With AirPods and other wireless bluetooth listening devices popping up everywhere since they blew up in 2016, music streaming has become the most popular way to listen to music. For almost 20 years, billions of people have been connected every day using social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, among others. But there is a whole other world in the modern age of technology: free music streaming. Now, more than ever, people are downloading Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and so many other apps, and in the face of this not-so-new hype, people are being connected in more ways than ever before.
The age of CD’s and the radio are over; now, streaming and sharing music using technology is the new norm. However, with this newfound accessibility, modern listening has many societal impacts on people’s taste in music. To learn a little bit more about this, I interviewed a range of KO students to get perspectives from different grades, friend groups, and favorite musical genres to compare and contrast these impacts.
“I think music streaming apps are a great innovation to the music world,” senior Ashleigh Stepnowski said. “It allows people to have access to a much wider variety of music than ever possible before and allows so many smaller and aspiring artists to gain a platform.” Ashleigh makes a solid point, considering that more and more creators are finding ways to share their music at the same time that more and more people are looking for a new artist to spice up their playlist.
Lots of up-and-coming artists use Spotify to share their work, like Madeline Finn, Brother James, telco, Jake Loban, and many more. People who get into their music will uplift these lesser-known artists and popularize what they bring to modern listening. For example, there is a playlist on Spotify called “New Discoveries from Up and Coming Artists” with 18 hours of new music from emerging artists.
Junior Charlotte Eberle agreed with Ashleigh about supporting newly discovered artists using music streaming apps, but she focused more on the social aspect of listening to music. “I personally love music streaming apps,” she said. “I think they are great platforms that not only recommend new music but where you can also see what your friends are listening to and have ‘streaming parties’ to listen to songs together.” A Spotify user, Charlotte will often study with her friends, so playlists and artists that she gets from her friends is how she is introduced to a lot of new music. “I also ask my friends for a lot of music advice,” she said. For example, she is now into Connan Grey, Mitski, Marina, Dominic Fike, and Melanie Martinez.
Other students get their music in a different way, like freshman Alex Braunstein. “I kind of look through songs and artists and then related artists, and then see which ones I like,” he said. During our interview, Alex pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Wait, let me look at my Spotify,” he said. As he went through his recently played songs and playlists, Alex listed hip-hop and rap artists like The Weeknd and Kanye West, but also included that he’ll listen to pop sometimes.
The only Apple Music user of the three students interviewed, Ashleigh also seemed the most open about her choice in music. “The type of music I play is largely dependent on the circumstance, depending on my current mood, who I’m with, what time of year it is, and even what song comes on first changes what I play,” she said. While these things may affect the type of music she likes to play, she also has a playlist with more than 950 songs on it that shuffle throughout a car ride or workout.
There are also different influences in the three students’ music choice. For Charlotte, the friends or family members she’s with will change what kind of music they listen to. “So, my dad listens to the radio, so I sometimes get songs that way,” she said. Ashleigh, who drives two of her three sisters to school with her every day, felt the same way. “The music I’d play before school with my sisters is different than what I’d play on my way home after practice on my own and so on,” she said. Since her sisters like country music, Ashleigh will pull up a specific artist’s page or a certain playlist for a car ride.
Even though their music experiences are different, all three students had one thing in common: TikTok. “Sometimes on TikTok if I hear a good song, I’ll look it up,” Alex said. The same can be said for both Ashleigh and Charlotte, who scroll through the app and listen for cool audios. This opens up space for exploration and pushing boundaries to discover new songs, artists, and genres.
Sometimes, music can make you feel a certain way, so listening to specific songs and artists at a time when you’re feeling sad or pumped or just chill can suit “the vibe.” All of the students interviewed touched on “feeling the vibes” when they listen to music. “I really like Drake, Tyler the Creator, Baby Keem, stuff like that. Sometimes I also listen to pop, too, so whatever I’m feeling,” Alex said.
Charlotte agreed that listening changes based on current emotions and feelings, and even linked the trends in her listening with the changing of seasons. “Over the winter, I tend to listen to more calm music, maybe because it’s darker outside, so I guess it’s more of a chill vibe then,” she said. Running track in the spring, Charlotte listens to more upbeat songs because that’s a lot of what they play at practice. Ashleigh, a track captain this year, agreed with her. “I’d say as we’ve come into the spring, what I play is more ‘summery music,’” Ashleigh said. “I’ve shifted to a lot more upbeat songs than I would have played a few weeks ago.”
Charlotte also talked about her musical experience on the volleyball team in the fall. “The members of the volleyball team and I created a group playlist that had a lot of Harry Styles, who I don’t usually listen to, and I ended up loving his music,” she said.
So what does this all mean? Well, from the perspective of these three KO students from varying grades, friend groups, and musical backgrounds, it is clear that a lot of what we listen to is influenced by the people we surround ourselves with, both in person and through trends and media. So some sound advice: the next time you hear a new song pop up on your stream, consider giving it a listen. You don’t know what you and your friends have been missing!