When it comes to music consumption it's obvious that we have an abundance of choices. There are a seemingly infinite number of methods for both listening to music and getting advice. If anyone would be able to quantify the number of music blogs that are out there then maybe the world would seem flat, but the truth is that nobody can see the other side. It's a similar case when it comes to the way people listen to music.
Sure it's easier to put a number on the amount of online stores, music formats and listening devices that exist, but when you tie them all together you get a thousand more possibilities than a game of Clue (Col. Mustard pirated the MP3, uploaded it to his Zune, and plugged it into his car's aux jack). The number of combinations could make your head swell.
With choice comes responsibility, and when the number of choices are overwhelming like the case is here then it is the fans’ responsibility to create their own filters. It is simple personal choice: deciding what it is that you do or don’t want to hear. With a thousand and one blogs out there you just have to be a little more objective now in your everyday reading and listening sessions. The only tough part may be deciding what it is you are actually looking for.
Do you want to read one person's writings because you care about what they are listening to? Or, do you want to read the big gun blogs to know what the indie masses are listening to? And of course there's the variety of radio stations plus social networks to serve the same function, but to this day I still find that my most reliable source for hearing about good music is none of the above.
My flesh and blood friends give me the real scoop. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have Rammstein's entire catalog sandwiched between Ra Ra Riot and The Raveonettes on my iPod. Pandora, as smart as they are, can't tell you that. Maybe one blogger out there shares the same preference for German industrial music and indie pop as I do, but why seek them out when my next favorite band is just a phone call away?
You know what the most effective, cheapest, oldest and most desired form of advertising is? It’s word-of-mouth, straight from the Marketing 101 textbook, and the digital world we’re in now is a lot closer to this ad agency ideology. Facebook is now a legitimatized advertising medium and bloggers’ words stick almost as much as your friends’. It’s no longer us (the consumer) vs. them (the advertiser). We’re nearly one in the same so if you are going to make any sense of this digital zoo and find what it is you are looking for, then you will have to create your own content filters and let your brain function as its own music genome project. You and your friends are going to save music.
The music industry has been a fragmented area for years, filled with a million and one ways to digest everything. But it isn't until now that some people are making sense of it all. The innovators are taking a break from finding that "next big thing" to take a step back and see what they have already created. More importantly they're trying to figure out how to connect it all.
Why do you think Steve Jobs is trying to revolutionize the way we read books now rather than how we listen to MP3's?
I believe that at this point the music-conscious public knows their options. Though whether or not they are aware of their preference for consumption is up to them… or the marketing departments if they do their job right. We are trending towards a future that is a return to the past: friends openly sharing music. Of course in the future, or the near future as you'll soon see, all of this will be done online. Spotify, Facebook and iTunes are on to something big, which I believe will be the standard for purchasing, sharing and listening to music. "Cool" is a fitting description. "Logical" is another.
Now the growing hype behind cloud-based music services like Spotify is nothing new, but this integration of three major players is what’s so monumental. On their own iTunes is a store, Spotify is a gateway and Facebook is a hype machine. They’re all industry leaders at what they do, but there is no overlap.
Now iTunes is that cold record store you walk into where everyone is minding their own business. Facebook is a bustling coffee shop where everyone is talking about entertaining issues and the things that matter to them. Put the Facebook crowd in that iTunes record store and all of a sudden people mingle. You bring your friends and they mingle too, all sharing the music that matters most to them. Add the accessibility of Spotify and you have the potential for an online Empire.
If there weren’t so many other options to purchase or stream music then in some regards this could be construed as a monopoly. Due to the abundance of choices, though, this is simply a logical and genius tactic. This is a pivotal time where The Steve Jobs of the world can focus on innovating ideas over physical devices. If Spotify can successfully integrate Facebook and iTunes and allow people to freely exchange music then this is what may save the music industry in the United States.
Pretty soon all the Guns n Roses, Foreigners, and Stone Temple Pilots won’t be reuniting any more and amphitheaters will have to pack the house with more Vampire Weekends and MGMT’s. New music is what keeps the industry chugging along. It’s the way it has always been. The “next big band” is out there now, but the mirage of choice limits their accessibility.
Genuine, untampered buzz is what got Contra and Congratulations to #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard 200, and it will bring the next big band to the top as well. A catalyst for this buzz it’s what needed. We have our trustworthy blogs and forums that we read regularly, but when it comes down to it you trust your friends above anything in cyberspace.
New music is crucial to the future of the industry. Innovations like the one above not only make it more accessible, but place a trustworthy filter over it all. This is our lifesaver in an ocean of new music. The internet is a buzz-making machine, and word of mouth brings us back down to earth. It has worked for decades and it will once again. We're living in the digital age so we might as well embrace it.
This is a response to Ask the Readers: Choice, a Paradox or Paradise?
Graphic Credit: Justin Dalton