I have Ipod Fatigue. How do I not get sick of my music?
February 2, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Ipod fatigue! How do I not get bored with my extensive collection of great music on my Ipod?

I listen all day every day. I have 25,000 song of all types. Soul, Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock. I have built some pretty impressive playlists based upon how new the music is, ratings, play counts and other criteria. I still spend time skipping to the next track thinking there may be something better. I can spend 20 minutes skipping over great songs waiting to find something just perfect for my mood at that time. I'm never, ever satisfied. I can skip and skip and skip.

I constantly add new music to the mix and it does not seem to help. I remember when I would let a new cd play and play and never get tired of it. Those days are gone.

Anybody else have this problem? Any solutions?
posted by 4Lnqvv to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Here are a few automatic of my playlists that have helped me better enjoy my large collection:

1. 100 random songs than have been added in last 120 days that I've never played.
2. 100 songs that I've never played yet.
3. 100 songs that I've listened to at least twice that I haven't rated yet. (yes, I rate my songs)
posted by furtive at 6:03 PM on February 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have the same habits as you. It seems very much related to Barry Schwartz's "paradox of choice" theory, which is more about consumerism than music but is still a convincing explanation of why we're wired this way.

As for a solution, I've trained myself to keep my iPod's hold switch locked so that I can't skip songs I'm "not in the mood for." After a few seconds I usually end up feeling fine about my "choice" and keep listening. If I'm still compelled to skip it, I seriously reevaluate whether I want that song in my collection.
posted by danb at 6:11 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Could you force yourself to listen only to albums? One of the reasons I always loved listening to an album over and over again is that you come to appreciate it as a whole (including the songs you're not so crazy about) instead of just a series of unconnected songs.

One thing I just did as well was listen to every song on my ipod alphabetically by song title. So it was a completely eclectic mix, but I found so many fantastic songs that I'd never really listened to before.
posted by twirlypen at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Delete the songs you don't like. They're probably all not that great.
posted by Pants! at 6:19 PM on February 2, 2008

Hold your own No Music Day (or week or month).
posted by book at 6:27 PM on February 2, 2008

You can't have your music and listen to it too. It just expires. At least that's my experience. My advice would be just to not listen to it so much. Lately I've been putting my less interesting music in winamp for when I'm sitting at my computer, and keep the 'good' stuff for working out.
posted by delmoi at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2008

Cultivate a love of classical music. It's hard for me to imagine anyone getting bored with Beethoven Symphonies or Mozart Operas. They're so incredibly multi-layered and complex. Each time you listen, you'll hear something new. And there's more of such music than you'll have time to listen to in your lifetime.
posted by grumblebee at 6:38 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

What about playing the same songs all day. That's what I do. Individual pieces of music are quantities of information with which I want to be intimately familiar.

Sometimes, I'll play acclaimed music I just am unsure of, stuff that may not be to my taste. I listen and listen, reaching for that connection others have which seems to elude me.

It's like sampling perfumes in a manner of spealing. Too many different scents, and suddenly I am unable to tell the one from the other. But put me onto rose or lavender or some such for an extended time...

...and suddenly it's like, "Aha! I get it!"
posted by humannaire at 6:47 PM on February 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I find I get that way when I'm depressed or am otherwise experiencing anhedonia. I look to music for something it can't provide and end up wholly unsatisfied. When I'm feeling better I either know what I want to listen to or can put on the newest or most random thing and be happy.

The Paradox of Choice link resonated with me. Can you, perhaps, force yourself to stop searching for the "right" song and just listen? Put it on shuffle and don't skip around. Try it as an experiment. What happens? How do you feel?

I think the trick might be to break the assumption that music is there to serve you. Forcing yourself to not control it so much could help turn the relationship you have to music into something more organic.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:04 PM on February 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

twirlyb's solution of listening to entire albums, rather than just a bunch of songs at random, is what works best for me (someone with the same problem of skipping two dozen songs for every one that I listen to). Obviously only works if you have full albums for a majority of the music on your computer though.
posted by mjgrady at 7:08 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're on a Mac, try Tangerine. It gives you playlists based on BPM and beat intensity in songs. Many times this can help you match a mood, but it's not perfect. Moody is a great solution for this, and it's Mac and Windows compatible. The big downside is you'll spend a lot of time tagging your songs' moods in order for this to work really well.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:12 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I remember running through the winter of 1991-1992 with any 1 of maybe 5 different fragile cassettes on my Walkman (Billy Bragg, The Church, Costello, The Pixies and Housemartins). I didn't get tired of any of them, but now that I have thousands of songs on iTunes, many from the same artists and many more who I love, I still find myself skipping and dissatisfied.

