By Susan Orlean, as published in The New Yorker.
I’m very excited about my new Spotify account, which gives me access to twenty gazillion songs any time, all the time. The day I opened my account, though, I sat there perplexed. How would I figure out what I wanted to hear? The music I already know and like, I already own; the music I don’t know, I don’t know. I stared at the Spotify Web site for about ten minutes and then logged out and walked away. That night, I thought wistfully about listening to the radio, which I did just about constantly when I was growing up. There was a great radio station in Cleveland—WMMS—and it played album sides and new rock bands and bootlegged concert tapes; it was the soundtrack of my entire childhood and teen-age years. What was un-Spotifyish about it was that there were DJs in charge, muttering to us in their slightly stoned, intimate way, urging us to listen to new music and bands, talking about the concerts they’d seen; serving, essentially, as an older sibling who was turning me on to cool new grown-up music. Those DJs changed my life: they pushed my taste in unexpected directions and personalized music, making it make sense in a context.
I love the Internet, and I am definitely going to figure out how to manage now having what is essentially the biggest jukebox in the universe and a lifetime supply of quarters. But like so much on the Web, the one thing that is hard to replace is that intimate voice. I don’t mean having ten thousand “like” buttons clicked on a band: I mean the person who seems a little more knowledgeable and a little bit further inside, picking the best there is and convincing me to listen, murmuring in my ear as I drift off to sleep.
Again, this is why we do it. Turn off your fucking iPod, unplug your headphones, and find a radio. I promise you, it’s not all that bad.
We’re not there because we like hearing ourselves talk. We’re there because we want to help convince you that radio isn’t the enemy. We’re not trying to shove the same 20 songs through your ears and down your throat. There is an immense world of music out there, and as responsible DJs, we’d like to show you some of it.