Technology has always had an effect on music. The limited capacity of the 78 RPM record got everyone in the habit of writing and recording songs that lasted around three minutes. The 8-track and the cassette allowed music to become more mobile and personalized. The Walkman ushered in the age of humanity going through its day in a bubble of headphone listening. The MP3 completely disrupted the music industry. I could go on, but you get the idea.
This symbiotic relationship continues in ever stranger ways. For example, labels and songwriters know that when it comes to streaming, there’s an excellent chance that when faced with an unfamiliar song, 24% of streamers will skip the song within the first five seconds. And since no royalties are paid unless the song runs at least 30 seconds, everyone is trying to figure out how to keep hooked for at least half a minute. That’s affecting how songs are written and arranged. More hooks. The chorus up front. Fewer long dramatic buildups and vocals starting sooner. Shorter songs and more repetitive lyrics.
Now labels are waking up to the peculiarities of voice activated devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Billboard explains why these AI thingies are affecting music.
Recently, Sony Music Entertainment assembled a six-person squad to crack what is shaping up to be one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for the music industry in decades. The task: getting voice-activated speakers to play certain tunes when living-room listeners call out anything from the name of their favorite band, to more nebulous requests that Amazon has fielded recently from its Echo users, such as “dog music,” ”drinking music,” “pop music for yoga” or “Bruce.”
“You’ve got to think about the way people would be requesting things,” a Sony executive says, adding that a command to “play Bruce” raises the question of whether the speaker will produce the more popular Bruce (Springsteen), or perhaps Bruce Hornsby, who, Amazon reps say, could potentially elbow Springsteen out of the way if he dropped a hot new track. The Sony executive says the musical asks now emanating from Amazon’s estimated 11 million Echo speaker owners include a lot of “curveballs and things none of us could have anticipated.”
Wow, huh? Keep reading.