Wednesday, June 3, 2020

iPhone Music Library Continuous Play Challenge

iPhone Music Library Continuous Play Challenge
Music fans have been fortunate to have inventions like Spotify and Apple Music in recent years, to give immediate access to virtually every song created at the cost of only a monthly subscription.

But prior to the the transition to streaming services, the biggest revolution to the music industry was the introduction of the iPod by Apple in 2001. It changed how we listened to music, as overnight, users had a mobile device with 5 GB of storage that put "1000 songs in your pocket".

And the biggest feature of the iPod was the "shuffle" playback option.

In the days of compact disc players, "shuffle" just meant random playing of the 14 or so songs on a CD. If you were fortunate enough to have a multi-disc changer at home or in your car, it gave you a random sampling of much more. But nothing presented the sheer volume of songs to listen to randomly then the iPod offered.
Original iPod from 2001

The "shuffle" playback option on the iPod became the new norm for digital music listeners.

Instead of listening to albums from start to finish, by default, the majority of users listened to their music on shuffle. Music radio stations were impacted greatly as well. In 2004, Jack-FM was licensed to the US by SparkNet Communications, a radio format modeled of the iPod shuffle with the slogan "Playing What We Want".

Radio was adapting to the new trend as music fans were listening to their own music device more often, rather than relying on music radio solely. Apple would even go on to create a dedicated device called the iPod Shuffle in 2005.

iPhone Music Library Continuous Play Challenge

For vinyl enthusiasts, this is all moot. A person listening to records is choosing an album to listen to and listening through. But for those on a digital platform, shuffle is king.

Digital music collectors like myself have multiple terabyte hard drives full of music. Starting in the 1990's, if you were like me, when you were exposed to a song you liked, you might download the artists entire catalog on iTunes. I'd carefully curate playlists that I'd listen to on my computer and then sync with my iPod. With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, it just meant a single device would be in ones pocket for mobile listening.

Fast forward to 2020 and some of these same playlists have been with me for 19 years.

And for the majority of my listening over those 19 years, I've listened to my music on shuffle.

I've decided to challenge listen to all 5,366 songs in my iPhone music library...on CONTINUOUS play.

If it's something you're interested in reading about, great. If it's something you want to also do, that's even better. I'd love for others to offer some of their music insights going through this process. Maybe it's an artist you haven't listened to much, or an album you used to love but haven't listened to in full recently. You might even be reintroduced to an entire genre you haven't listened to in years. It seems like it will be a fun adventure.

Stuck on Shuffle and need to figure
out how to set your Music app
to play continuously?

Visit the Apple Support site for details
Here's what to know:

  • Songs on the iPhone are organized alphabetically by artist, meaning that the first song by an artist beginning with A (in my case Aberdeen City, but is suspect it will be ABBA for many) and the last song on being by the artist Zach Hill.
  • In most cases, songs will be organized by artist album.
  • The ONLY RULE is "no shuffle".

  • Skip as often as you want. Hate it, skip it.

  • See how long you can go without switching to shuffle (or abandoning the challenge)

  • Go BACK as much as you want!

    If you find something that has you really locked in, and you want to keep re-listening to an album or artist from the start, go back and enjoy!
  • Switch off to podcasts, Spotify, etc as often as you want. Just when you are listening to your actual music library via the Music app, just start where you left off.
  • Enjoy the ride! 

  • Feel free to share any observations you make in the comments section or privately to me.
    • Most important is to enjoy without obligations:

      If you don't want to keep track of anything and don't want to write anything down, then don't.

      If you want to take a few notes every few days/weeks, great.

      I'm going to try to take as extensive notes as I can, but only when I actually sit down at the computer after work.

      The point of this exercise if just to live the experience.

      If there is any documentation you want to exist publicly, you can share your notes here in the comments section, social media (#continuousplay).

Some Things to Explore:
  • Maybe you really find yourself getting into an album you haven't listened to in a long time.
  • Maybe there is an album you once loved, but you've just outgrown.
  • Maybe you just lost the attention span to listen to a complete album.

    I'd like to hear other stories. 

My iPhone Music Library Continuous Play Experience:

I will update this with any observations I have about my own collection.

A: Observations
  • Aberdeen City - The Freezing Atlantic: I was way overdue for a re-listen after so long.

