The Day the Antisocial Music Experience Died

Ipod It seems normal for each of us to occupy a personal music bubble, but is it? We walk down the street and everyone has their earbuds in – the same goes for the gym. Each of us is lost in our own musical experiences. By default, no one dares to (and simply can't) disrupt us and our music.

The main reason why music remains an antisocial experience is because the technology that we use to consume music isn't designed to be social.

That functionality isn't built into an iPod.

Fans can't easily share the song they're listening to now on Facebook or Twitter nor can they broadcast their playlist for anyone on the street or gym to hear.

Today though, social music apps are arising, i.e. Music WithMe and WahWah.fm. They serve specifically these purposes. Like any apps, the usefulness of these services will depend on how many people adopt them.

If no one is using the apps, they lose appeal.

Social as Standard

The more interesting question to ask is what if social was the default setting?

Facebook and Twitter would always detect that you're listening to music and unless you opted out, it would send data on what song you're listening to.

Emerging onto the street would always trigger the shared broadcast setting.

Not everyone wants these things – at least not now. But at some point, such social sharing could be considered as standard. You wouldn't even need an app.

As writer Eliot Van Buskirk points out on Evolver.fm, just when music as a solitary actively reached its peak with the birth of the iPod, its predecessor, the Touch, appears to be reversing the trend. Many apps now strive to make music a social experience, let it flow throughout our worlds, and in effect, be everywhere.

In a perfect world, our friends have decent taste in music and always shared interesting music throughout their networks, and the person on the treadmill across from you is blasting the best indie mix you've ever heard.

That will, of course, never be the case. But one can dream, can't they?

Next 10 Years

After 10 years of the iPod and music listening becoming an increasingly solitary activity – a social norm even – the next 10 could trend in a different direction.

Right now, the shared music experience is a niche, as it depends on the average person finding and using apps that they don't know of or care about. Most people only care about the music; it's an entirely personal experience for them, and they aren't interested in tapping into their neighbors shared radio station. However, Pandora used to be a niche too. Thus, they can grow to be quite sizeable.

Will we live to see the day that the antisocial music experience dies? Maybe.

It will take quite some time before the various social music apps reach a wide audience. But if Apple made song identification and social network updating to be at the forefront of Ping – similar to the way Shazam and other new apps have – it could upend our antisocial behaviors and help make social the next social norm.

We may listen to our iPods alone now. One day, we may be alone together.

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  1. Music is too personal. God forbid someone finds out that you’re listening to that Gaga song that for some reason you happen to like. Also people who have strong music taste dont trust other’s musical playlists. Sure I may bare it for that specific time being, but ultimately I wanna hear what I choose and could care less what you like.

  2. Unless you only listen to music that you have created through a tonal system that you devised without any knowledge of musical history, you are engaging in a social experience. The musical experience fundamentally depends upon the conditioning we receive through others, the achievements of other artists upon which we build, and the sources that guide us to new music. We choose whether or not to listen closely and whether or not we like what we here (though these points are arguable as well), but our musical experience throughout life is dependent upon our surroundings…even if one is not aware of it and couldn’t care less.

  3. I really don’t see anything wrong with “Antisocial music listening”. As we walk down the street, ride buses, or take trains, bloggers should realize that those of us who pop in our earbuds are not always in the type of mood or setting where we want to be social about our music. If you really want to break it down, it’s about location. I don’t really care to have a social music experience with random people I don’t know, and just because technology gives me the ability to listen with others doesn’t mean I want to. Sure I encourage the creation of mediums that can enable social listening but either way you’ve still got headphones in. If you want a “social music listening experience” then turn on the radio, maybe buy a concert ticket and hangout with your massive crowd of randoms, or else have a party and press play.

  4. Disclosure: I work for Music WithMe
    You’re right that there is nothing wrong with an “anti-social” music experience. It’s all a matter of personal preference, how you like to interact with your social circle and how you like to receive information. I have my earbuds in and am zoned out to the rest of the world much of the time when I’m working or I’m walking my dog or whatever. Instead of seeing that as an “anti-social” experience though I view it as a personal one. And I’m happy to have my friends involved with that experience. So if someone I’m already connected to on Facebook likes a song enough to share it with me that’s information I want to get. That’s the kind of social music experience I want.
    Basically I know I’m much more likely to find music I actually like if it’s recommended to me by a friend. My friends have good taste, so I’m happy to have them share music they love with me because that’s the most reliable “review” I can think of.

  5. People aren’t social about music because there’s too much snobbery about musical tastes.
    Walking down the street with earphones in or while messing about with a phone is unsociable. The interaction between people in the street is diminishing amongst the younger generations. They prefer to pick and choose who they speak with and therefore become very narrow-minded and take a very selfish view of life. They also lack good manners and common social skills and fail to notice and understand people from outside their little bubble of ‘friends’.
    They can all get on with it. I prefer to see and hear my surroundings, say “Hello”, “please” and “thank you” and just be kind to others.
    Sad people.

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