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Music, Baby!

It’s that time of year. No, not Christmas, or Hanukah, or Kwanzaa. Nothing like that.

No, it’s the time of year when Spotify provides it’s annual report to Premium members. No, not an annual report of its finances. It’s a report of my music experience for 2019. As a grown-ass man who was addicted to the Guinness Book of World Records and Book of Lists as a child, this is the kind of thinI knowg that fascinates me.

So … on to the preliminaries. According to Spotify …

In 2014, my favorite song was Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran, but my favorite artist was Melissa Etheridge. I know Ed Sheeran intrigued me back then, but I’m somewhat surprised by Etheridge. Back in the 90’s, she was a huge part of my music experience, but these days, her music just doesn’t do much for me.

In 2015, my favorite song was Subah and my favorite artist was Griffin House. Subah is a piece I heard in a yoga class back then that was just absolutely fascinating and I know I listened to it a lot for a time, but the #1 song for the year? Hmmm …  And, yes, Griffin House was big for me then and remains big for me now. He’s got some serious chops with the song-writing and tone of his music.

In 2016, my favorite song was Like Rock and Roll and Radio and my favorite artist was Ray LaMontagne. The song and the artist match and I’m not surprised by this. LaMontagne has a core group of songs that I’ll never tire of and 2016 was when I dicovered him.

In 2017, my favorite song was Touching Heaven and my favorite artist was Johnnyswim. Again, the song and the artist match up and I’m not surprised by this. Another year where I discovered a new artist and wallowed in their music. And Touching Heaven is, as I’ve described on this blog in the past, pretty damn close to the perfect song for me.

In 2018, my favorite song was Song for Zula by Phosphoresent and my favorite artist was Queen. Not surprised by either. Song for Zula remains to this day a song that I can’t get enough of. And Queen has been rocking my world for 40 years.

Which leaves us with 2019…

According to Spotify, I listened to music on Spotify for 59,588 minutes in 2019. So, basically about 1,000 hours. I listened to 367 new artists this year, which seems somewhat amazing to me. I also listened to artists from 30 different countries, which seems equally amazing to me.

Which leaves us with…


A year like no other since I subscribed to Spotify. Unlike all of the years since 2014, my top 10 and top 100 songs have a certain focus. There is a particular artist who filled 20 of the top 100 spots and seven (7!) of the top 10 spots.

Here are a few clues, in case you haven’t figured it out …

  • If you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months, you might already know.
  • I saw him live in Sacramento on October 21.
  • The title of this post might give you a clue.

Give up? Or you’ve got it figured out?

Yes, it’s Hozier. His music continues to amaze me. Instead of sharing videos from the songs on my top lists, I’ll provide this one. He performed it at the concert on October 21. He introduced it as new music and asked people to put their phones away so videos didn’t show up on Youtube before he was ready to release it. Well, it’s released now. The initial notes of the song seemed kind of harsh, like fingernails on a chalkboard. But by the time the song was over at that concert, I was completely sold. To me, it was the best song/performance of the entire concert.

And there you go … musically for me, 2019 was all about Hozier. All about Hozier. And now I need some new music. Got any suggestions? If you use Spotify, what was on your 2019 list?


New Music!

Thanks to Spotify … the streaming music site has this great feature for discovering new music.  If you like artist X, you may like artist Y.  Today, it suggested that if I liked Mick Flannery, I might like The Swell Season.  Here’s the Mick Flannery song that just gets me right in that space I like to be with music…

And here is The Swell Season, Falling Slowly…

There is plenty more than that with The Swell Season.

The amount of incredible music out there that I only find through coincidence and happenstance and … well, Spotify … just amazes me sometimes.

One of the Dead Horses I Must Continue to Beat

Earlier this summer, Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead (a band that I have never listened to, by the way), pulled a bunch of his work off of Spotify as a protest to how the music streaming service works.  In the words of Radiohead’s producer, Nigel Godrich:

“The reason is that new artists get paid fuck all with this model,” Godrich tweeted. “It’s an equation that just doesn’t work.”

You’d think as an artist working in a different medium who is struggling to figure out how to make money in a system that is evolving to low cost and free, I’d be supportive of Mr. Yorke and Mr. Godrich’s efforts.  “Yes,” I should be saying.  “Go forth and demand more for artists, both big and small.  Spotify is a great evil that is depriving musicians.  Battle on, good sirs!”

