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Libraries in The Stream

It is funny that now Spotify “allows” us to like more than 10,000 songs, but offers no practical way to browse or manage a collection of songs this large.

The liked songs library is presented as a single list, which you can choose how to sort and there is a filter search. Other than that, it show some 20 songs per screen (I counted 19 on my monitor and ‘actual size’ view). To scroll 10,000 songs will take more than 500 screens. 

The other main library sections, Artists and Albums, are less essential, at least in my opinion. Following artists should give you updates when they release music, and listening to albums is much less prominent than listening to songs. And you can always like every song in an album, so they appear in your main Liked songs library…

Liked songs is very useful: it is the most practical way to keep track of all/most things from your listening history that you actually enjoyed. Other methods to access your listening history in Spotify are controlled by Spotify and their implementation changes all the time. 

The liked songs serves not only as a history of the listening but also as a history of the listener. As time goes by and the liked songs are accumulated, there is some personal memories being stored there as well, an audio scrapbook maybe.

The liked song library also has a symbolic value: it is a very small pond of personal, familiar songs within a gigantic, ever-expanding ocean of unfathomable content (more than 60 million songs and more than 40 thousand songs added daily).

Of course, a big priority of Spotify is to create ever improving recommendation tools, advanced enough that they may “know” in advance the songs, artists, genres, playlists the user will like. Maybe if you are trying to build the “perfect” recommendation system, the archive of liked songs is just a distraction. Time spent listening to liked songs is time not spent listening recommended playlists or other innovative promotions. And already-liked songs probably also have little algorithmic value…

But that gives another valuable distinction to our pond metaphor: it serves not only to protect us from the vastness of the unknown; it is a safe harbour from the impersonality of the deep data/machine learning…

In the past few weeks I have been experimenting to see which mainstream streaming service offers the best combination of functionality and sound quality (Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer each have strengths and weakness) and as I contemplate switching to one or another as the main service, the only data that feels relevant to migrate from one to another is the collection of liked songs. (Soundiiz and SongShift work both fine).

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