listening, re-listening, learning the lyrics (identifying themes, and how the artist’s personalities were reflected in them), pouring over liner notes, etc. I still have fond memories of studying the booklet for my cassette copy of Crash Test Dummies’ God Shuffled His Feet. I got to know everything about that record inside and out, as an early-teen. And although I will never have the time to do that again (so. much. music. to. listen. to), I like to get a sense of that with my current routine. And of course, back when I only purchased/was gifted two or three albums per year, it was easier to get lost in the music. I’m sure we’ve heard countless interviews with Trent in which he speaks of this. And it was certainly my experience growing up.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    The fact that everyone's at 90% or above shocks me. It makes me fucking ecstatic, don't get me wrong. But it shocks me. I know precisely one other primarily album listener, and he's an album musician. You think this is a fluke in that the kind of person prone to answering this sort of question would also be a primarily album listener?
    The Venn Diagram of NIN fans/“album” listeners would show a bit of intersection between these two sets, I would think. Gravitating to comment on this thread is a natural extension given we’re all meeting on ETS. Ask this question elsewhere and I reckon you’d get a different response?
    Last edited by muad'nin; 09-21-2020 at 07:26 PM. Reason: Clarity

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    This also kind of surprises me, but I think just because I honestly didn't know what to expect from anyone. The adults I grew up around were very much of the ilk who believed rock music peaked and then died before 1975. I know people now who think music past 1990 isn't real music. I know plenty of hip hop heads who can't stand anything from 808s & Heartbreak on; who think Kendrick is overrated and would rather stick to real rappers like Tupac and Nas.

    I've never wanted to be the kind of adult who couldn't see that music is still music and a lot of what's new is very different, but good. I've also never wanted to be someone who's looking at a certain period, going nuts trying to mine it and then, after exhausting it, has to deal with music as a limited set.

    Is becoming musically stodgy really not a thing anyone else worries about? And that's not judgment; perhaps I'd be better off kicking my urge to understand and appreciate the contemporary further down my list. It's not like I have anyone to impress nor like "keeping up" has anything to do with any job I could do.
    Good question! Personally, it’s not a concern of mine at all. I have become one of those adults I derided as a child, who knows little of contemporary popular music. It worries me not. But, that’s only true to an extent; I honestly know not what is popular these days, but ask me about the latest Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, or <insert currently active artist in whom I have an interest> and I’m all over it. It really is just a matter of what floats your boat; even as a child I wasn’t really interested in what was new in musical pop culture. That hasn’t really changed. What I have now, though, is more of an interest in what came before I was born; there are so many decades of good music to mine, that I ignored growing up. That’s where a lot of my enjoyment rests these days. After all, it doesn’t need to be “recently released” to be “new” to me.

    I’m rambling.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    And of course, back when I only purchased/was gifted two or three albums per year, it was easier to get lost in the music. I’m sure we’ve heard countless interviews with Trent in which he speaks of this. And it was certainly my experience growing up.
    I know every generation has similar "what of the children today‽" moments and everything turns out just fine but, goddamn, what of the children today‽ There is legitimately almost no reason anyone would have to have this kind of intimacy with albums anymore. Because I didn't have much choice, I lived in every corner of some of my first few albums and the experience changed me for the better. I never got into the Pixies because, when everyone was talking about the Pixies and all the bands I liked were influenced by the Pixies, I couldn't afford Pixies albums. So I spent even more time with Siamese Dream and the b-sides on Smashing Pumpkins single cassettes.

    Now YouTube, even in pretty broke-ass American homes. Spotify and Pandora in the more well-to-do. Tidal & Apple Music. It's 4:13 a.m. Tuesday night: Want a new album? Bam. I don't like the first twelve seconds of this song. Click. Next. Even the inconvenience and imprecision of fast-forward caused me to pay close attention to tracks I would otherwise have ignored.

    Of course, I'm sure receiving music like kids do today will have its own unintended effects; some of those effects will change kids today for the better in ways I can't guess at. I grew up in an age with dozens of radio stations, affordable albums and single cassettes, and MTV, and I still bonded with a bunch of albums despite all those influences. None of this is exactly a hot take; it's been said before and better, of course, and it all amounts to "in my day we had to do more with less—it made us tougher and better and we liked it!" Still, it makes me sad thinking of a 2020 teenage me not getting to become best friends with records the way that I did.