  • Aesop Rock: I forgot how hit or miss his songs were. Some are up there as my favorites while others were skippable.

  • The Aggrolites - listening to this brought back fond memories of my time living in Hermosa Beach and listening with Brian Nelms.

  • Air: so happy to listen to the entire catalog again!

  • Akrobatik: brought out a happy Matt!

  • Alabama Shakes: I loved listening to this album when it came out, but I didn't enjoy it as much this time.

  • Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence: what a great album this is! I actually listen to this fairly often when reading.

  • Alice in Changes: my music taste has changed over the years...I didn't enjoy listening to them.

  • Really enjoying listening to Ani DiFranco and then The Animals after so many years.

  • Attila: I could not make it through a single song. Just not my jam. I don't know if it ever was or even how I have so much on my phone.

B: Observations

  • I'm stuck on Basia Bulat- Oh, My Darling. I'll report back later. After to listening to this 2x today, I carried on in the B's.

  • But with the Beach Boys and then Beastie Boys and Beck, it's going to be a few days at the minimum.

  • I've been listening to music most of the day, with the exception of 2 podcast episodes. I'm just starting on Beck after 2 listens to Beach Boys - Pet Sounds and the entire Beastie Boys catalog. With every Beck album on my phone, it's going to take a long time!


  • That was a nice to listen to the entire Beck catalog. Any time I get to listen to the entire Beck - Odelay album is a good day. I listened to this a lot in the summer of 1996 when I was living down at the beach in New Jersey.

  • I'm surprised though for the B's...I didn't realize I had so much Babyface, B2K and Beenie Man. I got to listen to the Bar-Kays - Soul Finger so it was a success!
  • As of 9am, I've got a nice groove with the Bens: Ben Folds Five, Ben Harper and Ben Lee

  • I'm really enjoying Ben Lee. I think I've only listened to these albums once before in my life so this is great!

  • Nice! Benny Bennasi = more Hermosa Beach memories!

  • I'm also loving the random single-songs that pop up from all of the compilation discs I had in the 1990's like Virtually Alternative, CMJ, etc. Listening to Bernard Butler right now and have never listened to another song by him. I got into a number of bands back in the 1990's from these types of compilations, like The Figgs.

  • Now onto what will be a few hours of Better Than Ezra...kicking off with Juicy! Then onto the rest of the entire catalog. 

  • Still going through the B's and it's been a nice surprise. I've gotten to listen to some classics like Big Head Todd, Big Daddy Kane and Big Pun. Nice Beyonce stretch too. Big Drill Car was a fun ride...I used to listen to them a lot in college at UMass. 
  • Just hit the Billboard album section in the B's. So there is a gap of random songs in this section right now. I've listened to some randoms out of order somehow like Shakira, DMX, R Kelly, Jay-Z, Paul Oakenfold, and it looks like there are a series of random songs coming up before getting back into the grove with the B's like Black Crowes, Billie Holiday, etc. 

  • Nice little run of Bjork, which I haven't listened to much over the years. Back in the early 2000's I used to listen to one song often in particular, Bjork - Alarm call (Beck remix). Always a big fan.

  • Just had a good sampling for Biz Markie and then Billy Bragg and Wilco. Oddly enough, "Airline to Heaven" by Billy Bragg and Wilco is my morning alarm song.

  • Now onto the The Black Crowes. I have not listened to them since I was in high school, a time when I listened to them often. It was nice to go through the Shake Your Money Maker and The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion albums from start to finish after 25 years. 

  • Along with Basia Bulat, I'm putting the 2010 Black Dub album as one of my tops thus far for sure.

  • A scattering of BRMC is nice to listen to. Reminds me of many weekend afternoons sitting on the roof deck in Hermosa enjoying the sun.

  • Time for some Black Eyed Peas. They got a bit played out at their peak, so it's good to go back and enjoy how good some of those albums were. 

  • A ton of Blind Melon up next!


