How to diversify your Spotify

Joe Smith tells us how we can diversify our music, and in doing so broaden our horizons.

Joe Smith
7th June 2020
Image: Instagam @bigjoanieband , @nakhaneofficial
When I look over some of the Spotify playlists I have created in the past couple of years, it’s quite frankly embarrassing. These musical relics hold song after song from white people complaining about things that now seem insignificant

These range from dad-rock bands singing about their messy divorces, to indie “sad-boys” droning on about relationships that only lasted two months. A lot of my old music held little to no meaning; it was just what I liked to listen to at the time. I also listened to a fair bit of rap and jazz too, but I only ever scraped the surface of those genres, listening to mainstream acts that, for the most part, everyone already knew.

Thankfully, my Spotify is now completely different, and I used the tools given to me by the streaming service to venture out of my boring music bubble and discover both artists and genres I had not known to previously exist.

You have to be more active in your searching

One of my main issues with Spotify is that once you start listening to a certain kind of music more than others, it generally tends to keep pushing you in that direction. This litters your discover page with more and more of the same. Hence why, for me, the discover page didn’t really work. Yes, it is a brilliant feature, but when you want to spice up your listening with new and interesting artists and genres you have to be more active in your searching.

This is where both Spotify’s prebuilt and user created playlists are extremely helpful. A simple search of a few key terms can bring you to a whole new world of music. For example, I came across a playlist recently called ‘Afro Psychedelia’ which explores and elevates psychedelic rock and funk from some of the best African solo acts and bands. My personal favourite song on that playlist is ‘Acid Rock’ by The Funkees, it’s a wonderful, experimental fusion of funk and rock, culminating in a song both mellow and joyful.

The Funkees were an afro-rock band hailing from Nigeria who formed as an army band after the Nigerian civil war. They produced incredible, upbeat afro-rock as a way to combat the horrors of the war. They sang in both English and the Igbo language creating truly captivating and uplifting music. My favourite song of theirs is 'Mimbo' found on the 2012 compilation Dancing Time, the Best of Eastern Nigeria's Afro Rock Exponents 1973-1977.

Almost any search can lead to a brilliant playlist full of exciting and different music and, from the acts found on these playlists, we are granted with another fantastic tool to discover with. On every artist page on Spotify there is a “fans also like” section that displays between 10 and 15 artists that share similar musical styles to the original artist you found.

I found the band Big Joanie on a playlist titled ‘Black Punk’. Through their artist page a found another incredible band named Pleasure Venom and through Pleasure Venom I found X-Ray Spex. All three of these bands are fantastic and I highly urge you to listen to them.

Big Joanie are a feminist punk three piece from London. Their music creates an incredible voice for black punks and Black women everywhere. They celebrate womanhood and aim to “shine a spotlight on the history of Black punks”. My favourite song of theirs is ‘Eyes’ from their 2018 album Sistahs.

The genre pages on Spotify can also prove to be quite useful when wanting to find new music from different groups of people. There’s a section in the Spotify genres page dedicated to LGBTQ+ acts. After clicking on the playlist 'Alternative Pride' I discovered the artist Nakhane.

Nakhane is an incredible artist hailing from South Africa who writes alarmingly intimate music about realising your self-worth and accessing your own freedom. My favourite song of his is ‘Violent Measures’ from his 2018 album You Will Not Die.

It is so easy to diversify your music, all the tools Spotify provide are very useful, but also a quick google search can often lead to the same results. I've found some incredible musicians through these methods and I urge you to try and do the same.

One last note that I want to add is that Spotify often treats artists unfairly, paying them next to nothing. Smaller acts suffer this more than any. So, if you find a band you really love, and are in the position to do so, buy their music on Bandcamp or iTunes, buy their merch or buy psychical copies of their albums. It helps to show the artists that we want them to continue creating.

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