future of musicIf streaming loses its steam, many are wondering what would be the music listening experience of the future. Simply put, no one has thought that far and projecting to such lengths comes with some elements of guesswork and forecasting error. However, looking at the trend as it is today, chances are that music technology could advance so much such that within the next decade or so, people even won’t be listening to artists any more.

Maybe, listeners would just plug themselves into machines which would decode the tastes and preferences and then procedurally generate new music which would perfectly fit the preferences. Currently, there are experiments going on with procedural music and who knows, some may take it to the next step of customization.

Music targeted on the Tastes and Preferences

Authorities on the future of music listening have pointed out that irrespective of the number of tracks available on streaming services such as Beats Radio or Spotify, are decisions still has to be made by the listeners on what tracks to listen to. This simply means that listening to music today is relatively harder compared to radio which strangely is still popular among Americans. As a matter of fact, a survey done in 2013 showed that 91% of Americans listened to radio. The clear trend here is that lots of people are not just looking for music that matches their tastes, but also a listening experience that allows them to consume music without the troubles of creating playlists.

There has been an increased interest into zero-UI music players which ideally require no interaction whatsoever from you as the listener. Instead, these players leverage on the available information such as Facebook and Twitter posts, demographic information, music library information, the current activity the listener is taking part in, or details on the songs that were playing when the user skipped a track, turned up the volume or abandoned a listening session. Using this information, the player will then generate a highly targeted playlist that works with both the users taste as well as their context.

Zero-UI music Players

According to the pioneers of the zero-UI music playing system, there is a strong case because these systems would be a perfect fit for the majority of listeners. Spotify is also looking into this direction with recent reports indicating that they are looking into methodologies that would incorporate motion, heart rate, sleep patterns, and temperature to figure out what exactly the listener is doing and the sort of music they may want to hear. The seriousness of Spotify in this direction has been evidenced by their purchase of The Echo Nest which is an innovative musical intelligence platform powering lots of discovery engines and recommendation applications.

This is largely the era in which we are at where instead of listening to music through tapes, CDs, and MP3s, we are streaming thanks to the various streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. Launched in the year 2005, Pandora has competently pioneered the style of music recommendation service which has grown to become one of the biggest trends in the contemporary music.

Pandora Pioneers Streaming

In 2000, the Music Genome Project was founded to help in capturing the essence of music at its most fundamental level. Pandora happens to be the custodian of this project and assigns up to 450 musical characteristics per song based on the genre. For instance, rap is assigned 350, rock and pop 150, jazz 400, while the other genres including classical are assigned up to 450. The characteristics assigned include aspects such as hard rock roots, mixed minor and major key tonality, unique instrumentation, dirty organ riff, epic buildup/breakdown, subtle use of strings, groove-based composition, melodic songwriting, tonal harmony, highly synthetic sonority and everything else that you could possibly think of.

The characteristics are normally assigned by human analysts who at any one time are coding songs. The output for this human analytical team is about 10,000 songs per month. The information is then fed to an algorithm which permits the user the ability to listen to songs which resemble a given song, artist or album.

Availability of Music Globally

This technology has introduced hundreds of thousands or even millions of listeners to several bands across the world as well as opening up a wide range of previously unavailable listening experiences. Every system comes with its own criticisms and Pandora has received its fair share. The critics are of the opinion that the recommendation engine together with its degree of homogeneity, are not living up to the expectations of the 21st century.

Despite the criticism, the popularity of Pandora has increased immensely and in April, 2013, the service had 200 million users. Much of the revenue this service earns comes from the ads which are placed on the service and listeners hear in between songs. Pandora also offers an advert-free premium plan.

The rise to prominence of Pandora was not an easy feat; the service is meant to allow listeners to hear music from lots of artists without even buying a single album. As you know, in the music world, this can be controversial. Together with the other music streaming services, Pandora has faced constant battles over loyalties to artists.

spotify-1360002_640Today, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and iTune Radio are among the biggest online music streaming services in America. Artists are on the constant push to ensure their music is adequately rewarded over these platforms especially after a report came out that Pandora pays $0.0012 per play to record labels while artists get only $0.0002 per play. This simply means that a million plays only earn the artists $200.

A Win for Listening Experience

Online streaming has been criticized also for destroying the music industry by allowing listeners to access music for almost for free with the likes of Spotify only charging $10 a month for premium subscriptions. Album sales are tanking and CDs are slowly exiting the scene. YouTube is also coming into the scene and artists like Jay-Z have launched their own streaming services.

Listeners are the biggest gainers of the online streaming services because they can access lots of music within a few seconds and this is extremely appealing to a large variety of listeners from the most committed to the casual. According to statistics, online streaming has greatly reduced music piracy by a whopping 80%.

The fact that the online streaming service doesn’t require you to have terabytes of hard drive space in order to store your music, but rather you can stream directly from the cl9ud and download only a handful of albums is a good thing.