On *my* terms

Like much of the rest of the digital world, I subscribe to Spotify. For a modest monthly fee, you can listen to music from virtually any artist. Why, it’s like having an entire record store, right in the palm of your hand!

(Kids, ask your parents. It’s a dated reference.)

We took a long road trip this past weekend, and although we had a literal world of music at our fingertips, we struggled to choose a genre or artist that felt perfect for the moment. So, as I often do when I can’t decide, I created a “radio” station (such a cute name for it) based on a song – this time, Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

You probably know that Spotify uses a magical algorithm that intuits your likely musical preferences based on a combination of factors, including your listening history. And often, it’s pretty spot-on.

So we’re listening to the Rikki station, which is quite good, but after a few songs, I thought to myself, this mix would be better if there was some Peter Gabriel on it.

You see, Peter Gabriel was one of a few artists who had not permitted his solo catalogue to stream on Spotify, I guess something about standing on principal, protesting the changes in the music industry, who knows, but the point is, he was one of a handful of artists who had resisted.

But then, as if prompted by my thoughts, “Sledgehammer” came on! I had summoned Peter Gabriel! I reveled in my newfound powers, but upon further research, we learned his solo work was now right there on Spotify, all for our streaming pleasure. I rejoiced!

(Kids? It’s from a music video. Go ask your favorite GenXer.)

“I am thrilled,” I said to Steve, “that his stuff is now available to me on my terms.”

Steve remarked, “That’s insightful!” And the truth is, as he was saying that, I was thinking it. Peter Gabriel’s solo work has been available for decades to anyone who wants to pick up a CD and play it. So what if the only CD players I currently have are in my vehicles? At least I have those, right? It’s not like it was only available on some obsolete medium:

(Kids, ask Mom or Dad about this one, too. Sorry, I write for my audience.)

I continued, “It’s like when that long-lost relative finally gets a Facebook account, and you’re like, cool, now we can keep in touch,” fully realizing how ridiculous that sounded. Is Facebook the only way we can stay in touch with our friends and family? I’ve gone almost nowhere in the past decade or two without a phone in my hand. Can I no longer dial a phone number? Even with cell phones, there’s always that person who refuses to text, and you have to call and actually speak to them. Why that’s become an inconvenience, I don’t know, but you know it’s true.

What about written correspondence? Remember pen pals? I take great pride in my penmanship and used to write and mail letters to my grandparents and some special aunts and cousins. I would even enclose printed photographs of my kids! Email has mostly replaced that. I’ve had email since before Gmail existed, and everyone else has it now, too (well, the kids nowadays don’t like to use it, but that’s another story). It isn’t that hard to dash off a quick email or note, but I do much less of that than I used to.

(Kids? Oh, never mind.)

MY terms. If you make it easy for me, I’ll listen. If I don’t have to work too hard for it, I’ll communicate with you.

And wouldn’t this make a good sermon? How many of us will seek out God, but only if it’s convenient for us? Lucky for you, I’m not the pastor here, so I’ll leave it to one more qualified than I to flesh out that metaphor.

Anyway, Peter Gabriel is streaming now on Spotify and apparently has been since May 2018, and I missed it. Was there a big announcement? I found a couple of articles in a quick web search, but nothing from a mainstream publication. Nevertheless, he serenaded us for the last two hours of our drive on Sunday evening, which was a welcome distraction from the typically greuling I-81 traffic, as well as from the fact that it got dark at 5pm.

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