It’s coming up to the first quarter of the way through this project, and I’m starting to think about the kind of things I want to include in the Quarterly Review posts I’m thinking of doing. One of the most interesting pieces of data to include might be the raw data behind how some of this work is performing. Things like how many plays the songs have got, who’s clicking through from what sites, all these kinds of topics would make a great piece of writing. But there’s also a reason I bring this up now as opposed to in that post, and that’s kind of the gag of this whole blog post:
I don’t know any of the statistics.
That’s not to say they’re not available, I can get ridiculously detailed analytical data on almost anything to do with this project, but I’ve made a conscious decision to not look at it. Considering this year started with a big in-depth blog about my time tracking statistics and the utility of the numbers, it might seem weird that I’m locking myself out of this part of the project, but there’s three reasons I think this is (currently) a good idea.
1. It will weigh on me
I believe that following the performance data will create an extra stress to this whole project, when actually I don’t really think it’s the point all that much. As I mentioned in the Time Tracking blog, following the trends that I was only partly in control of did take a toll on my mentality concerning some areas of my life, and I only really found it beneficial when it was something I could directly alter. I don’t necessarily believe that how many people click through to these songs is something I can alter in a big way. I’m aware that I could be trying harder with promotion, but I think that’s also to do with what I want this project to be in a way. I’m content with this being a project for my own artistic progression, and if people want to come through and look at what’s going on, that’s even better in my opinion, but it’s nice to be able to treat listenership as bonus points as opposed to the driving focus for now.
The other important thing here is that it will colour how I view the songs. If I’m super happy with a song before I upload it and share it, how that song does online shouldn’t then affect how I feel about the song. Lack of listenership doesn’t make the music a failure. Likewise, if a track explodes in popularity for whatever reason, it should still be an essential part of the process to remain objectively critical about it, even if more people than normal are saying they like it. Right now, I’m happy just putting the songs up and not letting them be coloured by seeing the statistics, which leads me onto my next point.
2. It will weigh on you
This is not to say that you, the listener, will write off something because you see it only has 10 views, but I do believe that has a small part to do with it. Audience-facing numbers are a very peculiar thing to me. Things like view numbers, likes, and those kind of things shouldn’t have any practical purpose, but they do in a strange ambiguous way. Browsing through YouTube, it’s quite easy to hover over a video and use how many millions of views it has and use that as a scale of quality. Twitter and Instagram having their follower numbers public does the same thing. It’s a subconscious metric of quality that you can’t help but notice and adhere to, and it hovers over the head of everything you create whether you like it or not. This is where I believe Kanye West has it totally right. In his September 2018 Tweet he said this:
“we should be able to participate in social media without having to show how many followers or likes we have. Just like how we can turn off the comments we should be able to turn off the display of followers. This has an intense negative impact on our self worth.”
And he’s not wrong. This feeling was a big motivator behind me wanting a place in the internet where I make the rules. It’s refreshing to know that the content is just being judged as content.
The other major problem with this is that there's no standard or metric for performance. Remember those Spotify wrapped posts on Instagram? Artists would post their statistics with however many millions of plays they'd had over the year, but it didn't actually offer any substance, it was just a flex. I didn't even see myself comparing different artists, I just found myself getting intimidated by these huge numbers, but that's an effect of social media we'll get to at another point.
For the record, this was my favourite Spotify post from the ever-wonderful Mike Dawes:
Consider places that host digital entertainment where the lack of public-facing statistics has worked in its favour. The best example of this is Netflix. The only bit of analytical data you see as a consumer is how much this might match up with your tastes. If you knew that the show you loved to bits was only by three other people before you checked it out, that might completely turn you off it. The same goes for podcasting. Most podcasters are far more private about their listening figures to their shows. This wasn’t something I understood for a while, I’d hear podcasters kind of skip over questions to do with listening figures, but I now kind of understand why that is; they’ve been given the option to have their content judged just on its own merits, and that’s a wildly valuable thing when you’re making stuff for public consumption.
3. The songs will live longer
I feel like the main strength of this whole project will be how it acts as a portfolio in the future. I feel like when it comes to using these as a resource, it’s better to just have the songs. Play numbers and likes and things like that might well detract from what I’d need them for in the future.
To sum up, I just feel like it’s nice to have a place on the internet where I don’t need to appease algorithms or pay attention to statistics that will change how I feel about the music, when that’s exactly what I feel should be central to the project. I feel like what I might do is make a blog post at the end of the year where I go back into the numbers retroactively and see how everything did, but for now these are going to stay locked away.