Maximizing Your Music Experience (Part Three)

In the final part of his three part essay, our resident music industry philosopher Kyle Bylin makes his conclusions about why the digital natives are different from the previous generations and defines the four trends that separate them. (Read Parts One and Two.)

New Music

With the ability to maximize almost every aspect of our music experience, the problems created are both the unrealistic expectations we set for how good music should be and how happy it should make us when heard. These raised expectations affect how we evaluate new music.  In turn, the abundance of choice leads us to create personal biases based on irrelevant comparisons that we occasionally and often times make. 

It actually feels quite silly to overhear people comparing The All-American Rejects' release 'When The World Comes Down' to Kanye West's '808s & Heartbreak.'  Even if music can hold its merit through the gauntlet of irrelevant comparisons, once it reaches the human imagination, its almost doomed to failure.  After all, while comparing music to things that are irrelevant is a bad practice, they are at least real.  It get worse when your trying to compare it to your own unique set of imagined alternatives which are used in your attempt to explain to yourself about how it 'could've been better.'  If new music is going to become a part of a digital native's top one hundred songs, only the best will do.  But it doesn't stop there, most natives choose to explore new music without a paradox of choice present, something previous generations only dreamed of. 

Cory Doctorow's assertion that, “The whole point of digital music is the risk-free grazing—downloading things on the chance that you'll like them,” assimilates a reality that the previous generation couldn't have claimed as its birth right.  Whereas, to digital natives, they've grown up in an environment where they could fail at trying everything and commit to nothing.  Removing the paradox of choice from the equation, and for the most part eliminating the dissatisfaction and regret that went along with it.  Of course, people tended to go overboard and they didn't stop at downloading the music that they wanted.  They were downloading everything they could find, hoarding music away that they may not of even have an interest in.  Thousands of songs were passing through onto MP3 players and CD's, more than anyone could possibly listen to.  Stored away on the account that over time maybe it would grow on them and they'd learn to like it.


Growing up in a an Internet driven and technology powered world is affecting digital natives in ways that they don't yet understand.  They are not and will never be like their parents or the generations that came before them.  These social changes are becoming more apparent everyday, further shaping The Music Industry as they carve out their vision of the world.  Experience Maximization, Song Mapping, Groundswell, and Song Foraging are the four social trends that digital natives embraced and claimed as their 'birth right.'

The Four Trends Defined:

  • Experience Maximization – A social trend in which people attempt to avoid the frustration of a future music experience by exerting the effort to maximize the event before it actually occurs.
  • Song Mapping – A social trend in which people attempt to imagine future experiences and create maps of music that maximize the level of satisfaction they expect to derive from the event alone.
  • Groundswell – Defined by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”
  • Song Foraging – A social trend in which people download music in an attempt to store it away and may or not listen to ever again, on the account that they thought they might like it in the future.

What separates three of these  trends from others is that natives haven't only focused on making their current music experience better, but they're shaping future experiences in the process.  These behaviors have quickly found their way outside of native culture.  Groundswell, the most harmful, is when music fans began to use file-sharing to get the music they needed from each other, rather than from The Record Industry.  These trends, along with many others, are what's driving The Social Music Evolution forward.  But, its the integration of these behaviors with the rise of social networks and media that are shifting music from being viewed as a fixed cultural product to a more tangible global experience.

Read Parts One and Two.

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