Photo: Eugenio Marongiu (Shutterstock)
Conventional wisdom when it comes to streaming music goes something like this: Spotify rules all the rules, and people with slightly different tastes on the platform they choose will go for Apple or some other service devoted solely to music. The big music players are all technological marvels in their own right, revolutionizing the broader music industry and bringing unbridled comfort to listeners everywhere. And I’m here to tell you to stream your music elsewhere.
YouTube is part of Google’s far-reaching business. So using the platform to stream music doesn’t exactly support an upstart waging war against the American company, but YouTube is a treasure trove of dark and wonderful depths of cut that you can use to expand your musical tastes into unexpected areas. I’m also not talking about YouTube music, but old YouTube.
If your musical exploration feels stale, this is where you should get back to basics.
Playlists that were not created by an algorithm
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of rare gems on Spotify. But for the most part, the playlists you get are curated behind the scenes by the platform’s architects, which gives these arranged tracks an artificial feel. In one of the final examples of the internet being curated by users, and not just for profit, YouTube is full of playlists and DJ sets curated by people who are motivated to share music organically and distribute it far and wide.
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For example, here are two mixes that I recently dug up. The first is a mix of tracks by Japanese funk / soft rock artist Tatsuro Yamashita:
The second is a DJ set of Brazilian boogie funk and disco from the 80s:
The latter is a good example of how YouTube can contribute to musical discovery in a simpler way than some music platforms. All of the tracks in this set by DJ Milos Kaiser are rare to use the term vinyl snobs love. I wouldn’t have heard them if this guy hadn’t dug them out of a box somewhere, filmed himself playing, and uploaded the video to YouTube. Of course, there are plenty of playlists curated by algorithms, but you don’t have to be careful.
Its interface leads to a more organic discovery
I understand that Spotify is elegant and that its mobile-first design works seamlessly on the go. However, when you use YouTube to find new songs, you don’t feel bombarded or need to consult special features specifically designed for new artist discovery. Personally, I’ve never heard an artist on Spotify with Shuffle without at some point hearing songs from other artists that I really don’t like.
The YouTube algorithm feels a little less intrusive as it gives you suggestions for new titles at the end of a video instead of immediately switching to a title you didn’t choose. This of course depends on whether or not you turned off autoplay, but the truth is that you are more in the musical range of your choice.
There are real music communities on YouTube
Unlike a traditional YouTuber site, which is associated with the many quirks and headaches that are typical of modern internet culture, sites from record labels and various music communities typically bring less shit. Even before the internet became the company’s hellish landscape today, DJ groups, DIY music publications, and record labels all had their own YouTube channels. While YouTube may not be your passion for music right now, it cannot be denied that many of these groups are thriving despite the convenience and popularity of other platforms.
Take the musical curation group Boiler Room, for example 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube. On Spotify, it’s just a shadow of this robust community with scattered playlists curated by Boiler Room listeners. If you’re into that sort of thing – or any other facet of the DIY music scene – you can subscribe to one of these channels on YouTube and get an email update every time something interesting is uploaded.
Musical discovery is all about being guided by intuition. So you should definitely do what you want. But it certainly can’t hurt to check out some other platform’s waters if your routine feels boring, and plain old YouTube could be a useful place to come back.