  • It's been a few days since I've provided any updates. Been busy flying north to be with Alexander. I've settled into the hotel life since 6/1 and working through the day listening to music. I took a iPhone Library music break yesterday to listen to Zydeco music with Alexander all afternoon. He and I have been listening to the Zydeco All-Stars "Best of Zydeco Instrumentals" since he was a baby. Now that he's older, he likes to dance to Zydeco which makes me proud! We also got into the Mudbugs album on 6/2/20, thats a fun album!
  • Blind Melon was a nice listening stretch. I listen to some songs here and there over the years, have a song of theirs as one of my alarm songs. But going through the entire, albeit short, catalog was nice. Good memories of high school and I must have listened to them a lot during my junior year at UMass, beause I had a lot of memories of listening to them while I lived in the Pufton apartments that year. 
  • Blondie...doesn't get much better than that.
  • A little comical music with a couple Bloodhound Gang albums. Good memories of listening to them a lot with Adam Daly when I used to come visit him in Dennis, MA on the Cape in the late 1990's.
  • Bob Dylan. Every studio song ever. Good refresher for one of the artists that really got me into music in the first place.
  • Went through a good period of listening to Bob Marley this week. Bob Marley - Legend was actually the very first CD I ever purchased, back when they came in long rectangle, eco-unfriendly packaging. I bought it at Mr. Muck's in Butler, NJ way back when.
  • In addition to some of the classic Bob Marley albums, I also have a cool album of Bob Marley dance remixes called Shakedown Marley Remixes (2001) that was nice to listen to after so many years.
  • Here's an interested segue: Bobby Darin to Bobby Womack to Body Count. Some classics, to soul, to listening to Cop Killer. I used to love that Body Count album in the early 1990's.
  • It's disco time! I just listened to every Boney M. studio song ever produced! Kyle Sargent would be proud.
  • Here's a fun run: Brand Nubian, The Bravery and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Good stuff! For any Brian Jonestown Massacre fans, I recommend watching the documentary Dig!.
  • Getting ready for a long run of Bruce Springsteen but before that...time for some Bright Eyes and British Sea Power. I admittedly haven't listened to Bright Eyes or British Sea Power songs more than once before, so it was a good revist.
  • Elementary school memory alert: going through Bryan Adams - Reckless (1984) now. I still know ever lyric to every song on that album despite not listening to it since the 1980's. I think I wore out the cassette tape I had back then. I remember many school trips while at Queen of Peace and having that tape on my walkman back when I was 9-10 years old. 
  • Last update for the day coming...and that is the great Buffalo Tom. I was probably first introduced to Buffalo Tom via a compilation CD back in high school, and I fell in love with them. Once I got to UMass in 1993, the school where the band formed...and hometown of an early Buffalo Tom album producer, J Mascis, I found myself surrounded by a number of other Buffalo Tom fans. I'm going to really savor this stretch of 6 early albums I have on my phone.

More to come!

EXTRA: Anyone interested in digital music listening habits might find this study interesting

For my son Alexander:

You're only 4 years old now, so if you are reading this one day when you are older...

This is just a sample of the music that Daddy listened to over the it is just what I have on my phone right now in May 2020. It's during the quarantine and without being able to see you on the visits since you are far away, I've been listening to a lot of music. During the day while working and then at night during dinner, I am listening to all the songs I have in my library. There are probably a few nostalgic tunes that I have in my library from back when I was your age, 4 years old. A lot of the music I listened to in hight school was actually older songs from the 1960's and 1970's. As you'll see from reading the updates I put here, Daddy's music is very eclectic. For songs from the 1970's, when Daddy was born, you'll even find some disco in there as I went through a disco listening period in the 1990's. And a lot fo Funk and Soul. We used to listen to a lot of Curtis Mayfield and James Brown when I was in college, and back home in New Jersey, my friends and I would often listen to old disco 8-Tracks that my friends parents had during the Disco years in the 1970's.

I'll add more on to this buddy, as I provide updates above. And if anyone else I know provides any feedback, I can tell you stories about how that person and I are connected.

But I am going to go all the way through and complete this. Not primarily for myself, but so that one day, you can look back and see the type of music I enjoy.

But know that for all the great memories I have from being transported back in time to a any point in my life when I was with all the people I've loved so much over the years...know that the greatest moments in my life when it comes to music will always be my time listening to music with you. Whether is was classical, jazz, zydeco, nursery rhymes (like Dave and Ava) or even hip-hop as a baby, watching you listen, try to sing as a 6-month old, engage and interact as a 2 year old, dance with me as a 4 year old...these have been the best musical moments of my life.  I look forward to so many more with you over the years! I love you, buddy!


Post a Comment