"When we arrive at the gym or a subway station, our devices will detect the location and play the mix that we like for working out or commuting"…"This is what the future of music is."
This quote from Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, is alarming.
The most powerful form of recommendation is word of mouth but in order for it to be credible it must come from a trusted source. Honestly, how many people can say they trust their computers with much at all, let alone making choices about art?
That fact that some technologists think they can replace music curators with an algorithm is the most disturbing trend yet in the music industry. The industry that was already bemoaning the devaluing of music is now on the way to devaluing those that expose wonderful art to a wider audience.
Are museum curators next on the firing line? Will we one day walk through a museum that senses our presence and displays only what a computer has been programmed to think we would enjoy?
The age of context holds so much possibility but we must realize the value of hand-picked curation will never be replaced, only supplemented.
I was watching a Danish film on Netflix a few weeks ago called Klown. I had never heard of the movie but after reading the synopsis I decided to give it a try. From watching the film I discovered comedians Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen. I learned the film was based on their TV show called Klovn and ordered the entire series on DVD. Now I’m (cautiously) looking forward to the American remake by Todd Phillips starring Danny McBride.
Why am I talking about Netflix when I typically discuss startups and the music industry? The ability to consume any and all content has become essential to discovery of the next thing we will love. From Spotify to YouTube, the cost of experimenting with brand new content and creators has been lowered considerably. We no longer need to buy an entire album only to realize we like nothing but the single. We no longer need to worry about being fiscally cautious when it comes to discovery. While the source of discovery will often be on a blog, Twitter, or other social media platform, we instinctively use these services to immediately experience what we just heard about. With these services, we can graze on a plentiful pasture of content; continuing to chew on what we find palatable and spitting out what is not to our taste.
There will continue to be a debate over sensible compensation for streaming content. It is a very real problem that needs further discussion and research. At the same time, artists need to realize that any all-you-can-eat service, free (YouTube) or paid (Spotify), will never be the ideal platform to seek out their biggest revenue streams. It is simply impossible for a fraction of a user’s monthly subscription to equal a CD sale. What is often lost in the discussion about streams is that the user is not paying specifically for any one artist’s music or else they would just buy a handful of albums and be done. They are paying for an ocean; a place to swim deep and see what lies below the surface of familiarity.
While all-you-can-eat content consumption enables anyone to experiment with little risk other than time wasted, there is notably less intimacy between creator and listener. The casual listener gets whatever is available and then either moves on to the next creator or becomes a fan and wants more. When a casual listener changes into a fan this is the time to move them off of the buffet line and convert them into both a customer and evangelist. This is the type of person that will want more than the average listener. They will seek it out at live performances (or movie screenings in the case of Netflix) and online in the form of behind the scenes footage, exclusive tracks, and demos.
It’s time we looked at all-you-can-eat services differently. They are a place for your future fans to find you. Once they do, it becomes time to grow the relationship and move it outside of the cluttered landscape.