    Quote Originally Posted by muad'nin View Post
    but ask me about the latest Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, or <insert currently active artist in whom I have an interest> and I’m all over it.
    I'm there with you, too. But I've also become the kind of person who answers a lot of questions with "I really liked their earlier work"—a thing I always thought was such a hipster copout when I was twenty-something. As if you couldn't grow with a project. As if being seasoned was inherently inferior to being raw and inexperienced. As if you were no longer capable of great things once you'd made a name for yourself.

    These days, though I'm very familiar with the latest release by a number of bands that are celebrating twentieth or thirtieth anniversaries, I'm also seeing that it's well past the point of diminishing returns for most of them. And every year there will be fewer and soon there will be none at all. As a person who values the pop music artform, I don't want to be completely unmoored in the present when the supply from old reliables dries up entirely.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    Of course, I'm sure receiving music like kids do today will have its own unintended effects; some of those effects will change kids today for the better in ways I can't guess at. I grew up in an age with dozens of radio stations, affordable albums and single cassettes, and MTV, and I still bonded with a bunch of albums despite all those influences. None of this is exactly a hot take; it's been said before and better, of course, and it all amounts to "in my day we had to do more with less—it made us tougher and better and we liked it!" Still, it makes me sad thinking of a 2020 teenage me not getting to become best friends with records the way that I did.
    I understand what you’re saying, and by-and-large think you’re right. Having worked with young adults in the recent past, I’m happy to relay that all is not lost. At least not in all cases. Those with a (burgeoning?) obsession with the art, in my experience, tend to take the time to get to know artists’ discographies on an LP-by-LP basis. Whether that’s following the regression of influences from A7X to Metallica to whatever-it-might-be, or just discovering things online, I guess it matters not. They seem to get there in the end. If it wasn’t for the recommendations of some teens I’ve worked with, I wouldn’t know The Beatles, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, and so on. All of this is to say that while I also wonder “what of the children today”, some of them seem to be making it work, even with the history of recorded music at their fingertips. And they’re even teaching this old timer a thing or two about what I should be listening to.

    Rambling again... Apologies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    These days, though I'm very familiar with the latest release by a number of bands that are celebrating twentieth or thirtieth anniversaries, I'm also seeing that it's well past the point of diminishing returns for most of them. And every year there will be fewer and soon there will be none at all. As a person who values the pop music artform, I don't want to be completely unmoored in the present when the supply from old reliables dries up entirely.
    I see your dilemma. Have you considered setting in place minimum limits on the numbers of contemporary releases to which you listen each year? Say perhaps, x% of your screened LPs should be released in the last two years, spanning y-number of genre or styles? At least that way you’re giving yourself a fighting chance? I guess you’d just need to source some trusted recommenders...

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    A combination of Spotify and the completion of graduate research has radically defined my listening habits.
    Spotify's first curated list was Discover Weekly. It took very little time for this algorithm to tune in to what would likely appeal to me. I was quickly introduced to artists/tracks that I wouldn't normally find without some form of traditional marketing. Recognizing this, and becoming famiilar with the Spotify playlist format, I began to catalog and curate. I offer for example, my curated Discover Weekly 2016 Playlist.

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37...RD69xNDuWlVorQ

    Following this project, I explored automation. I now had Spotify autocreating my catalog of Discover Weekly. This inevitably led to listening to this weekly curation less often, but I expanded my outreach into my social network's reach. I began snagging my friend's discover weekly playlists and curating their lists which resulted in the following

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0j...RciuxCOyuR3TzQ

    More on this later...

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    All I know is that once music stores started closing, my listening habits definitely went down the toilet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brotha52 View Post
    A combination of Spotify and the completion of graduate research has radically defined my listening habits.
    Spotify's first curated list was Discover Weekly. It took very little time for this algorithm to tune in to what would likely appeal to me. I was quickly introduced to artists/tracks that I wouldn't normally find without some form of traditional marketing. Recognizing this, and becoming famiilar with the Spotify playlist format, I began to catalog and curate. I offer for example, my curated Discover Weekly 2016 Playlist.

