CreativityEngaging Culture

iTunes and the Loss of Random Discovery

I miss record stores.  If you’ve ever been to a really great used record store like Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, then you know what I mean.  Walking around, wondering what the next stack will reveal.  Hoping you find that gem you haven’t seen in decades.  The hope of finding something collectible.   Today, that experience is nearly gone.  Just download the song from iTunes and you’re done.  No discovery, no revelation, no aha! moment.  They’ve actually tried to mimic the experience with websites like
Stumble Upon, but it’s not the same.  One thing online “search” has done is make life  so easy and convenient.  It’s eliminated the randomness.  We don’t waste time anymore searching through the library cards, finding records, or discovering long forgotten books.

But there’s something I miss about that random “waste” of time, and the discoveries it reveals.

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  1. Have you ever tried  Still not the same as a record store, but you can ‘thumbs up’ songs you like or artists, and then it will find like artists.  It’s all free, and you can listen to it as much as you want.  The only catch to it is that you have to listen through the songs, you can’t skip through more than a couple an hour.

    i know the point of your post was more about the immediateness of everything today and our inability to step back and enjoy things, but i think you might enjoy pandora for time wasting and music discovering.

  2. I still listen to the radio in my pre-iPod car. That’s how I randomly find new music. Of course, then I use Google to type in some of the lyrics of a song I like to find out what it was — and then Zune (not iTunes – I’m a PC) to buy the song or album. I guess that’s a unique form of convergence. 😉

  3. Have you ever tried to explain to a kid why we say we are “dialing someone” on the phone, when all you are doing is pushing buttons?

    Our kids missed a lot by being born in a world where you play all day without breaking a sweat–or even leaving your chair.  Where dating is something you do on IM rather than in a VW bug.  

    Boy…do we sound OLD.

  4. Are you kidding me? go to google and type in “totally cool awesome songs I never heard” and you will get thousands of links that will expand your mind.

    I think you must be getting media exposure burnout – I could surf and find new stuff for the rest of my life – things that bore me at the moment – and things that move me at the moment.  I get so inspired everyday by things I find on the web.

    I think the big trick is not to search the same way – at some point digg/stumble upon/gawker/etc will all lead you to the same old same old – but hey not that long ago I found some great music services on a marketing blog – who knew?  

    expand out your searches – there are a billion sites out there – find new aggregators on a regular basis and you will always have new things to see/hear – this is the best time in the world to find awesome great new content!  hurry up before the internet is sealed up and the corporations take back control of distribution!

  5. I would suggest that “random discovery” is easier now… in music and in life. Our choices are no longer constrained by what is available in a given store. Your Ipod can be crammed full of old favs, new discoveries, and indie bands that you might never have gotten to hear pre-internet.

    Instead of finding something unexpected in a stack of records, today you might find it in a stack of tweets. The experience is admittedly more “sterile,” but it can be equally fascinating.


  6. I guess I have to disagree in two ways.

    1) I never liked going into record stores.  I love music, but I listen to the radio (pandora,, etc) for my randomness.  Then I download the songs I want from Amazon.  I like that so much better than going to a record store.

    2) There are plenty of ways to be random–plenty of possible search strings to google that could turn up piles and piles of randomness.

    But that’s just me.

  7. I disagree, I think being able to find things online and actually listen to clips of songs is a much more rich discovery process than flipping through albums at Amoeba. I can even look up the song on youtube and probably find the entire music video, videos of similar artists i might like. Same goes for itunes.

    I have that ‘a ha’ moment all the time online–clearly i waste too much time on the internet 🙂

  8. I’m with you Phil.  I miss record stores.

    One in Detroit was truly a blast – it was called “Romona’s House of Jazz” (on 12th street) and it was the only place my brother and I could get 45’s that used to be called “race records.”  Major Lance, Lonesome Sundown, Lightin Hopkins, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Screamin Jay Hawkins, T-Bone Walker – just to name a few – were all a part of the experience.  You always felt a sense of accomplishment when you found that obscure record no else could find.

    Many times we were the only white kids in the place – that was probably the best part of the being there.

  9. I have shopped at Amoeba for years as well as countless other records stores. I know that “a ha” feeling. I have literally errupted in record stores after coming up on something that I was hunting for years. It’s an amazing feel.

    The internet, as well as specific services (depending on how deep they are), simply provide more convenience. It is “sterile” as one commenter put it.

    The customer experience is different for everyone as evidenced by this string of comments. People go about things in different ways.

    How about a way to browse a website that felt like you were “randomly browsing records” by genre? What do you think about that? Maybe its large album covers that you slide to your right using your mouse, then you see the next one, the next, the next etc. Kind of like flipping through a bin (less the visual of a bin etc).




  10. Randomness is almost too much more than our linear minds can handle these days.  we have to have things in a certain order in a certain way or they are not “logical.”  Which is true, they are not, but who says things have to be logical?

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