NOISE GATE: 6 Tenets for a New Music Industry, Part One

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a roundtable event in conjunction with Intel (and their Intel Studio initiative) that discussed a very grand subject – the future of music. It’s a big subject, and one that, for some reason, everyone’s got an opinion on in the technology world. In conjunction between that event and thoughts I’ve been having for a long time on how music will change in the future, here’s six tenets that I think will permeate the next wave of music creation and discovery:

  1. Music must be sharable – word of mouth is more important than ever
  2. Revenue must come from multiple sources – if one bit of the industry becomes obsolete, it shouldn’t sink the whole ship
  3. New technologies are to be welcomed and understood, not feared and litigated against
  4. A&R can be crowdsourced, but remember the long tail
  5. “Added value” is key – give people a reason not to pirate things – carrots, not sticks
  6. Your artists are your most important spokespeople

I’ll go into detail about each one over the next six weeks – but today, I’m going to discuss the first in the list – how essential it is to be able to easily share music. Click over the jump for my thoughts.

Music must be sharable
I’ve put this in position one because I think it’s the most vital, and most urgent, piece of the puzzle. When I hear a piece of music that I really really like, my very first reaction, aside the incontrollable urge to dance, is to tell someone about it. I need to play it to them to see if they see the same amazingness that I see in it.

I’ve spent far too many minutes of my life looking expectantly at people’s faces as I’m playing them a new song I heard the other hour/day/week that I think is absolutely-sodding-brilliant, to try to see if they get anything out of it too. Usually the response is something like “yeah… that’s okay”, and sometimes it’s “umm.. it’s not really my thing” but occasionally their jaw will drop, their eyes will widen and they’ll say something like “whoaa… that’s incredible”. We then play it 10-12 more times together, giggling like children.

What I want from the future of music is to be able to push out that love of a new song (or even an old one) to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and for them to want to listen to it. I also want to be able to receive musical tips from everywhere – from people I know, but also from people who I don’t know who like the same kind of stuff as me.

A prototypical version of this idea has been in existence for ever – it’s called “playing the other person the song”. But as an experience it sucks. They might hate it. They might not have time. They might not even – god forbid – be anywhere near me at the time I want them to hear it.

More recently, Last.FM implemented a “Love this” feature, where you can click a button when you hear a song you like on the service, which then pushes out an update to your Twitter account, your Facebook news feed, etc. This is getting there, but it’s still not perfect.

I want an RSS feed of track and song title, as well as album and any other relevant info, together with the audio file in question. I want to be able to send my recommendations out to the world. I want to subscribe to other people’s recommendations. I want a global service that crunches all the numbers and tells me what’s being recommended the most – the new “chart”. Most of all, I don’t want it getting in the way of me listening to, and being passionate about, music. It needs to be inobtrusive and automated.

Last.FM is nearly there. It tracks everything you play, not just the stuff you love. It’s only there when I’m on my PC. It doesn’t work if it’s something that’s playing in a shop, or on the radio, or anywhere else that isn’t their website. But it’s the closest thing we have to genuine passion about sharing a song with other people.

More Noise Gate: Do geeks know anything about the music business? | Lala launches idiotic “web song” concept

Duncan Geere

4 comments

  • Good thoughts, have you looked at thesixtyone.com – it does a lot of these things, although only for music on it’s site obviously, but there is a lot there. I think that a lot of what you say is important to a lot of people but not everybody – for those that do really care about music, thesixtyone is a good start on word of mouth recommendations etc.

    • Thanks for the comment, Daniel. I’m aware of thesixtyone, and I’ve registered, but I haven’t given it any serious time yet. I was going to save it for a full review, sometime when I’ve finished working through all six of this list and my conclusions.

      There’s a lot of people doing some very interesting things at the moment with digital music – it’s quite an exciting time to be in the space.

      – Duncan

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