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.