‘Following’ just got funkier thanks to Spotify’s music-ification of social media

Spotify Follow Button on Artist Profiles

As a kid growing up during the hair-sprayed splendor of the 80’s, the mix tape’s importance in adolescent life could not be overstated. After all, when you’re young and the awkwardness of puberty is barely in your rear view mirror, learning how to express yourself to a romantic interest is a mountain that’s difficult to climb – or maybe it was just the parachute pants and Hypercolor shirt (I did mention this was the 80’s, right?). Back then, we used the best resource we had – a blank Maxell cassette tape with Edie Brickell and her New Bohemians explaining how we felt: “I’m not aware of too many things. I know what I know if you know what I mean…” Well, no, not really. But I felt like it made me seem deep, and seeming deep seemed important back then.

Such memories now resurface as I find myself addicted to Spotify’s new “follow” function. Plenty has already been written about Spotify, which is the best thing to come out of Sweden since the Saab and the meatball. Actually, scratch the last one. And, as a music service, Spotify has done pretty damn well for itself – it’s up to 6 million paying subscribers and 24 million total users. But as a business, the company is in a tricky spot, since reportedly 70 percent of its revenue goes to the hefty licensing fees that major music labels levy in exchange for unlimited streaming access to its content. According to a report on The Verge, the company spends another 20 percent of revenue on customer acquisition, which apparently leaves it with not enough money to topple iTunes or something. Hopefully they can figure it all out, because if we lost Spotify now, what we’d really lose is the first honest-to-God social network built around music.

Not only is Jose Gonzalez awesome, he’s Swedish! He’s like the Saab of Mexican-sounding singer songwriters!

I know, I know – MySpace called and wants an apology. But MySpace was never really all that “social;” it was more like the world’s biggest concert posting board with speakers and really subtle colors. And, sure, Spotify has been integrated with Facebook for a while, which meant I could see what my “friends” were listening to. But I don’t like half those people, let alone like what music they’re listening to. The follow function is a different animal altogether.

By following my friends (the real ones, not the ones I accidentally accepted on Facebook four years ago and keep forgetting to de-friend) on Spotify, I’m able to see what playlists they’ve created, and who and what they’re listening to. The result is a weirdly intimate experience. For example, I see that my friend Steve’s Spring 2013 playlist includes a lot of D’Angelo and Miguel, so I know that Steve’s getting laid (the function is not yet powerful enough to confirm whether or not it’s with another person). My friend Debbie’s playing a lot of Morrissey, so I know Debbie is sad. See what you can learn? As Facebook has become a site where people attempt to present their best self – bragging about everything from European trips to delicious roast Tri-tips – Spotify has become a window to how my friends are actually doing.

But it doesn’t end there. Spotify allows me to follow my favorite artists now, too. When I do, I get their activity in my social feed alongside my friends. So now I know, for example, that D’Angelo is getting laid a lot and Morrisey is sad. And the artist pages have be redesigned to promote any playlists they create, since doing so now is basically the same thing as creating a mix tape for anyone who follows them.

Now, there are a lot of artists on Spotify, and very few of them are creating playlists, but some pretty big names are pretty active (or, at least, the 16-year-old nephews of some pretty big names are pretty active); Lou Reed has 19 playlists, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda has 13, and Lady Antebellum has 7. Turns out, Lou Reed’s nephew likes Jose Gonzalez! Have you heard of Jose Gonzalez? I hadn’t, until Lou Reed’s nephew showed him to me, and get this: not only is Jose Gonzalez awesome, he’s Swedish! He’s like the Saab of Mexican-sounding singer songwriters!

Following your favorite artists now means that you don’t just find new music by those artists, you find new music because of them. And it’s not limited to artists; if you like the music coverage by media brands like Rolling Stone or Complex, you can listen to what they’re writing about now because they’re curating playlists that mirror their coverage. I don’t follow Cat Fancy on Spotify, but I’m sure their playlists are just as adorable as their calendar.

This music-ification of social media is upon us (witness the new Myspace and Twitter #Music), and I couldn’t be happier – not just because I’m sick of looking at pictures of your kid on Facebook, but because now instead of using Edie Brickell to communicate my feelings, I can communicate with Edie Brickell herself. And you know what I would tell her if I actually had the balls to do that?

“’What I Am’ never got me laid even once. I’m switching to this D’Angelo guy.”

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Music

Apple Music may sign up more exclusive artists with purchase of Platoon

Apple purchased London-based Platoon, which is a startup that helps independent musicians get discovered by major labels. The acquisition may help Apple Music sign up more exclusive artists.
Music

The best new music this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases just for you. On tap this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, Eddie Palmieri, and Jacob Collier.
Music

From Paul McCartney to Mariah Carey, this is the best holiday music

Whether you're a fan of classic jazz standards or modern R&B masterpieces, there's something for everyone on our playlist of the best holiday music. Pour some eggnog and curl up by the fire, this one is sure to get you in the holiday…
Home Theater

Spotify Wrapped reveals rad facts about your musical tastes and habits

The website may be a bit tough to find at first, but Spotify Wrapped tells you awesome facts about your year in listening. From how many minutes you spent jamming out to your top artists, and beyond, there's a lot to dig into.
Smart Home

Apple Music hits the Amazon Echo. Is the cold war over?

It's about time. Amazon and Apple seem to have called a truce as Amazon agrees to add Apple Music to an ever-growing line of streaming music services on its Echo smart speakers that includes competitors like Spotify.
Deals

Enthusiast alert: Get up to 67% off Polk Audio speakers at Adorama

Any time is a good time to upgrade your home theater sound system, which makes Adorama's Polk LSI Blowout Weekend Sale particularly tempting. Adorama has discounts up to 67 percent on Polk Audio's top-of-the-line LSiM Series for…
Mobile

You may soon be able to listen to your own songs on Spotify’s Android app

If you love Spotify's streaming, but also have a large collection of niche music, then it can be hard to marry your two passions. Thankfully, Spotify appears to be testing the ability to import local songs to its Android app.
Home Theater

An acclaimed Apple analyst says the new AirPods are coming in 2019

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Computing

Block out the sun and drown out the haters with Bose’s new AR sunglasses

Bose has announced its quirkiest listening device yet, a pair of headphone-integrated sunglasses that allow you to meander the brightest places with your favorite tunes in tow. Called the Frames, the glasses will sport 3.5 hours of battery.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…