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37...RD69xNDuWlVorQ

    Following this project, I explored automation. I now had Spotify autocreating my catalog of Discover Weekly. This inevitably led to listening to this weekly curation less often, but I expanded my outreach into my social network's reach. I began snagging my friend's discover weekly playlists and curating their lists which resulted in the following

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0j...RciuxCOyuR3TzQ

    More on this later...
    These playlists and algorithms are neat. I was mesmerized by them a decade ago—they seemed like the future. Then I started hearing every artist's take on them and now I can't look at any of it without seeing all the Marxist critiques of capitalism in music. Here's an unedited quick-take version of one of the many reasons I don't stream.

    Substructure 1: The labels already decide who gets funded to make records. You can make a decent sounding record on your own on a laptop now, sure. But to get into the wider marketplace, you need astronomical luck or crazy resources (including time, or the time of others, which costs money). So unless you're independently wealthy, the economics of the industry have already made a big decision that affects you as a musician and effectively decided what art most of the public will be offered today, this week, this month, this year. I looked at your playlists. They're good; I would enjoy hearing them. They're also mostly (relatively speaking) large label, (relatively speaking) active promotion acts. I've heard 50% of those songs; I've heard of 60% of the acts on the list and that's not even really my scene.

    This is in no way a criticism of you or your taste. And again, I would listen to this playlist and probably enjoy a lot of it.

    Substructure 2: Spotify or Pandora or whoever comes along and writes an algorithm. Into that algorithm, we feed many years of what the industry economics have determined will be on release, and plenty of smaller chum that sinks right to the bottom. As if we haven't seen the absurd horror wrought by black box algorithms evidenced by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube, now we're giving them carte blanche to filter the already predetermined art offering that the industry has decided. Sometimes, this will result in a nobody making a popular playlist. More often not. It will result in someone "small" like RJD2 making a playlist that features Brandy, Minnie Ripperton, and members of Wu-Tang. RJ did the theme song for one of the most famous TV shows of the past decade; he's small when stacked next to the others in that a lot of folks don't know his name.

    Just for giggles, I typed in the name of five acts I didn't recognize—Sylvia Striplin, Typical Cats, Remy Shand, Twiddle, and NehruvianDoom—to see if they have Wikipedia pages. All of them do. This doesn't mean they're big. But it means they're something more than someone lucky with a laptop distributing all alone from a bedroom.

    So Spotify, which adjusts its algorithms based on what people like, sends out songs that have been algorithm optimized to people who are majorly prone to upvote things with which they're familiar. The black box exercises control, further determining what art will be on offer today, this week, this month, this year. Not that it doesn't do some good things; not that Spotify hasn't helped plenty of smaller artists. But if someone the size of Nine Inch Nails adjusted their release—Bad Witch—possibly adding material to fluff its length and move it into the category of LP because, otherwise, even something so fucking mammoth might get lost in the shuffle, well, that's not nothing.

    And not that I didn't agree with the move to take R. Kelly off of promoted playlists—I did—but, after 2020, I have even less faith in profit-seeking institutions than I did last year. When Spotify, owned by Sweden, caves to tax incentives from some soon-to-come newly elected far-right government to remove, hell, all of (one of my favorite smaller bands) The Radio Dept.'s albums because of their frequent criticism of Sweden's arms industry, I doubt much fuss would be made. They're not R. Kelly. No one would notice; if they did, the headline would be gone in a day. And then no one using Spotify would be able to discover The Radio Dept.

    See also: The Trump administration decides that violent hip hop has gone too far in encouraging radical BLM protestors and, if Spotify wants to keep operating in the United States, they need to sell their U.S. operations to someone willing to play ball with America's minoritarian government who wants to crack down on anti-police rhetoric in pop songs. And then no one using Spotify can discover "Fuck tha Police." Fictional scenario? Yep. Seem alarmist at this point? Not really.

    I know all distribution is a form of gatekeeping—from the substructure of major labels to Spotify to your favorite music blogger to the way they arrange the record store and the person at the desk. But the black box algorithm is a place I'm not going to personally go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sesquipedalism View Post
    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.
    0. In terms of new music, it tends to go single tracks, then albums. That's mainly because artists still release single tracks as a means of promotion.

    1. I usually by 5-10 new albums a year. If we're adding in albums that are not new but that I've never heard of before, add another five.

