Friday, March 7, 2008

What Does Your ITunes Play Count Say About You As a Person?

By Nicole Pope

Ordinarily in this column I try to answer a big question I've pondered recently. Today I awoke to yet another suffocating blanket of snow. Just like that, my energy was zapped.

So I decided to do something fun like checking my ITunes Play Count (You know, sorting your music using the "Play Count" tab - after "Rating" - or simply viewing your "Top 25 Most Played" playlist.) Incidentally, ITunes collects this data in order to make Smart Playlists. If any of you have ever tried allowing ITunes to make, say, a party playlist for you, you know it's not the smartest AI around. Something cool and party-friendly will come on, like "The W.A.N.D.," and then ITunes will blow it by playing "Tears Are In Your Eyes" (sorry, YLT).

Lately I've thought it might be funny to write one of those lame quizzes and ask, "What Sub-Genre of Indie Rock Are You?" I thought I knew what my answer would be, until I started reading way too much into my play counts.

Do you ever wonder how other people truly see you? Well, check your ITunes play count and you might catch a glimpse of the undeniable truth of your soul. It's like ITunes is whispering in that trademark Nico hush, "I'll be your mirror." (A song that currently has a Play Count of 13.) And I was just trying to write a mindless column today.

Well, Yeah, You Got Me.
My No. 6 most listened to song is The National's "Green Gloves" (36 listens), while "Guest Room" is gaining at No. 14 (33 listens).

Panda Bear's "Take Pills" comes in at No. 11 (34 listens). (WTF? This isn't even close to my favorite on the album???)

Deerhunter's "Cryptograms" takes the No. 20 spot (31 listens), with "Hazel St." closing in at No. 26 (29 listens).

And despite having only been in my possession for two months, pretty much all of Beach House's Devotion, as expected, is moving toward a top spot with the majority of its tracks at 22 listens, and "You Came to Me" with 27.

Other top contenders: Iron & Wine's "Evening on the Ground" (31), Feist's "The Water" (31), The Field's "A Paw In My Face" (29), Of Montreal's "Gronlandic Edit" (28), Badly Drawn Boy's "Everybody Stalking" (28), Yo La Tengo's "Flying Lessons (Hot Chicken #1)" (28).

Really? Are You Making This Up?
Here's where the mirror comes in, and I was quite surprised by what I saw.

Overwhelmingly, my No. 1 song was "The Well and the Lighthouse" by The Arcade Fire (40 listens). This means that either my husband or I secretly love Neon Bible more than we've let on. Or that "The Well and the Lighthouse" is a fucking great song. Which it is.

Interestingly, Hot Chip's The Warning made two appearances in my Top Ten, including "Just Like We (Breakdown)" at No. 4 (37) and "Look After Me" at No. 7 (36). This isn't too much of a shocker because, while certainly not one of the best albums ever, The Warning suits so many moods. (Just look at the range represented by those two tracks.)

The biggest surprise for me was seeing songs from Blonde Redhead's 23 at the top of the list. "Publisher" nabbed the No. 2 spot with 38 listens (I'm looking at you, Backdrifter), while "Spring and By Summer Fall" came in at No. 8 with 35 (that one's my doing.)

Mitigating factors: I've had ITunes for about a year and a half, which might account for the prevalence of some of the albums coming out around that time (23 and Neon Bible). These figures don't account for what I listen to in my car, which is a considerable amount of the time I spend listening to music. It also doesn't account for whole albums, only songs, which I assume would give an entirely different result altogether.

So what did all of this tell me? Well, I was surprised to see that I'm not as much of a sad-bastard music lover as I thought. It also shows me that some of the albums/bands I've been criticizing lately have at one time been a predominant presence in my music collection. Because of this it also shows the fleeting nature of taste and, really, obsession.

So everyone, when you get a chance, take a peek at your ITunes Play Count. You might be surprised by what you see.


Hackworth Artifex said...

I never really thought about using I-Tunes as an automated music journal, but that's pretty awesome.

We should invent something like those little pedometers people wear. Except instead of counting steps, it would keep track of what music you're listening to everywhere you go. Hell, even the regular old radio sends out song info on their transmissions.

Lately I've been listening to the Rangelife playlist on the left there a lot. Thanks for that, btw.

Joshwa said...

Never used iTunes, personally, but I' ve been keeping a since mid-'05.

Looking back on my musical taste just two years ago can be a frightening thing, I must say..

The Moon said...

Unfortunately I can't play this game...

since I neither own an actual ipod nor use itunes I got bubkiss. Though hopefully within the next couple months I will join the ination. My library surpassed the 30g (actually 28) capacity of my WMA based player a while ago and I am getting tired of swapping stuff on and off. Though I have to say I'm not really looking forward to using itunes... *sigh*

The Moon said...

I just wanted to say I think there should be a "random comments" area like off to the right on the main page... I always end up having something I want to ask but have nowhere to put it... like this.


what's up with this insurgence of afro-indie music?!?!