Lilian Min
September 11, 2015 7:23 am

If you’re a fan of any sort of indie and/or underground music, you’ll know that one of the side effects of always being plugged into what’s happening outside of the mainstream means that you’ll start listening to and preaching relatively unknown artists, only to find yourself saying “I told you so!” to the friends who “discover” said artists a few months later. (The opposite end of that is, of course, pretending you know about artists you’ve never heard of.) But Spotify is here to settle this question once and for all: Which artists did you really “discover”?

The streaming service debuted Found Them First yesterday, and as you can guess from the name, it’s a website/app/thing? that goes through all of your Spotify plays and tracks down the artists you listened to before anyone else did. (The baseline metric appears to be 10%, as in you were among the first 10% of Spotify users to stream this artist through the app.) Being both a music writer and someone obsessed with the ways tech influences culture, I put my Spotify profile through the feature and learned some pretty interesting things.

According to Found Them First, I “found” 11 artists before everybody else got to them. What’s interesting about the way they presented this information is that for some of them, they include both the first time you listened to that artist as well as your aforementioned foresight percentage. But for two artists (Jhene Aiko and Made In Heights), I only received the latter information. Does this mean that there are still not enough listeners for these artists? It’s an admittedly flattering thought (they still haven’t blown up, ergo I’m still cool!!!) — but that information’s absence just seems glaring.

For other artists, I could clearly remember why I’d started listening to them. X Ambassadors (3%): I interviewed their frontman for my college publication, which meant listening to their music to prep. Lorde (1%): My sister, who works in college radio, gave me the hot tip long before “Royals” took over the world. Tove Lo (1%): A roommate with her ear permanently fixed to Soundcloud blasted the Hippie Sabotage remix of “Habits” right before it crept through the Internet.

Some artists are a little harder to place. London Grammar (2%): A former writer might’ve told me about them? Sylvan Esso (6%): I actually thought I’d been late to the “Coffee” band, as I’d studiously avoided listening to them for a long time. Run the Jewels (3%): I didn’t start listening to this hip-hop super team until their second album came out, so this placement really surprises me.

Of course, there are certain obvious limiting factors to Spotify’s Found Them First feature. First: All the data available is directed only through Spotify; many artists nowadays build their profiles on other mediums like Soundcloud and YouTube before jumping into the larger streaming app world. Second: Listening to one song once vs. listening to an artist regularly starting at a certain point, are very different ways of engaging with an artist. Third: Define “making it big.” (The difference between discovering Lorde early vs. discovering a band that’s since fizzled into thin air.)

Overall though, Found Them First is a cool side effect of Spotify’s celestial jukebox aspirations, and yet another interesting data visualization project on the Internet. Now, go show off your music taste to your friends.

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