    2. I try to listen to new artists, but admittedly, I'm one of those people that sits with a net and waits to see what floats past me, so maybe 2 or 3 a year?

    3. I try to keep up with what's coming out (of interest, that is), but as I said, I tend to see what floats into view rather than actively seeking bands and songs out. I'd say a good portion of the new to me music I listen to is released within the last five years. I tend to be somewhat behind, but I have times where I go on binges to catch up.

    4. It depends on how good the album is. To use a NIN example, I remember Not The Actual Events got played frequently in the time between its release and the release of Add Violence. It helped that it was short and a solid listen. As for albums I don't like as a whole, I tend to pick out the tracks that work and forget the rest.

    5. If I like an album a lot, it'll get rotated quite a bit until I get sick of it, but it'll still pop up from time to time later on. I listen to a lot of music, but the favorites never completely go out of rotation.

    6. It's very rare for me to revisit an album that didn't do it for me the first time around. That said, I don't obsess over it like some people do, and I try to take what I can from it. I find that most albums that don't work as a whole at least have a few tracks worth salvaging.

    7. It's rare for me to lose complete interest in an artist. I'm blanking on examples, but if I like an artist or band, I'll usually keep checking out their stuff even if an album doesn't do it for me. Everyone is allowed their missteps.

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    0. What percentage of your new music intake is albums and what percentage is just stray tracks?

    2020 is kind of a atypical year in my book, because I‘ve fully embraced downloading music via bandcamp and as a result I acquired much more music than usual. So my numbers of the years before are quite different:


    2020: 102 albums / 19 EPs / 38 singles => 24 % stray tracks
    2019: 34 albums / 1 EP / 3 singles => 8 % stray tracks
    2018: 33 albums / 4 EPs / 6 singles => 14 % stray tracks
    2017: 23 albums / 2 EP / 4 singles => 14 % stray tracks


    So my yearly intake of stray tracks comes normally in between 10 and 20 %. Though you should note that I compared whole releases. If you take all individual songs the quota would be considerably lower!

    1. How many new (new to you) albums do you purchase/screen each year?

    Almost all albums I acquire are new to me. So if you don’t count 2020 it’s about 30 new to me albums per year, which comes down to 2 or 3 albums per month.

    2. How many albums by new-to-you performers do you check out each year?

    2020: 54/159 => 34 %
    2019: 11/38 => 29 %
    2018: 15/43 => 35 %
    2017: 1/29 => 3 %

    So about 30 % of my new purchases every year are by unfamiliar artists. Except some odd years like 2017 when I’m not in “exploration mode”.

    3. How on top of new (actually new) music do you try to be? What percentage of the new-to-you music you check out every year is released in the current year?

    It quite depends. From time to time I have the urge to go out and find new music that could suite my tastes. Like in 2020 when I explored bandcamp for interesting finds (mostly NYP-releases or singles, so that I wouldn’t invest too much money. In other years I’m more regularly looking at the nice price section in record stores and pick up CDs for around 4,00 to 6,00 €, but only of bands I’ve heard mentioned before, for example on ETS.


    2020: 22/159 => 14 %
    2019: 12/38 => 32 %
    2018: 11/43 => 26 %
    2017: 14/29 => 48 %

    Looks like my average is changing a lot. And against my own expectations 2020 is a year with unusually little new releases so far. But that can change coming Christmas and the end-of-year lists showing which albums to check out.

    4. How many listens does each new-to-you album get before you decide to move on? Does the number of "required" listens change whether it's "good" or not? Do you ever abandon something after just one listen? Do you listen to a new-to-you album more than, say, five times if on listen five you still don't like it?

    No strictly defined required listen, it’s more a “feeling” thing. If I cannot get into an album immediately I may check back later, depending on the artist and the expectations towards the album. Most of the times there is something in it that rewards repeated listens. Sometimes it is the opposite of the obvious: if nothing stuck with me or I dislike an album against the general consensus (or whatever expectations I have) I revisit it even more often to see if I missed something or if it will grow on me.


    2020 aside, as the releases are still fresh and I didn’t really have time to give each the attention it deserves: I tried to determine the least listened albums from each year and see what last.fm says how often I played these.


