How We Listen is an interview series where Byta interviews artists, their teams, and everyone else working in and around music about how they find, listen and experience music, new and old.
Who are you?
Where are you based?
Brooklyn, New York
Where do you work? What do you do?
I’m a freelance writer and researcher focusing on the intersection of technology and the music business. I have bylines in several publications including Billboard, Forbes, NPR, Music Business Worldwide and the Columbia Journalism Review, and also run my own weekly music-tech newsletter, podcast and Patreon page under the umbrella name Water & Music.
One of the benefits of being freelance is that I can technically work from anywhere with an Internet connection and/or power outlet. But I recently started working regularly out of an office in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and I’ve unexpectedly become much more focused and productive working with that sense of structure.
What are you listening to?
Lots of hip-hop, jazz, neo-soul, funk, deep house, psychedelic rock, lo-fi and any combination of those styles. Some select favorites right now: Saba, Kiefer, Khruangbin, Vulfpeck, Little Simz, Toro Y Moi, UMI.
How do you discover new music?
In terms of online sources, I rely a lot on Spotify playlists, Bandcamp editorial and select YouTube channels like COLORS and Tiny Desk. But as for discovering music that has a track record of really sticking? Word-of-mouth, from family and friends.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
Audio and video streaming, exclusively, on my phone or MacBook. I have a vinyl record player, but can count the number of times I’ve used it on one hand. I also used to have a prized CD Walkman, but haven’t listened to a CD since the mid- to late-2000s. If I’m in a car, I’ll sometimes listen to the radio, but that’s a last resort after streaming.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
Everywhere! Music is like caffeine to me; it provides a magical, inexplicable shot of energy. I can literally feel something chemically transformative going on in my brain when I listen to my favorite songs; it’s like endorphins, but without the physical movement.
I consistently listen to music while commuting and at work, wearing a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones that have gone through a bit of wear and tear at this point. I will also usually put on music while at home, streaming through one of two smart speakers I own: a Sonos Play:1 and a Google Home Mini (thanks, Spotify).
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
I don’t write music reviews, so don’t have to deal with finding or listening to pre-releases too often. But the few times I have, I’ve received links from Byta, SoundCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and WeTransfer.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
If I have to download a music file to listen to it in iTunes, I probably won’t —, unless it’s an artist I really care about or for a story I’m writing on assignment. I also use an adblocker and avoid ads whenever possible; on most music streaming services, they still are the worst user experience.
It’s also surprisingly difficult on a service like Spotify to figure out basic biographical information about an artist, like where they’re from geographically. To get that info on mobile, you have to go to the artist’s Spotify page and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, which takes a few seconds, and then click on their bio and hope that their hometown is mentioned in the copy. There’s just so much friction there, especially for fans who want to get to know an artist better.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
Spotify playlists (I have my own that I update sparingly), Bandcamp collections and my friends’ brains. 🙂
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
Not formally as part of my job, but I’m always trying to share new music from relatively unknown acts with my immediate network; word of mouth is the most powerful discovery tool for me, so I try to pass on the favor as much as I can. I’ve started posting screenshots of my favorite songs more often on Instagram Stories, and also have a dedicated section called “What I’m Listening To” in my newsletter.
Anything you want to “promote”?
I’m all for supporting dope Asian artists, so here is an incomplete but top-of-mind list: Monsune, Yeek, Yaeji, Peggy Gou, Rina Sawayama, Mndsgn. I have no affiliation to any of them, aside from being a fan!