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A Whole New World: The Evolution of Mobile Music

Sony_CD_Walkman_D-E330Guest post by Alex May (@AlexmDrums).

When I got my first Walkman CD player, it completely changed the way I listened to music. I could listen to the songs I loved whenever I wanted, and it felt like they were being played for me personally.

Mundane tasks suddenly became an excuse to listen to music. As a result, they went by faster and became more enjoyable. This feeling was—and still is—quite unlike anything else I have experienced.

With your Walkman, you had to carry around a case of CDs if you wanted to listen to something else. In a way, your most recently purchased album probably got listened to more because of this hassle.

First with tapes, and later with CDs, the Walkman ushered in the first stage of mobile music, which allowed us to take music with us and enjoy it anywhere we went. We could play an album anywhere, but were limited to how many of them we brought along.

A few years later, I got my first MP3 player, and my listening habits changed again. Suddenly, my entire library of CDs was contained inside a device that fit neatly in my hand, allowing me to listen to the exact song I was in the mood for, whenever I wanted.

Emotionally, I developed a deeper connection with music, because I could easily align a song with a feeling or play a song to evoke one.

This is the second stage of mobile music; while tape and CD players allowed for the portability of music, the MP3 player allowed for the convenient digital storage of it. 

It seems as if we are on the verge of the third stage of mobile music—anything, anytime, anywhere—but it has yet to catch on.

The online music service that everyone has been talking about as of late is Spotify, and for a good reason. Now, anyone with a computer or smartphone can have access to an extensive library of music. 

What does this mean for us—the new age of music listeners? It means that the music we listen to can be chosen by us. This has led to more music being discovered and listened to than ever before, and gives artists a better chance at their music reaching the people they desire. 

Personally, I’ve listened to several albums on Spotify that I would have never purchased if I hadn’t heard the album first.

As music streaming becomes more popular, it wouldn’t surprise me if people stop loading as much music onto their mobile device, and instead rely on services like Spotify and Rdio to listen to their music.

In this way, storage is in the hands of the streaming service, and the only thing we have to worry about is our connection to the Internet.

Depending on the availability and quality of the Internet at that moment, listeners will still feel the need to copy music to their device of choice, but this is the start of the inevitable change to music “in the cloud.”

With further social integration like Facebook and Twitter, sharing music with others will become easier if everyone has access to nearly everything. Mobile music has enabled us to connect more personally with music and now music streaming services, combined with social apps, will allow us to share this connection with friends.

The revolution that portable cassette and CD players brought in terms of control and personal connection has carried over to the MP3 players and smartphones of today, opening up a brand new experience for listeners, one that will undoubtedly be expanded on. 

Having a seemingly endless supply of music available to stream is what listeners desire, and services like Spotify and Rdio are just the beginning. Songza and Stereomood, the latest apps, allow listeners to turn their mood into music.

It’s still the early days, but this is a whole new world. 

Alex May is student at SAE Institute Atlanta studying Audio Technology, and a musician with the hopes of creating, recording, and playing music.