Why does no one know about Spotify spoken word ?
By Yana Makuwa
Spotify is an amazing phenomenon. For a casual music listener with varying tastes and just enough healthy snobbery, Spotify is the perfect way to access, organize, and discover a lot of music and listen to it essentially for free (I splurge on premium because I hate ads). Spotify is known as your go-to place for everything from Top 40 to 80’s hits to EDM and Dance music. But Spotify has a whole world of content hidden from the prying eyes of playlist makers everywhere. If you scroll down the genre page, past the Christian and Latino squares, you come across a speech bubble icon and the title “Word.”
Clicking on this icon places you squarely in Spotify’s eclectic and rather extensive spoken word/audio-book section. It is a hodge-podge of plays, poems, guided meditation, and guitar lessons. It’s an amazing collection, and I keep asking myself why this is such a well-kept secret. Does it make sense for a music platform to have content that is so drastically not music?
It is perhaps because Spotify, and internet radio in general, leans towards the musical. There are podcasts of course, and some radio stations make their talk shows available on the Internet (most notably NPR shows). The focus however, is still music; we listen to the radio for the catchy songs and we love Spotify because it has all our favorites stored in one place. We fixate on a real difference between words with music attached to them and words read off a page, unaccompanied. Listening to music is a passive activity: it’s a background activity while we do homework, talk with friends, have sex. It is also an incredibly emotional activity; our favorite songs can change our mood in thirty seconds, bring up repressed memories, or simply remind us why we love music.
So is Spotify’s Word “genre” transforming recordings of words without music into something like its other musical genres? Are we supposed to put Russian Lit on in the background at birthday parties? Or are they picking up on the difference, maximizing the wide spread that they have and catering to a different type of listener? In the world of binge entertainment and couch consumption, maybe it makes sense to talk about binge-listening Langston Hughes or Hans Christian Andersen. If it means I can knock out Shakespeare’s major histories in 53 hours of listening while I clean my apartment, then I’m definitely in.