For the past week I've been serendipitously included in the closed beta test of streaming service Spotify, which apparently my cousin's brother's friend works for. Essentially, it acts as an Itunes-lite media player, except instead of playing music files off your hard drive it streams any music you chose off its servers. I don't like it much, as software - it's hard to browse, there's no user-driven content, the advertising is too intrusive - but it pretty much does what it says on the tin and it's certainly replaced MP3s as the background music of my fiancées web browsing. If it was done properly, it could easily with time be the final death-knell for the digital music libraries we've all spent the past decade building up.
I've briefly talked about the end of archiving before, though others do it much more eloquently (link in Swedish) and that's certainly one of the effects. But right now I'm mostly curious how software like Spotify (or Deezer, or Jiwa) will affect the way people act at parties.
When I started going to parties in my teens a lot of the conversation would be sparked off the host's CD collection. People would occasionally go browse it, laugh at the compulsory Hanson album, and pick out some smart CD that would spark off some sort of connection with the host and hopefully other guests. The savvy party-goer might even bring their own mix CD which would then immediately be put on the stereo until someone (usually a metalhead or a mainstream pop person) got annoyed and changed it to something else. Now parties are usually run off a computer with an MP3 collection and the conversation tends to be a bit more limited. But it still can work along similar lines and people still sneak off to change it regularly, unless the host has made a "perfect party playlist" which is damned annoying.
But what's going to happen with Spotify? I can see it perfectly. Wise-asses in dick-waving contests will change the music to whatever they want to. The host's music taste will no longer matter and there will be no relation-building around the records. There's every Hanson album available, but the host hasn't picked them. There's no record shelf to browse in quiet moments. Not even an MP3 collection. Maybe it can still be fun, but the way it works is going to be totally different.
But then I've been to a couple of parties recently where we sat around playing records for each other and talking about music and record collections. And that was all on vinyl. Maybe the resurgence of communal vinyl can be read as a counter reaction to the Spotifys of this world? To travestly the song that just blipped past my Spotify playlist: in the wee small hours of the morning, that's when you miss records most of all.