Well, no.  I think they are missing the incredible benefit Spotify brings to musicians, particularly the smaller ones.  As my long-time readers will know, for a long time I thought the IPod was the greatest invention since sliced bread.  When I discovered Spotify, I realized the error of my ways.  I love music.  If I have a choice, it is always on.  At work, except when I’m on the phone or have a meeting.  In my car.  At home, when I write, when I cook, when I do just about anything.  Music is there.  What Spotify gives me for $10 a month is access to virtually anything I could possibly want to listen to.  I no longer pay for music downloads or for CDs.  i don’t need to.

But, that’s not the point here.  This post isn’t about how great Spotify is for music consumers.  This post is about whether it is a good opportunity, a good service, a revenue producer for musicians.  Through the power of Google, I learned that the royalty rate most music publishers pay musicians is 10-20%.  So, on that $9.99 download, the artist makes $1 to $2.  On the .99 single download, the artist gets a dime or two.  And, then their revenue stops.  The artist doesn’t get paid each time I listen to what I’ve paid to download.  That is the end all and be all of what they will make from my listening to their music.

That’s assuming I ever hear about the artist, listen to their music, and decide to spend my limited discretionary cash on their music.  I’m the type of person who prefers buying the entire album, not just a single.  So, typically, when I was buying music, my decision was a $10 decision, not a $1.

Now, I have Spotify.  That’s not an issue for me anymore.  I’ll give you an example of what this means.  Spotify has a “Discover” feature.  It works like this.  You’ve listened to Musician X, you may like Musician Y.  Today, I was listening to Spotify on my iPhone and the Discover feature suggested Colin Hay.  “Who is Colin Hay?” you might ask.  He is the brains and talent behind Men at Work, the 1980’s “Australian” rock/pop band that wasn’t much more than a one hit wonder.  I put Australian in quotes because Mr. Hay is Scottish.  So, here you have a guy who was a part of a rock/pop band over thirty years ago still producing music and it sounds like this (something I never would have thought to hear from the brain child behind Men at Work).

And I only learned of this because of Spotify.  I added him to my Spotify starred list.  What follows is a partial list of new artists I’ve discovered since I started using Spotify.  Not all of these were discoveries entirely attributable to Spotify.  Some I learned of from other bloggers or friends.  But what Spotify did was make it possible for me to listen to them and fall in love with them.  And then listen to them over and over and over again.

Colin Hay

Mick Flannery

Vicci Martinez

Serena Ryder

ZZ Ward

Schuyler Fisk

Matthew Perryman Jones

The Band of Heathens (a killer group)

Ari Hest

Jeffrey Foucault

Good Old War


Antje Duvekot

The Gabe Dixon Band

Griffin House

Robert Earl Keen

Middle Brother

Pete Francis

Steel Wheels

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Trampled by Turtles

Damien Rice

Iron & Wine

Bleu Edmondson


Band of Horses

Laura Marling

Marcus Foster

Chris Knight

Matthew and the Atlas

Pegasus Bridge

Kristina Train

Nathaniel Rateliff

The Bonfire Band

Fionn Regan

Treetop Flyers

Bobby Long

Mumford & Sons (yes, I heard these guys on the radio first, but Spotify gave me the ability to get into their catalog and put a ton of their songs on my starred list.)

The Cat Empire

What Made Milwaukee Famous

The Weeks

Krista Polvere  (love her, absolutely love her)

Of Monsters and Men (yes, before they hit commercial radio)

Tristan Prettyman

The Shouting Matches

Holly Williams (Hank Williams granddaughter, Jr.’s daughter)

The Postelles

The Avett Brothers

The Oh Hello’s

Jamie N. Commons (an incredibly bluesy, powerful English singer with a voice and a rhythm you’ve got to listen to)

The Middle East

The Tallest Man on Earth

Youth Lagoon  (this one absolutely incredible song called Posters and I don’t even know how to describe why I love the song)

Ryan Adams

Tyrone Wells

Imagine Dragons (yes, before they hit commercial radio)

The Lumineers (yes, before they hit commercial radio)

Joe Ely

Ed Harcourt (some beautiful, piano based ballads)

Night Beds

Wade Bowen

Slaid Cleaves (a storyteller who sings)

Ryan Bingham (a great voice)

Charlie Robison

Ray LaMontagne

The Fleet Foxes

Xavier Rudd

Sam Kills Two

Exit Calm

Young the Giant

Phoenix Foundation

Nick Howard

Delta Spirit

Deer Tick

Heartless Bastards

The Apache Relay

The Shins

Walk the Moon



Dry the River

Kings of Convenience

The National

Chris Smither

Said the Whale

Nick Waterhouse


All of these artists have songs on my starred list, the thing that provides the background music for my daily existence.  Some of these artists have a lot of songs on my starred list.  Without Spotify I never would have gone there.  I slowed down a lot on music purchases in recent years because of the other demands on my financial resources.  But now …