    2019: Callejon - Fandigo (2x)
    2018: Autolux – Transit Transit (2x)
    2017: The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir (2x)


    I think I should definitely revisit these more. The Magnetic Fields is one of my favorite bands, but I couldn’t really get into 50 Song Memoir. It felt too lengthy and as it is autobiographical, there isn’t much room for interpretation like on their other releases, which is extra-boring. Still, there are lots of gems on it and now that I know some of those better I might enjoy the album as a whole more. Still, with 2:30 h length it is not everyday that I have time to give it the proper attention.


    I bought the Autolux album based on Trent’s praise for the band and some good reviews. Until now it did not capture my attention at all and I cannot even describe the sound of the album. I should definite revisit Transit Transit.


    Metal bands going mellow is not always bad in my opinion. But this is. I think I liked one song near the end. But that was about it. Maybe I’ll revisit it someday, I don’t have much hope on changing my opinion though.

    5. How often do you revisit albums from past years which you've already screened?

    Here is the number of Top-50 albums (regarding scrobbles on last.fm) of each year which were in my collection at least two years at the time:


    2019: 7 albums
    2018: 16 albums
    2017: 19 albums


    So I do listen to older albums regularly, although about 2/3 of my top played albums are new to me. The statistic is a little biased, as always. For example: if a new NIN album drops, I would maybe listen to all fifteen previous albums once and listen to the new album fifteen times. So the new album would appear in my top list and all previous not, or maybe only Ghosts I-IV with 34 songs played. Meaning, the amount of older albums revisited is most probably higher than these numbers suggest.

    6. How often do you go back and check out an album you didn't really enjoy?

    I think I do this quite often, although the numbers of answer #4 speak a different language. For example only this summer I really ‘got’ into White Pony by Deftones. I bought the album circa 15 years ago (when Deftones were name dropped by Limp Bizkit and the Minerva video was on MTV). Didn’t do much for me, but it was okay. So I played it again from time to time. I think one of the reasons I revisited it was the enthusiasm here on ETS (already in May/June when there was no clear information on Ohms; I also remembered the discussion of Gore coming out and the vivid ranking game that is always present in the threat).


    Funny thing is, when Passenger came on, which was always my favorite track of the album, but I haven’t heard it in a long time, I was stunned how the singer sounded quite like Maynard James Keenan. I looked it up on Wikipedia the next day and it turns out it was MJK. Funny that I never knew this.


    But as stated before, if I revisit an album depends more on my expectations towards it or the general consensus [online]. In 2020 I have acquired a JPEGMAFIA album, as it was NYP on bandcamp. So I listened to it once. I did not like it. And as I don’t listen much to rap music in general I may not revisit it in some years. I may put single songs of it on playlists though. And if these grow on me I will check out the album again.

    7. Consider an old favorite artist who is still making music, but which you no longer enjoy like you once did. At what point, if ever, do you stop checking out their new records? I know this will be largely case by case, but I think there are probably for everyone some baseline trends.

    I have the feeling that my disinterest in artists is not really their fault. For example during my high school years I was mainly into Post-Hardcore, but I lost interest in it circa ten years ago. So I did not acquire new albums of bands I liked, although I was not disappointed by their previous efforts. I just did not listen to it anymore and so I did not see any value in buying these.


    At the moment I am more in the mood for that kind of music again and I am revisiting these old favorites and discover what they produced in the meantime. Meanwhile I am absolutely not interested in Indie Rock anymore, which made up a good portion of the music I listened to afterwards. But if a new Vampire Weekend, MGMT or Franz Ferdinand albums comes out now, I’m not really eager to check it out immediately.


    Baseline?: I kind of listen to what feels right at the moment. Right now I’m into A) heavier music and B) more electronic/wavey stuff. Nine Inch Nails is the perfect overlap of these two, which is probably why they are the only band that has remained absolutely constant with me for the past 15 years.


    Sometimes I get the urge to check out new music and broaden my horizon. For that streaming services and bandcamp are perfect. But I usually only go there for one or two months and check out new bands. Afterwards I go back to my own collection (still mostly CDs, although I listen to digital rips 99,9 % of the time). But I have so many albums and so many of them deserve more attention than I have given them in the past. And so many are so good that I listen to them again and again – that’s why streaming services are not my preferred solution.

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