There’s just so much damn music out there. Even when you find something you really, really like, you can’t help feeling that by lingering too long on a particular song or band that you’re missing out on something that’s even better. The result is we spend far too much time searching and researching music and not enough time savouring it.
The trend now is to look for curated playlists that will serve up music we will like so we can just lean back and enjoy it. This is a big reason Google Play Music bought Songza, which offered up great playlists tailored just for you–or at least close enough to what you’re looking for at that moment. All those playlists were created by real live human beings, too.
But hang on. Here come the bots. This is from HowWeGetToNext.com:
Flying cars, hoverboards, and self-drying jackets—all possibilities, right? Even so, predicting the future is hard.
However, if we’re just to focus on music right now, it’s a fascinating time. Certain things are falling into place, which means that the path is maybe—just maybe—becoming clearer for the minute. At least, that is, in terms of how technology is influencing the way people listen to music.
We are obviously at a point now where legal, on-demand access to almost all music is a reality—whether through streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, or YouTube (which we might want to count as a streaming service as well, though I don’t think anyone actually uses it in quite the same fashion). In some ways, streaming is still a comparatively niche business, but from where I’m sitting—as someone working in the music industry—at some point in the last 12 months it went from an underground niche to an overground one.
It is now inevitable that streaming music will become the most popular way to listen. It won’t be the only way, of course, but it will certainly account for the majority—in the same way the CD once did.
But what effect will that have? To get an idea, we should first look at the key reason why streaming has taken off: the iPhone.
Pre-iPhone there was a variety of nascent streaming startups all with a similar model to what Spotify launched with: $9.99/month gave you access to the entire music catalogue. Rhapsody was probably the most successful of these, but none managed to get off the ground in a way that was significant.
If you were a customer of one of these early services, it was hardly a mystery why they stumbled. Listening to music on the go was an absolute disaster, involving lots of syncing and terrible, inconsistent DRM. And if you wanted to use one of these services with the most popular MP3 player of the time—the iPod—sorry, you were out of luck.
Then the iPhone came along, and with it the ability to run actual, proper applications on the main device where you listen to music. For the first time, logic and computation sat right alongside music—and the main advancement to come out of this is the rise in streaming services.