Let’s pretend some cognitive compression technique magically allows us to listen to music at an accelerated speed without any side effects, i.e. the shortcut experience is indistinguishable from the real thing. Now then, imagine if you could listen to every single piece of music on the planet—would you? Personally, I don’t see the value in undertaking such a task, even with the time restraint significantly decreased. Besides, after that epic listening session, I’d imagine that one would be left more confused than enlightened—after the initial boredom-shock wears off that is (if you think commercial radio is dull, try keeping your sanity while listening to the other ten million songs with the same beat and chord progression).
Back in the real world, iPods only hold so much. As technology progresses, someday that minimal-looking interface dial might shroud an unwieldy heap of stuff tugging at our ears, with no discernable place to dig in. Eh, let’s just shuffle. No wait, let’s face the music: If we don’t filter what we put in, we won’t get much out of the time that we set aside for listening.
However broad or narrow we cast our musical nets, the fact remains that we all prefer certain styles, genres, eras, and aesthetics. Without the aid of curated record labels, music publications, and Internet radio stations, we have a harder time discovering new bands or composers that we like. Having a few signposts to guide us through the everythingness assures there’s going to be another artist for us to listen to and enjoy around every corner. I don’t gripe when Amazon fails miserably when it suggests that I checkout Andreas Bocelli. You can’t hate a database for trying. As these sorts of online collaborative filtering processes age, they might actually get your tastes, however eclectic, down to a tee.