Published on August 13th, 2013 | by Skye Pathare2
DEEZER and the way we listen to music now
We’ve always discovered new music through recommendations. I’m just old enough to remember the making of mix tapes (I still have one from my cousin titled Hitz of ’95, with an unhealthy amount of Aqua), followed by burning CDs, swapping hard-drives and iTunes libraries, and sending links. Now, with the advent of on-demand music streaming, we can share music with just about anyone, through any medium, and across any distance; faster than ever before. Listening to music, even from your laptop behind a closed door, is no longer a private pleasure – it’s a social activity.
I’m a Luddite in many ways. I still own a dumbphone, have never used Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram/
Of course, the massive popularity of Deezer and similar – but, in my opinion, inferior – services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, and Pandora has started a global conversation on the costs and benefits to consumers, artists, rightsholders and record labels of near-limitless, at-your-fingertips access to music for a few dollars per month. But I doubt music streaming will render downloading redundant, devalue music, or cripple traditional sales. In fact, streaming might help the industry bounce back from more than a decade of declining sales of recorded music – the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported in February of this year that global sales rose 0.3% to $16.5 billion in 2012 (the first year of growth since 1999).
Ad-supported streaming allows you to listen to tracks for zero dolla (‘Discovery Mode’ on Deezer, free for up six months), build libraries and make shareable playlists, and take advantage of Deezer recommendations. The latter feature is a real treat because Deezer is the only service I know of which uses local music editors to curate selections, not algorithms. How hilariously inaccurate are these anyway? Before I lost my (fourth) iPod, the playlists generated via the Genius function were a tad eclectic, to put it mildly.
When I trialled Spotify, I found you had to know (and correctly spell) the artist’s name and track title in order for relevant results to come up. I like to listen to music when I’m getting ready in the morning, and my fingers are usually too numb with cold to bother typing in another song at the conclusion of the last one – and who has time to do this when you’re running late for work? With Deezer, you can just enter a genre (even “morning music”, or “mellow”) and the search results are both intuitive and precise. You don’t just see songs with the word ‘morning’ in the title – you actually get playlists composed by people you’re following (playlists they’ve presumably made to listen to in the morning) and albums chosen by local editorial teams most suited to easing you gently, yet firmly, into the shitstorm of your day. It’s the lazy yet curious person’s way of discovering new music and creating soundtracks for every conceivable task. Just click on the ‘Discovery’ tab on the left when you’ve made an account (which takes no time at all) and you can check out new releases from artists you stream often as well as view friends’ recommendations. Deezer is integrated with Facebook, which means you can log in via your Facebook account and see what your friends are playing (and on repeat, too!) in your glorious Newsfeed.
If you’re feeling flush, sign up for a Premium or Premuim+ subscription – both are ad-free but the latter is best because it allows you to stream on your cellular. The App has been favourably reviewed, and I totally intend to use it when/if I buy an iPhone! The best part for me was being able to stream music offline, allowing my flatmates and I to save our bandwidth for the questionably legal downloading of movies and the new Arrested Development (didn’t rate it). This means you can also listen to music whilst flying, without interfering with the aircraft’s navigation systems – a claim which was recently debunked on Mythbusters, actually. If you’re not so flush, you can try out Premium+ for free for two weeks.
I appreciate that Deezer is striving to be more than just a well-stocked jukebox: it wants us to interact with each other, and engage with artists and bands as well. The relationship between artist and listener hit a bit of a rough patch circa 2007, when digital sales of music finally exceeded traditional. There was certainly a level and scope of engagement that was lost with the digitalisation of music; something we can never quite regain.
I like it when artists are humanised – when you can get to know, even to a small extent, the person behind the music and glossified public persona. Of course, going to a live gig and seeing someone all sweaty and tired and pausing to take a sip of water (or beer, let’s be honest) between each song is the best way. Unfortunately, finances and logistics restrict me from frequent concert attendance, but Deezer’s rolling out a suite of tools to help give you an insight into an artist’s character while you’re listening to their music – which adds an extra layer of meaning and enjoyment to the track.
Deezer for Artists – or D4A – in addition to guaranteeing fair compensation for music makers, aims to personalise and further the relationship between artist and fan. Via D4A, artists can create Certified Accounts and Pages where they can upload their own playlists in addition to content that adds context and depth to their music, such as demos, bootlegs, interviews, and video footage of live shows. There’s no need to visit official websites/blogs or Wikipedia or YouTube or lyricfinder.com and have a gazillion tabs open – all this information is available where you already are. One feature I particularly like is the inclusion of the artists’ social media feeds. D4A also helps the artists themselves – data on who’s listening to a song and where provides invaluable fan demographic information and an idea of where to tour next.
Of course, there will be nostalgists who disagree with the idea of always available, universal music libraries, but I think their numbers are dwindling. As Rick Falkvinge recently said, viewpoints of society change because people defending the obsolete viewpoint die out – and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to insist that downloading music (or buying on vinyl, even) is the ‘best’ way to consume it, for both listener and artist. I love Deezer; I think streaming services are great and will help to end music piracy, support emerging artists, and broaden musical horizons everywhere. And, if you’re still not convinced, remember that Video Killed the Radio Star was only ever an excellent song, not a social reality.
Illustration above by Sophie Watson