Music is a big part of my life. That urge to find great music is as strong now as it was 30 years ago. Finding music is easier with a service like Spotify. It's quicker, more convenient (and cheaper) than thumbing through endless vinyl record boxes. But for all it's benefits, new technology will never be able to replace the experience of a live gig.
I spent a good deal of my youth in northeast Scotland. It wasn't a location that most musicians book when planning a tour. We'd get young bands staring out and old bands winding down. If you wanted to see someone specific it was not uncommon to drive 150 miles to the gig, then turn around and drive back home again. These hurdles caused two things to happen. I never took a gig for granted and my tastes broadened because I would go see anyone who came to town.
So, unless you've been living on the moon you'll know that this has been a rough few weeks to be a music fan. We've lost some big household names recently - Lemmy at Christmas and the irreplaceable David Bowie, only last week. But what about lesser known musicians? Did you hear anything about Mark B, Paul Bley or Chocolate Armenteros? All departed in the last few weeks and all left a body of work in their own musical niche.
I have a project on Spotify that I call The Last Encore. It's something I've been curating since 2012 but I haven't really talked about it, as it might be misunderstood. But anyway, here's how it works:
Every year I create a Spotify playlist. When a musician dies I select a single track from their body of work and add it to the playlist. The rules are one playlist per year, one track per artist, and in the order they died. As Faithless once said, God is a DJ.
What you have at the end of the year is a genre-hopping musical journey. I'm not saying it's an easy listen, but that's kind of the point. It forces me to explore an artist or genre that I wouldn't normally listen to. It's an oblique strategy for finding new music.
I'd estimate about half the artists are new to me in some way, and many of them have been incredible - discoveries like Negativland and the Magnolia Electric Company are very special to me. Finding a real gem though is bittersweet as it comes with the realisation that I'll never see them live. Others like Bowie, I did see when I had the chance and I'm thankful for that. If nothing else it's a reminder to go see live music. Your future self will thank you.
The Last Encore 2016