The Tallest Man on the Earth is the best example of what Spotify has done.  Never heard of him.  Probably never would have listened to him.  I know this.  I have never, ever heard him on commercial radio, so the chance of my picking up on him before Spotify was not slim, it was none.  Then I heard a song (I wish I could remember which one it was) and I went to Spotify and was blown away.  There isn’t a song he does that I don’t enjoy.  A dozen of his songs are on the starred list.  Plus I frequently listen just to him — his entire catalog is available on Spotify.  I have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Tallest has made far more money off of me as a result of Spotify then he ever would have if Spotify didn’t exist.  And the same can be said for many of the artists on that list.  And if I ever find out that Mr. Tallest is playing anywhere near Sacramento, I’m there.  I’m buying a ticket.  I’m buying a shirt.  I’m gushing over him like a school girl.  Same goes for a number of artists on the above list — I want to see them live if I have the chance.

And that’s where Mr. Yorke has it exactly wrong.  Spotify doesn’t hurt new artists.  It doesn’t hurt the lesser known artists.  It is a tremendous boon to them.  What Spotify actually does is hurt the larger artists.  The ones with built in fan bases who buy their CDs without a second thought.  You no longer have to do that if you have Spotify.  Makes me wonder if he’s not doing this for more selfish reasons than he purports.

Yes, the royalty rate Spotify pays is a fraction of a penny for each play of a song.  But Spotify claims to have 24 million subscribers.  I’m pretty positive many of them are people who listen to music.  A lot.  Spotify estimates it will pay out $1 Billion in royalties in 2013.  I’m pretty positive that in a lot of ways a lot of that revenue probably wouldn’t have found its way into the pockets of the musicians if Spotify didn’t exist.


P.S.  A lot of the articles about Mr. Yorke’s protest provide examples of artists who complain about the royalties they are paid.  It typically goes something like this:  During the last six months, my songs were streamed 4,472 times and I only got paid $73.

That sounds horrible.  Right?  But there seems to be this assumption built in to the “horribleness” that the number of listens represents individual listeners.  As in, if my songs were streamed 4,472 times, that must be 4,472 potential listeners.  Um, no, that 4,472 listens probably represents a small fraction of that number in potential listeners.  Because people who find songs they like listen to them over and over and over again.  I’m convinced, particularly with smaller artists who can’t crack commercial radio that the revenue they get from Spotify they would never see if it weren’t for Spotify.

A Sunday Walk/Random Music Thoughts

There’s this thing I do most Sunday mornings that drives me crazy.  It’s called … absolutely nothing.  There was a time when my Sunday mornings were built around a run, particularly when I was working towards a half marathon.  Sundays were for those long runs.  I had intricately mapped out runs through the neighborhood that could be expanded or shrunk depending on the needed length — up to ten or eleven miles.

Then  my groin intervened and Sundays became a whole lot of nothing.  Yes, I start to get laundry done.  But, ultimately … here’s what Sunday mornings have been like for far too long.  Get up, read the newspaper, surf the internet … for far too long, while telling myself to shut it down and just write for an hour or two.  Write.  Not blog.  Write.   (Yes, Beaver, there is a difference.)

At some point, I shower and get dressed and make the drive to the neighborhood grocery store to get what I need for the day’s dinner.  Drive back.  And wonder why I don’t walk instead.  It’s just short of two miles from my kingdom to the grocery store.  Typically, I’m not buying a week’s worth of groceries.  Why not walk?  Why walk?

The last few weeks have seen a renewed level of energy.  I’ve started walking every afternoon during the week, even when the ol’ groin was tight — for all of the wrong reasons.  With it staying lighter later, I’m committed to starting short evening bike rides during the week and longer rides on weekends.  But, is that enough?  No.

I walked to the grocery store today to get what I needed for pizza tonight.  Here’s the proof:


I live in this odd place.  Tract home after tract home.  All, so blah.  But scattered randomly are these little patches of green.  Yeah, this is the community’s commitment to green, to the environment, to “sustainable growth.”  No, not really, but every once in a while I’ll take it.  This beautiful tree in the middle of suburban sprawl.

I learned a lesson on my walk … next time take a backpack for my groceries.  Lugging two plastic bags full of meats and cheeses, bananas and other odds and ends can make the ol’ shoulders tired.

