Image: Romanovsky & Phillips/Valarie Santagto
The founders of Forgotify are embarking on a project that, if successful, is doomed to self-destruct. Their Spotify-based program plays you the songs on the music streaming site that have never been listened to … ever. That's it. “There was an article floating around early last December that mentioned the crazy stat that four million songs hadn't even been listened to. [Co-founder] Lane [Jordan] found it and sent it my way with the seeds of the idea,” fellow co-founder Nate Gagnon told me.
Jordan discovered that 20 percent of Spotify’s library had never been heard—not even once. He brought on his friends J. Hausmann and Nate Gagnon to help with a project that would put a spotlight on those unsung heroes of music. Forgotify scans Spotify’s API for songs that have never received a single play and puts them in the library to be heard. The rest is up to curious listeners.
The first song I heard when I loaded up Forgotify was “Trouble in Paradise” by Romanovsky & Phillips. The song starts, “This is the story of two gay lovers.” Needless to say, the songs people will encounter when loading up Forgotify will be obscure and often times ridiculous. The song that followed Romanovsky & Phillips was a Czech lute gospel of sorts.
A lot of the music one will find when experiencing Forgotify is older—at least a couple decades old. It make sense. Most newer music at least gets a few plays from friends of the bands, or the bands themselves. So Forgotify is mostly an ode to the lost songs of aspiring bands and ensembles of the past.
The temporal beauty of Forgotify is its fleeting existence. “If it's successful, it shuts itself down,” Gagnon said. “We heard somewhere that it would take 200,000 people listening for an average of an hour to knock out all the songs—which makes it sound more attainable than we thought.” At the very least that lute gospel song and the Romanovsky & Phillips number have exited the Forgotify realm.
The people behind Forgotify are an ensemble of artists themselves. Graphic design, app development, and copywriting are among the group's collective skill sets. Gagnon told me he’s working on a project to “launch a big anti-violence project in Chicago over the next few months.” He also noted that he didn’t get invested in the project because of being part of an unknown music group, like those he helps expose.