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The most constant motivating feeling in my life, I sometimes think, is the fear that there is genuinely amazing music somewhere that I am missing. This fear has been confirmed many, many times. So many times that I have spent even more of my time building machines to, depending on your perspective, either fight the fear or just confirm it more efficiently.  

For the past couple years, one of these machines has been maintaining a playlist called The Echo Nest Discovery as an attempt to find some songs, independent of origin or style, that are either rocketing out of obscurity or rocketing just as cheerfully to the edge of obscurity before plummeting ignominiously back into the depths of it. This has been a pretty good machine. It has found me a lot of music I've enjoyed and would never otherwise have heard. (And also found a fair amount of music that I was already enjoying, which is good, or at least confidence-building.) I think of this list as the world on shuffle. It finds strange and wonderful things, although not every individual song is necessarily both.  

But the Echo Nest's acquisition by Spotify has given me access to even more data than we already had, and among many other things, I have built a new fear-confirming machine. I call this one The Needle, because there are needles on turntables and needles on detection instruments and needles in haystacks and I think there was once some other thing.  

This machine is, I think maybe, a little better than the last one. Hopefully. It's definitely a little fancier. Where the Echo Nest Discovery found one batch of things every week, there are actually Needles of three different gauges:  


Current is the shallowest search, and basically looks for potential major world hits near the beginning of their rise. Some of these will come from places far from your ears, some of them you may already be trying to get out of your head. But if three lists sounds like too many to you, then this is probably the one you want.  

Emerging attempts a balance between velocity and obscurity, closer to the spirit of the Echo Nest Discovery. Most people will not have heard of most of the things that show up on this list, but a few of these songs will probably go on to be hits. Many of the others will be great. If you follow this list, you will expand your world.  

Underground digs deep. Maybe sometimes too deep. You may not be prepared for what you find at this depth. Coelacanths with poor hygiene. Terrible ripoff covers of new songs that aren't on Spotify yet, dubious remixes of songs that may have been dubious to begin with, novelty hits from places you weren't actually planning to visit. Somebody, somewhere, is listening to this stuff, but people are weird. Yes, even here, some of these songs are gathering their powers to escape into the light, but if you follow this list, it is probably because your problem with the darkness isn't that it's dark, but just that there's so deliriously much of it.  

And if all of these things sound great, there's also a consolidated version that combines these three lists into one. This is even more of the world on even randomer shuffle.  

But one of the ways we now have a lot more data is that we know where every Spotify listener is listening. I have already been using this to tell what people are listening to in countries and cities, and now it allows me to look for things that are maybe-rocketing out of local obscurities. So there are, in fact, sets of Needles for every country where Spotify has enough listeners. For example:  


Some of the smaller regions don't have (or don't fill) all three lists yet, but we're constantly growing, and all these lists are updated every week (usually some time on Saturday), so the current list of lists is here, and it will only keep growing.  

And maybe you won't care. Maybe you already think you have enough music in your life, or that you need more but you already have sources. Maybe you think that what a thousand people in Estonia suddenly discovered yesterday isn't relevant to you. There are, after all, many ways to live, and you have to choose carefully among all the many potential torments. Maybe you don't see a haystack and wonder if there is a needle in it.  

But what I have come to believe, and why I encourage you to not conclude so quickly that you know what you need, is that the needle/haystack metaphor misses the point. The haystack doesn't conceal needles, the haystack is made of needles. I've been thinking of this as a "discovery" tool, and it can be that, but it can also just be a way of listening.  

So put the needle on the record. The things people are listening to far away only seem weird because "far away" used to matter. You used to have to go to Estonia to hear what people were listening to there. Estonia used to be a "there". It's still partly a "there" for licensing reasons, as not all of the songs in all of these lists will be available in all the other regions. Art and joy always move faster than law. But eventually we always catch up. Everywhere can be a here now. Or tomorrow, or next week.  

Do you want to hear what that will be like? It will be amazing.
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