[Edited to Add:  I forgot the most important part of this little experiment.  It was about finding a way to avoid using gas.  It was about finding a way to put a little more effort into what I needed.  It was about resisting the urge to do what so many of us do — there’s the car, let’s drive to a place we can walk to.  Because, well, if I plan on living minimally at some point in the future, better get started now.]

While I walked I had my IPhone and was listening to my Spotify starred list.  About halfway back, this song came on and I hit rewind as it finished so I could hear it over and over until I got home.  Yes, I’ve posted a few videos of this guy already, but I have one more today.  The Tallest Man on Earth is one of those artists who never disappoints.  With Spotify, I have access to his whole catalog.  Every song is as good as the last.  There isn’t a one that disappoints.  And, this song, just sounds … so … damn … incredible.

Which leads to my other Spotify lesson for the day.  Like Pandora, you can do “radio stations” on Spotify, built around particular artists … type in Queen and you get a radio station that plays songs by artists similar to Queen.  Plus, when you pay $10 a month, you are able to create playlists.  “Star” a song and it goes on your playlist.  What I learned today was that I could listen to a “radio station” built around my starred playlist, meaning all of the artists I like, not just one.  Wow.  Whoda thunk it possible?

Wait a sec, what’s that?  A Rolling Stone song coming through on Spotify?  Gotta get rid of that.  What?  Another one?  AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The most over-rated band in the history of music is on my Spotify.  Get gone!!

Beating A Dead Horse

First, let me say that the “improvements” WordPress made around the first of the year really kind of suck.  As near as I can tell, the only way to link to a video so that the video actually shows up in your post rather than as a link only allows you to do so with one video in each post.  Well, I’m sorry grand WordPress poobahs, this is a post where I want to link to more than one video.  You’ve screwed the pooch.  Sorry, my loyal readers, I wish there was a way to do this better, but it appears to not be possible (of course, if you know the solution to this problem, I’m all ears.  Edited to add:  Never mind and thank you to Theryn.).

But, on to the dead horse.  I’ve written a couple of times already about Spotify.  How it has revolutionized music and how we access it.  Let me recap … for just $10 a month I have access to just about every recorded song there is.  I never have to buy a CD again.  Never have to download a song from ITunes.  As long as I have a device that can get the Spotify App, I have access to EVERYTHING!  So far, I have the app on my laptop and my Kindle.  Perfect.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.   On the way to work this morning, I heard the following four songs in order on satellite radio (The Spectrum was the station).

For the record, this is the one and only Talking Heads song I’ve ever liked, but I didn’t know it existed until this morning.

Back in the day when I was a kid and we had KZAP and KROY and KSFM on the FM dial and KFRC on the AM dial, we were limited to what those radio stations played and then going out and buying a single or a full album.  Anybody else recognize the damage done by Seasons In the Sun and Spiders and Snakes???  Buying an album required a monumental leap of faith since you generally got to hear only one or two songs from it on the radio.  But, I’ve always liked the full treatment.  The album, the CD.  Not downloading or buying a single.  There are always these hidden nuggets.  The songs that grow on you through repetitious playing that overwhelm the “hit” that propelled you to buy the album in the first place.  I can’t imagine a world in which we just download single songs and don’t take a chance on the full body of work of an album or CD.

And that’s where Spotify comes in … for $10 a month I have access to everything.  Not just the hits played by the traditional radio stations — I mean seriously, at the moment, I can guarantee you that Ho Hey by the Lumineers is going to be on the radio in our house every single morning.  I love the song, I love the group, but really?  Every single morning at 7:17 you have to play that song?

No, I have access to the entire catalogue.  I knew after I heard those four songs this morning on my way to work that I would be able to come home tonight and plug in ZZ Ward, Talking Heads, Black Keys, and Nick Waterhouse into Spotify and find music I never imagined possible.  And I don’t have to buy a CD to access that music.  (Don’t worry.  Spotify is entirely legal and supports musicians by paying royalties every time one of their songs is played by somebody using Spotify.)

Until Spotify there is absolutely no way I would have taken a chance on such acts as The Tallest Man on Earth (if you haven’t heard him yet, you really must …

Alabama Shakes …

Ryan Bingham …

and … the list could go on and on and on.  These musicians I’ve described here are what is music to me these days.  Singers.  Songwriters.  Making real and authentic music with soul and feeling.

In the olden days, I would have never heard of them.  These are not the artists you hear on commercial radio.  Now, I no longer have to worry about whether I’m going to spend $10 or $15 on a CD and be disappointed.  Instead, I can explore everything they have and enjoy all of these artists.  It’s pretty damn incredible and is at least one technological advance I’m thrilled about.

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