Music Tech

The “Me” Generation: Why Music Curation Isn’t The Answer

Generation-meBy Michael E. Spinelli, founder of Eventsnype.

In a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook dubbed Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre “creative geniuses.” The justification CEO Tim Cook gave for acquiring Beats for $3 billion was the recognition that “human curation was important in the subscription service – that the sequencing of songs that you listen to affect how you feel.” [1] Given the questionable activity level of Beats’ record amount of users and the leaked royalty statements showing small margins of profitability this past summer, human curated playlist is not where streaming services are headed. [2]

Today’s music “consumers,” I use that term loosely, live in the age of individuality. We all want what we want to hear when we want to hear it. Do you want to go back to (or start in some cases) listening to cassettes? We all have become accustomed to being able to call up any sort of content on-demand. It’s not surprising that terrestrial radio is running into trouble with today’s listeners. “The savior of radio” Norm Pattiz is even calling for the shift of radio stations to adopt an on-demand format. [3]

A playlist created by a superstar (or anyone for that matter) is not what a listener wants to put on when they log into a streaming service. Yes, Iovine and Dre were onto something when they built a service around feelings. Yes, we enjoy listening to songs that fit our mood. However, take a step back and determine what makes a song happy? It’s neat that Beats gives the user the ability to hear songs according to a MadLibs-type sentence that you fill out. However, this is just a novelty at best.

When listeners log into a streaming service they want to (1) listen to their own favorites and (2) listen to new music that they will already enjoy. The former is a basic concept which yields little innovation. However, it is the latter which Beats and every other service on earth is trying to tackle. In a world of content overload, services need to connect the right song to the right market. Human curation is an arbitrary culmination of songs based off of someone else’s preferences.

We are dealing with a “me” generation. This is why Pandora is doing so well. [4] This is why Spotify acquired The Echo Nest. [5] The future is in being able to determine what I want to hear without me knowing it yet. A curated playlist may have a few songs aI like but a service built around this concept to “enhance” music discovery is inefficient. The future is in the data listeners provide, and refining that data to reach the right listener is where we’re headed.


Mike Spinelli is a third year law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where he is studying music transactions and music licensing.

[Thumbnail image: Cover of Generation Me.]


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  1. It’s a great article and i agree with most of it except this statement “This is why Pandora is doing so well.” It’s a bit optimistic don’t you think?
    The music genome project is exciting and i also believe personalised curation is the future. I’ve yet to find a service that delivers more than 10% favourable songs on curation but i’ve seen some complex and exciting techs emerge that may improve this.

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