19 October 2015

What’s hiding in your playlist?

A friend once ranted that his Spotify account was set to public by default. Meaning for the longest time, the songs he listened and were listening to were for up for everyone’s perusal without him knowing. “So?” I said in all honest confusion. “It’s just music.”

Only later on have I realized that it isn’t just music. It’s life and it’s personal. What you listen to, after all, betrays a piece of you — what you find sublime and beautiful or at the very least agreeable and tolerable. Some have also pointed out the subtle workings of mixtapes and playlists. In a specific moment in your life, you curate songs that convey something you don’t have words for; that if some alien life form discovered it years after, it might be able to decode who you were and your conditions in that instant.

Last month, I, along with a group of writers, had the opportunity to have dinner with Spotify director of label relations Chee Meng Tan, who also happens to be a big music geek. He shared with us that the users’ playlists provide valuable data to the company.

According to him, listening sessions in the Philippines is the highest and most sustained. We make an average of 6 million playlists in a year (I know I’m contributing 29 and counting this 2015), while other countries make 2 million on the average. “Filipinos are so invested in streaming that they tripled the amount,” he said and further suggested that these numbers are a testament to our rich musical culture — that or our unrivaled traffic situation.

Because guess what, “traffic jams” (cheeky, eh?) top the list of popular playlist categories, followed by “hugot.” What does it say about our nation? That, obviously, traffic is hell here and we’re an emotional bunch?

While on the subject, Tan shared that the playlist he listens to the most is what he calls “Random S” — a sort of flavor-of-the-month dump. “There’s jazz, hip hop, Chinese bands, etc.,” he said. Someone in the group also shared that he has a “A good cry” playlist, which, as you may have guessed, contains sad, sappy songs. Everyone else jumped in on the discussion and noted that they, too, have those types of playlists: one wherein they could deposit an interesting song regardless of genre, artist or mood, and another which they play if they’re in the melancholy zone.

And that’s the thing, despite our musical differences, we share common experiences that we tuck in a playlist. They may have different titles and non-identical tracks, but there’s no doubt that a couple of our playlists will more or less come from the same place.

When I was younger, I used to dream of having instant access to all the music that I like and instantly create mixtapes (and I’m sure you did, too). Now it’s so easy with streaming services such as Spotify that I haven’t paused yet to fully appreciate the phenomenon. Because that which appears to be a casual act of compiling songs — as with any activity that involves composition — is therapeutic. For someone who obsesses about order and compartmentalizing life into manageable sections, the humble playlist is a blessing.

Each time I hit “New Playlist,” I remember my angered friend. I remember that if the music you patronize says something about you, then your playlists reveal more than you’re willing to let on. I still don’t mind if anyone gets to peek at my music library (who would be interested, in the first place); and I enjoy looking at others’ collections. But I also understand those who are protective of their music, I understand that sometimes they’re in the middle of a good cry and wish to be left alone.

—Originally published on GIST.PH



Presenting Penthouse, my favorite playlist. My ultimate dream is to host a party at my own penthouse and these will play in the background.

Wait, there's more. Here's the OST of my life.

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