What’s really missing from music
As I read this article [https://hbr.org/2015/09/why-apple-music-missed-a-beat] I was amazed that it got the problem so right and yet the solution so wrong.
The premise is fairly simple: Apple’s music service is a failure because it is stuck in an old-fashioned, out-dated view of the world. Specifically Apple still thinks about music as tracks and albums vs. something else. That’s all good and generally speaking correct.
But the article quickly goes off the rails as it pushes some weird bio-metric markers for figuring out music that people will like based on clubs, “smart headphones”, etc. This misses the point about music but thankfully the article has a lovely quote that I’ll appropriate, music is “the language of emotion”.
Music is perhaps the oldest art form for humanity. We’ve been doing it for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years. As a child everyone beats a spoon on the ground, dances, sings, wails a bit, and can feel the soothing sounds of mama’s lullabye. We are wired for music as both consumers and producers. Over time we tend to lose our production abilities but for the rest of our lives music can just move you like nothing else. Why else would movie producers spend so much time getting a soundtrack ** just right**?
A hundred years ago your music was what you could play. Maybe if you were lucky and rich you could get someone else to play. Then the radio happened and we had a new world of music. Then the record player, the CD, MP3s… the the world was our oyster. Which is amazing when you think about it but also very, very difficult to navigate. Okay, so what music am I going to listen to now that I can essentially listen to every single piece of music in the human experience? This is often referred to as curation but curation is closer to being a radio DJ of the past but with a different kind of audience. This is fine as far as it goes and companies like Spotify are getting better at it.
But the real revolution, the next big thing in music is going to be the thing that gives us the emotional resonance again. Play my mellow morning music, my waking up to the gym, my god-awful morning commute music to keep my blood pressure down, my afternoon “free at last”, my evening wind-down smooth jazz (but not tonight, it’s Friday, pump it up). “The language of emotion” . And you know what my emotions are already. You have my Facebook feed, my Twitter feed, my schedule, and the most personal device ever invented, my phone. You don’t need more data or inputs, you just need to put that together and try.
Facebook succeeded because they brought a very simple human concept i.e. a social network to the wider world. In the old days you had letters or telephone, Facebook upped the ante. To a great extent Instagram and WhatsApp and Snapchat are the same thing but with slightly different ways of talking. Twitter is different and weird which is why it hasn’t found it’s groove yet (but we all know there is something there, right). The next big thing in music is going to take the existing data and merge it into the language of emotion and fly. No more playlists, no more curation, no more worrying about where my music lives, no overt social network… just play the thing I want when I want it and let me sing (virtually or not) with my peeps.
The money will follow.