I nth the suggestion that you try listening to entire albums all the way through, like you used to. If it's too easy to skip, go lofi for a while: get your hands on a walkman, find someone who can help you make cassettes, and go out with one or two cassettes to choose from. At home, choose just 5 albums per workday and stick to those, listening to them all the way through.
posted by maudlin at 7:30 PM on February 2, 2008

I had a similar problem until I got an iPod Touch--before I had all 40+ gigs of my music with me at all times and it was overwhelming to find things I wanted to listen to. Having only 16 gb of capacity has been a bit of a zen thing.

I have a "recently added" playlist, which has always gotten a good deal of eartime--but I now spend almost all of my time listening to a 50-song smart playlist I call "one play wonders," which (you guessed it) are songs that have a playcount of 1. I sync every couple of days, and in the interim, I just listen to that, and I try to skip songs only when physically necessary.

I am amazed at all the good tunes I am finding in my own library. You might try something similar.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:55 PM on February 2, 2008

The best thing I did was delete everything on my ipod and only start adding things that I actually liked. and little experiments. But I now have a pretty good idea what's on there and gone are they days when I didn't recognize half of my music.
posted by sully75 at 8:19 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Usually when I'm bored by something I do something else, instead of trying to figure out how to keep doing the same boring thing. Take a break. Listen to some birds.
posted by 1 at 8:19 PM on February 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I used to have the same problem, then I got XM Radio. Before XM, I would just have to put the ipod away for a week or two, or I would listen to audiobooks/radio shows downloaded from Bittorrent (or downloaded freely.. This American Life or Diggnation to name a few good ones).

If those aren't good options for you, you could try dividing your music up into large playlists and avoid listening to more than one on any given day.
posted by Sufi at 8:56 PM on February 2, 2008

Here's an idea I first got from a William Gibson book: a media fast.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:16 PM on February 2, 2008

I confess to never having your problem, but part of it sounds like you are in a rut, anyway.

Listen to anything. ( And occasionally, listen to nothing!) Boredom seems a much worse problem with repetitive radio. Ick.

You don't have to like everything! Without some contrast, how will you recognize joy? Mix up the entire box of tunes and let it fly!

Try a little country, bluegrass, gospel, rap, rock, alternative, punk, big band, beach music, spoken word, doowop, classical, world, opera. Figure out the music. Someone went to a huge effort to make it.

Hit the play button and don't look back. Don't stop adding to your collection, either. Try to die long before you ever have to repeat a selection! Evolve as you listen.
posted by FauxScot at 6:30 AM on February 3, 2008

I'd like to contribute to the recommendation that you try listening to whole albums. There are many songs that occur mid-album that I wouldn't particularly care to hear on their own, but in the scope of an album they are built up to, framed. Also, when you listen to an album, your brain doesn't necessarily click into awareness at the end of every song, wondering what will be next-- so it's more mentally restful AND more musically satisfying.
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on February 3, 2008


We (as a culture) have broken our ability to listen to albums and read books. We've replaced it with a twitchy, omnivorous browsing. (I'm doing 4 or 5 things right now, including writing this and listening to music, and there's no way I'm giving the music the attention it deserves). I really think the best thing you could do is sit down in a dark room with a classic piece of vinyl (Dark Side of the Moon, maybe?), a good set of headphones, and learn to listen again.

I'm very much speaking in a practice-what-I-preach mode here, though.
posted by Leon at 7:45 AM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I listen all day every day.

There's your problem. Take a break. I work in a record store and listen to music of my choosing 32 hours a week. It's a drain. Though I own almost 5000 albums of my own, I rarely listen while at home. It's just too much. I got rid of my iPod almost a year ago because it just seemed silly. Give your ears a break.
posted by dobbs at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2008

Pay $13/month for Sirius satellite radio. Buy a Stiletto 2. The Stiletto will hold your MP3s but is also a portable satellite radio receiver. So when you're sick of your music, you can just flip a switch and listen to 120+ music and talk channels. If you like a song, just press a button and it saves it on the device. It's the size of an iPod and is so much better. Why keep paying a lot of money for CDs and music downloads when you can get so much more for so much less?
posted by HotPatatta at 10:41 AM on February 3, 2008

I do this as well. Even when I only loaded my iPod with full albums, I did this.

an iPod shuffle helped *a lot*. It holds about as many albums as I used to carry in the walkman days, and you've no choice over what order to listen in. I'd buy the smallest version you can find, and try it.
posted by bonaldi at 11:42 AM on February 3, 2008

Thanks for your input.

