We're all familiar with things that are difficult to use, and I'd count music libraries as (potentially) one of the things. How is a music library used? Well, it's a combination of how easy it is to navigate, browse, search and play from a library.

Aside from the normal obvious stuff, like incomplete or inaccurate information, one reason a music library might be difficult to use is that it wasn't built for you.

What do I mean by built for you? Well, we all have different backgrounds and different contexts from which we have built and continue to enjoy a love for music. Those backgrounds inform how we think about music; how we regard it, search it, choose it to play.

I'm calling these perspectives.


There are loads of different ways our perspectives alter how we approach and use a music library.

One is locale. Depending on where you live, or where you have built a music library or awareness, different ways of organising the library make more sense. For example, in the West we perceive the idea of World music as different and distinct from the West's. Depending on the context in which you are using a music library, it may not be arranged in a way that aids its use for particular types of music.

For example, Western music may be broken down into more descriptive sub genres. But if your love is for particular sub genres of Mongolian throat singing then the way such music is presented to you may not always make sense; too much diverse music may be grouped together.

Another example is the age of the collector, or library user. A library may have been structured such that it makes sense to people brought up in a particular era, but emergent genres are not covered (this is a problem with overly prescriptive genre schemas).

Monkey looking into a mirror

Instead of the user, consider the technology. If a given music player is used to organize and build a music collection; let's call it... "meTunes"; then the way the music player works mandates the way the music library is structured. This might then affect your subsequent use of the same library, as a newly purchased music system might treat fields differently, fail to read the album artwork, and more.

(As an aside, it seems to be genre that pops up most often when considering perspectives. Maybe that's because it's subjective, maybe it's because genre is a classification tag and perspectives affect other classification tags similarly).

Either way, what we are seeing here is where perspectives are assumed by organization, technology or some other authority, and imposed on the music library structure, which ends up making the library more difficult to understand for the individual.

In the real world

Practically speaking, how do we manage the effect of assumed-perspectives?

Streaming music libraries offer some hope, because they could be written to be all things to all people; by allowing different navigation and browsing mechanisms.

The trouble with this is that's just a theoretical possibility! In reality, all to often we find ourselves at the mercy of the tyranny of the majority. This is the downside of adopting the mainstream nature of streaming; one way in which you pay may be a more uniform experience of your music.

On the other hand, self storing a music collection allows you a lot of configurability, but at a not-insignificant cost in terms of maintenance.

I've enjoyed this thought experiment!

Thanks to unsplash-logoJOSHUA COLEMAN and unsplash-logoAndre Mouton for the image above.
tags: bliss

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.