Arts, Music, On Campus, Column

Boldly Following The Spotify Generation

For Consuelo Garcia-Garcia, a hidden benefit of being a spin instructor is a healthy dose of Spotify followers. Boston College students surely come for their regimented hour in the plex, but some have stuck around for the tunes.

“[Spotify’s] what I use to make my spin playlists,” said Consuelo Garcia-Garcia, A&S ‘16. “Sometimes people come up after and ask me where I get them. I just say follow me on Spotify.”

Garcia-Garcia jokingly boasts a more than respectable 81 followers. She estimates that around 80 percent of her Spotify usage goes to spin classes on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons, while the remaining playlist creativity goes to the abyss of study playlists.

“Follow me on Spotify” has grown nearly as common as “friend me on Facebook.” The latter is just a modern way of saying “I want to see you around more.” The first is a little more natural. Sharing music is now almost inherent to listening to it.

There was the gramophone and vinyl. There was the Walkman and handy mixed cds. There was Napster and the Ipod. Now, there’s Spotify.

How long will it take before Time publishes a cover feature on the “Spotify Generation?” Let’s give them a few more years, at least. Seniors arrived on campus in fall of 2011, right when Spotify shot from neutral into drive and onto laptops and smart phones in most of the tech savvy youth. And by now, Spotify is the primary way students listen to music. Much like most students still in school only know a world with Obama in the Oval Office and Netflix in their hearts, Spotify is music.

In a Heights study of 55 students, 96.3 percent admitted to owning a music streaming service account. And 92.6 percent said that over the past 30 days, they’ve used Spotify the most. The vast majority (80 percent of whom stream at least 2-3 hours of music a day) agreed that Spotify is the best service at recommending music and the easiest account to set up and use.

College students love free. We flock to free food. We love “easy”—think hot pockets or Ramen noodles. And when it comes to playing music, it doesn’t get much easier than Spotify.

For students, who as a section of the human population don’t usually have the wide access to the fruits of the world (except the college library), Spotify is a chance for the student to experience it all. The download takes a few minutes, and then you get free music (given you have an Internet connection and are willing to put up with a 30 second add every once in a while). And for just five dollars, students can get rid of those pesky ads.

For many, the ads are a small price to pay for the ease of streaming and sharing playlists. According to the survey, a little over 50 percent of students do not download any music in a given month. We’ve taken off our pirate hats and patches and fell in line to the streaming beat. According to the survey, students still use iTunes and Pandora, but Spotify reigns supreme as a convenient conglomeration of iTunes, Pandora, and the friendly neighborhood Facebook. If a roommate is listening to Nickelback, you’ll know it, even if he or she (but probably a he) is covertly using headphones.

Offering music for free is really just one aspect that’s made Spotify a social standard. If you really wanted a song, you could journey to one of the darker corners of the internet and figure out some way to get your hands on that new Drake single. But with Spotify, it’s all there. It’s iTunes, Pandora, and Facebook all in one. It’s natural to like, rate, share content across a self-created social network, and that’s what Spotify lets students do: impress their friends with their eclectic tastes or urge a dreary band of spin cyclist to peddle real hard for another few minutes.

We do things to Spotify, under its watchful green eye. We pedal furiously in spin class, study to the hymns of Bon Iver, or celebrate to a friend’s playlist of ’80s classics. It’s become as common a practice to share Spotify playlists as it is to share a Netflix account, as it was once common to burn your lady friend a mixed cd with elegant purple calligraphy etched across the once bare and blank piece of plastic.

But if the music industry is known for anything, it’s as one of culture’s outposts of change. Music was downloaded illegally before movies ever really were. So while for now, Spotify is king here on campus, it won’t always be the case. The record labels and powerful artist will have a legitimate response soon. Soundcloud may come out from underground to tackle the prominent giant. And perhaps we’ll joke about “Spotify playlists” then like we joke about mixed cds now.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Illustrator

January 29, 2015