I have been thinking about the media fast/break, satellite, talk radio ideas. I'll give some of these ideas a shot. Right now I'm putting my old high school music I swore I'd never listen to on the Ipod.
posted by 4Lnqvv at 12:49 PM on February 3, 2008

I subscribe to a lot of different podcasts. It's like having satellite radio, but free. New music all the time, chosen by people with similar tastes to me yet with a lot more time to find new and interesting music.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:09 PM on February 3, 2008

After trying joshrholloway's recommendation of Moody, it seems like a promising way of organizing a music collection, and it actually makes sorting music--a pretty mundane task--kind of addictive. There's a problem, though, with the way you sort songs on scales of sad-to-happy and calm-to-intense. "Calm," for me, is not the opposite of "intense." It's the opposite of something like "energetic." There's a lot of intense-but-calm music out there that I wouldn't know how to classify with Moody. Likewise, the opposite of the "intense" category should be something something similar to "light."

All of this is to say that, despite its cute and addictive means of sorting music, the results Moody produces won't be that useful for matching a particular mood you happen to be in. We need a three- rather than a two-dimensional way of sorting music, but I guess that would be harder to represent graphically.
posted by Phatty Lumpkin at 1:33 PM on February 3, 2008

1) Not right now, maybe, but rate more stuff.
2) Put playlists of only 1-4GB up at a time. Even 6GB takes 4 days to listen to, so just listen to a playlist a couple times. And use smart playlists to vary the selections.
3) Books on MP3, if you aren't driving, are great. (Some people can listen to a book on tape and drive, I am not one of those people, as evidenced by 2 car accidents.) Especially for a monotonous exercise.
posted by herbaliser at 3:05 PM on February 4, 2008

I have the same issue but I've found it relatively easy to deal with. As many others have suggested, I generally leave my 160GB iPod on shuffle and force myself not to skip the randomly selected songs (unless it's an extremely out-of-the-mood song, which do occasionally pop up).

My other trick is just varying what I'm listening to. Today, for instance, I'm only listening to music in my "recently added" playlist (albums that I added in the last 3 weeks). I do this pretty often so I can "digest" all the new music I add (a lot!) as thoroughly as possible.

Tomorrow, though, I'll probably just leave it on shuffle all day. That will dredge up a lot of old stuff I haven't listened to. If I want to ensure that I only hear older music, I'll use a Smart Playlist: I have one called "30 day shuffle", which are tracks that haven't been played in the last 30 days. I also have Smart Playlists for each "generation" - 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2004, 2005, 2006, etc.. Another good one is "Never Played", which is only songs with a play count of 0 (if you've had your iPod/iTunes for a long time you might not have any 0-play tracks, but you could make it "less than 5" or something similar). There are several others, depending on what I'm looking for exactly.

Also, I use my Star Ratings to categorize mood, not how much I like a song. Here's my mood ratings:
  • 1 star = Rainy Days (slow, melancholy, etc - songs I like listening to on rainy days)
  • 2 stars = Wistful (songs that get me emotionally worked, either from nostalgia or some other form of personal resonance. Usually more "downbeat", but not necessarily)
  • 3 stars = Chillout (Calming, good background music)
  • 4 stars = Sunny Days (Happy, upbeat, driving-with-the-top-down music)
  • 5 stars = Adrenaline (My workout mix; also, my high-energy-drive-too-fast mix, etc)
I find that these ratings capture my general mood on any given day pretty well, so if I put on a smart playlist of one of those mood ratings I'll be pretty happy with the shuffled tracks that play. It keeps random death-metal from coming on right after a Bach concerto, etc.

My final trick, when I'm feeling just plain sick of my iPod library (despite it's massive size), is to let someone else steer: I tune into a web-radio station (WOXY - my favorite) and let the DJs decide for me. This helps a lot; it gives me a break from my own collection, lets me in on what's new out there, and satiates my desire for unique music.

So, in summary, the key (for me) is variety. Use smart playlists to really push your huge library to it's greatest potential, and don't be afraid to switch off and let someone else decide for you.
posted by sprocket87 at 7:58 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

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