I recently read a Vice article entitled “I Miss My iPod Classic More Than Anything” with a mixture of appreciation and smugness. As the proud owner of an iPod Classic, I tend to agree with all the sentiments expressed, with the added pleasure of still being able to listen to music in my lovely yet battered piece of old tech. For a company that is renowned for its built-in obsolescence, the iPod remains a sturdy piece of technology that is built to survive anything short of a nuclear strike.
Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes listen to music using other technologies. At home there is a combination of a growing vinyl collection, Spotify on various devices, an old CD collection that is starting to gather dust, and the authoritative iTunes collection on my main gaming computer. But the iPod remains the device of choice for the bulk of my listening, which is anytime outside of the house.
Streaming is undoubtedly convenient for many reasons, and the potential for discovery is great. But as music tastes become less flexible with age, music discovery becomes less important, and having easy access to the music you love is the real advantage of the iPod. Moreover, streaming algorithms don’t seem to fare that well with people with true eclectic tastes. I know that many people claim to have an eclectic taste, but that tends to mean liking different flavours of the same thing. The algorithms seem to pick up the side of my taste that they understand: “this guy likes The Cure and Depeche Mode, so here’s more indie music from the 80s!” This gets old soon, and the recommendations dry up, or start repeating the same bands and choices. It completely misses or doesn’t know what to do in combination of my Latin heritage. “He also likes Soda Stereo and Fabulosos Cadillacs, so here is some more Rock en Español”. The algorithm misses the richness between those worlds, a range that goes from Kumbia Queers to Le Tigre, passing through classical music, merengue, 80s power ballads, 90s rap, and a hint of reggeaton.
Perhaps this is as it should be, it is nice to see that algorithms still do not rule us, and we can sometimes baffle them. Streaming has its uses, when you want to listen to a new act, or try to decide if you really like that song you heard at the pub.
But to me streaming is mostly for podcasts, I’ll keep my battered old iPod, thankyouverymuch.