Spotify and the paradox of choice

Six months ago, I deleted my Spotify account as part of my digital declutter to minimize digital noise.

The result? Less skipping, more listening.

Having access to millions of songs on Spotify led me to excessively skip songs in the pursuit of finding the perfect song, but rarely satisfied with what I picked anyway. I felt I could no longer enjoy a song or an album in its entirety— an increasingly rare but lovely experience I enjoy indulging in.

Spotify was robbing me of the satisfaction of enjoying music.

I’m not alone in this, and Spotify isn’t the only offender either; Netflix and Tinder are also some of the other popular platforms providing abundance without much satisfaction.

What can explain such phenomenon?

The paradox of choice

The paradox of choice explains how having many options to choose from can cause people stress and problematize decision-making. An abundance of options actually requires more effort to make a decision, which can leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice. 

Access to unparalleled plethora of choices causes us to be less happy with our decisions. Instead of greater freedom we often associate with having greater choice, “unconstrained freedom leads to paralysis.”

Spotify, with its tagline of all the music you’ll ever need, while great in theory, leaves us paralyzed with too many options but never really satisfied with the choices we make.

Naturally, I did not care for music streaming services when they first became mainstream. I had all the music I enjoyed available in my iTunes library or on YouTube, thank you very much, and giving my email address to another platform? It’s a no from me, dawg.

I held out until 2018. But, that year, tired of always being the only one who didn’t have access to all the music I’ll ever need, I signed up for Spotify.

The paradox of choice was evident immediately.

Despite having access to more music than I can listen to in my life time, I never really enjoyed any of it. I skipped more songs than I listened to. I was constantly clicking next in pursuit of the perfect song. I rarely listened to a song in full before skipping. I forgot how to enjoy an album in full. At times, frustrated and annoyed, I’d just close the app.

I even unsubscribed from the paid plan but Spotify would lure me back in with free offers. Not matter how many times I went back, for free or paid, my experience didn’t change. I’d end up listening to the same artists, albums and songs that were readily available in my iTunes library.

Two years in, I’ve had enough.

It was time to break things off with Spotify for good. Instead of just unsubscribing from their Premium plan, I deleted my account for good. That decision felt like finally giving myself permission to enjoy the same five albums I’ve enjoyed for years on repeat, without guilt or FOMO.

How do I listen to music now?

I use three platforms for music: iTunes, Hoopla, and YouTube.

iTunes has most of the music I love listening to downloaded. Two problems: I only have access to my downloads on my laptop and the quality isn’t the best since it’s bootlegged. Duh.

I’m recently in the process of building my Apple Music library by buying the limited number of songs and albums I find delightful. It will be about the same as paying $9.99 for streaming after all is said and done. I’m really excited to finally have a personally curated music library with the artists, songs, and albums that bring me ear-soul-joy.

For now, I use the library app Hoopla for music on my phone.

The great thing about Hoopla is that it limits users to only eight loans per month, and each loan is available only for a week. I borrow about two albums a week and enjoy them as much as I can until they’re automatically returned. It’s amazing how little I skip when my option is two albums to choose from. The limited time I get also makes me appreciate the music more.

YouTube is for songs I don’t have on my iTunes library and can’t find on Hoopla. Because my iPhone is basically a dumb phone, I can only access YouTube on my laptop.

Note: I understand not everyone has the same relationship, or concerns, with streaming services and the paradox of choice. My husband is perfectly content with having access to unlimited music. He would go crazy if he had to limit himself to only hundreds of songs or a couple albums a week.

Limiting my music choices has been the best approach I’ve found to actually enjoy the music that is available for me.

Am I missing out on so many more excellent artists, albums, and songs I could totally fall in love with if only I discovered them? Absolutely, but the cost of finding out has not been worth it. Missed opportunities are part of limiting one’s choices. For now, I will enjoy what I have enjoyed for almost a decade. On repeat.

Until next time,

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