I don’t know what music those people are playing but I bet it sucks. That’s because the device they’re using, Touchtunes, is an inherently evil, invasive machine that has vastly degraded the once pleasurable experience of going to a bar.
If you don’t know how Touchtunes works, it’s a new-ish jukebox that allows you to search for and play, not every song in the world by any means but quite possibly most of them, with the touch of a button or with an app on your phone. The problem with this is that, confronted with such a dizzying array of choices, most people are overwhelmed and don’t know what to play.
Touchtunes solves this problem by having “Most Popular Songs Played” as the first option which means that it is the option most people choose and as a result a friendly neighborhood barfly like myself may be subjected to something like Night Moves by Bob Seger two, even three times in a night and that’s just wrong. Patrons can also pay extra to have their songs pushed to the top of the list and there’s no limit to how many times they can repeat a song so, not only might you have your playlist replaced by Black Dog, but you might also have to hear it multiple times in a row.
Speaking of Black Dog, I didn’t choose that title arbitrarily. It’s incredible to me how many people, virtually all of them, play music exclusively from the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s. There is a dearth of music selected from our own time and to me frankly that’s just weird. Billy Idol, Fleetwood Mac, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, etc. should be retired from jukebox and radio station playlists the world over. Most people don’t listen to new music, they have twenty or so go-to nostalgia songs from their past and so that’s what they play when they go out and Touchtunes rewards this behavior by making the most played tracks cost a credit less than other tracks thereby fostering mediocre, unimaginative playlists that promote brain dead listening habits.
The truth is that we should not be placing the awesome responsibility of selecting what music is played in the hands of the masses. The music must be curated by someone with sensitivity and taste and with some idea of what kind of environment they’re going for. This would be a D.J. or someone who curates a limited selection for a jukebox. There are plenty of crowd pleasers that aren’t Benny and the Jets which I just had to hear last night and yes it’s not a bad song but my God how many times do I have to hear it before I die when there are so many great artists out there today that deserve to be heard and who I’d much rather hear than Elton Freakin’ John who has had his day and done quite well thank you very much?
All of that is bad enough but the truly frightening thing about Touchtunes is the way they have stripped identity away from bars, many of whom were defined by the music you’d hear within their grimy walls. Bars used to have to curate the music that was in their jukeboxes and there was an eclectic but still limited choice for the patrons who often would choose which bars to hang out in based on the music in the jukebox. With the advent of Touchtunes, however, bars no longer have a sonic personality and you’re as likely now to hear some watered down band like Death Cab for Cutie at a punk bar as you are to hear, you know, punk rock. Once the Touchtunes is installed and turned on you can say goodbye to any kind of individuality because even if your bar is called Bones of the Undead I guarantee the first song someone will play will be Endless Love or something just as bad.