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Spotify Playlists Are Good for the Soul

Posted in Friendly Philosophy

Idea: Some ways of presenting and listening to music create community, and others don’t (as much).

One of the great things about radio is that it sounds different from MP3s (or CDs, or records, or whatever). When you listen to a song on the radio, you hear it as something lots of other people in the area are also hearing at that very moment.

Radio, therefore, is good for the soul. It’s a broadening, communal, shared experience. Unfortunately, this means that “mass media” presentations of music need broad appeal, and individual old you may not like what’s on. So, you need your own private collection. But when you listen to a file on your computer, it’s just you. All alone.

But Spotify playlists–which you can create and share1–are something in between listening to the radio and listening to your private collection. They’re like the mixtapes/CDs of old.2 When you listen to such a playlist/tape/CD, you hear it as something you and others (whichever of your friends were also given a copy) are listening to “now” as well. The “now” is a bit looser than is true with the radio,3 but it’s still communal.

And that’s good for the soul.


1. I just created one for my Top 40 Philosophy podcast, for example.

2. My sister Joanna, who is now a genius photographer, was a genius at creating mix CDs when she was a young warthog. Whenever someone says, “mixtape,” I think about her creations.

3. It may mean “this week” or “these days” instead of “this very moment.” That is, it’s a now in the, “We listen to this”  (it’s what we do now; we sail now, we’re sailors) form of present tense, rather than the “We are listening to this” (at this very moment) form.

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