I have a favour to ask of you: I have the germ of an idea which I am developing for a forthcoming report and I want try it on you. So please let me know your thoughts.
Apart from the persistent pressure of free, two of the recurring trends that look set to shape the future of digital music are:
- The Cloud
First a few thoughts on the cloud….
The cloud is of course is already with us, but largely as a collection of disparate connected music experiences (e.g. Pandora, Spotify, Comes With Music) rather than as something more all-encompassing. I’m skeptical of the truly ubiquitous experience happening anytime soon. Indeed, the practical limitations on ubiquitous connectivity mean that connectivity will in fact fall short of ubiquity for some time (more on that from my colleague Ian Fogg later this year). But it is clear that over the next few years more of the dots will be joined. And sometimes the dots will be joined by innovative workarounds, such as Spotify’s ‘offline’ streaming solution.
And a few thoughts on social…
Readers of my Music Product Manifesto will know that I’m a stronger believer in the near term potential of social in music experiences than I am of the cloud. In order to effectively compete against free music products need to create new, unique music experiences and social interactivity is a key means of achieving this. If you put a $0.99 iTunes download against a $0.50 Amazon download against a BitTorrent $0.00 download the BitTorrent download will always win. Future music products need to do more. Formally layering social functionality into the experience is key here, both to add a connected element but also for discovery. With so much noise online, trusted taste makers (or ‘curators’ as Nettwerk Music’s Tony McBride calls them) are key. And who do we trust most for recommendations? People we know and connect with.
My thesis is that these two dynamics not only don’t have to be, dare I say it, disconnected, but that they should be inextricably linked. Their paths should be moulded together.
The likes of Last.FM (Audio Scrobbler) and Apple (Genius) have started to demonstrated the power of ‘Crowd Sourcing’ in the music discovery journey. Spotify and YouTube and many others are showing the way for cloud based music experiences.
The time has come to be the crowd in the cloud.
Social tools and media are of course already inherently connected and inherently cloud based, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. When woven into the fabric of a digital music offering they bring that experience to life. In a connected music experience that exists across multiple devices and multiple platforms, social connectivity is more important than ever. Social connectivity turns a bored 10 minutes waiting for a train into a connected a fun engaged interaction with a friend, sharing playlists on MySpace. It transforms looking for something new to listen to on your iPhone into a social discovery journey.
This idea’s still taking shape, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll post further on the concept as it evolves.