postheadericon Shuffled Conspiracy?

So I like to experiment. On a software level, that is. I have tried all kinds of media players on my computer for example. The regular ones, like Windows Media Player and Winamp. But also the less common ones like VLC Player, Foobar, Quintessential Player and MediaMonkey.

For audio files I am using MediaMonkey most of the time now. MediaMonkey excels in the library and categorising department. I think it is better and more user friendly than Windows Media Player, and especially better than WMP 10, which I really hate. I only use WMP for playing videos because it is fast and does what it should do: play a video when I want to, and that’s it.

Back to audio files now. I use Quintessential Player as an alternate audio player. I use it mainly to avoid scrobbling audio tracks to Last.fm if I don’t want that specific song (or songs) to be added to my profile. When I am rehearsing songs for my band for example, I don’t want to the songs that I play over and over again to be added to my profile. Hence the use of Quintessential Player (or QCD Player).

When playing back audio files, I like to add all kinds of music to one gigantic playlist and shuffle it. This can lead to weird combinations of music off course. One moment you’re relaxing on some Chroma Key and the next moment you’re slamming your head into the wall with The Dillinger Escape Plan. Ain’t it great, such a diverse musical taste?!  🙂

During a couple of those shuffling sessions a feeling occurred to me that some artists get played more often than others. Of course that’s not too strange. From some artists I have about 10 albums in my collections and for others only one or two. It gets a bit weird though when an artist gets played statistically more often when there are really just 20 songs of this artist on your hard drive, which contains a couple of thousand songs total. This has happened to me quite a few times. There were weeks when Nathalie Imbruglia would pop up a couple of times during the day, a couple of days in a row. The same thing goes for a couple of songs from Porcupine Tree from the album “In Absentia”. Just check my Overall Top Tracks and see for yourself. The song “The Sound of Muzak” is in 2nd place (at the moment of writing) and more than half of the track counts have been caused by shuffled playback. Now that’s pretty strange, isn’t it?

Another strange thing is that the songs by Nathalie Imbruglia were played by MediaMonkey most of the time, while QCD Player was responsible for the Porcupine Tree tracks almost every case. (This sounds in contradiction with my earlier writing above. To clarify this: I use QCD Player at work for listening music and scrobbling my tracks)

Now suppose that the following would be true. Suppose that record labels or other entities would make secret arrangements with creators of media players, both software and hardware (like iPods, etc.), which would make it possible that tracks by specific artists would be played more often than others when the media player is playing music in shuffle mode. That way, record labels could influence the listener without he/she noticing this. Indirectly, this could have positive effects on the sales of songs, albums and/or other types of media that are made available by the record label.

Creepy thought, isn’t it?

(Originally posted on my Last.fm journal)

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