“I lost myself to music at a very early age, and I remained there.” –Morrissey
For some, music is the foundation of daily life—for others it’s just a way pass the time at work. There are those who want to hear every Top 40 track. And others who avoid the mainstream like the plague. Some listen to Joy Division. Others Taylor Swift. Or both.
No two listeners are alike in how they consume music, or in what music they are consuming.
As the art of music listening evolves and continues to be prominently digitized, streaming music services have the ability to create experiences suited to each individual’s tastes. There are three keys to achieving a quality listening experience that celebrates music diversity: availability, personalization, and discovery.
Availability: Availability can mean two things in streaming music: (1) the amount of music available on a given platform and (2) when and how the music is available to you. Both of these are of equal importance. Bottom line: Music lovers want to be able to find the track they want when they want it. If a user has the urge to hear a specific track on Radiohead’s OK Computer, they’ll want to be able to search it, find it, and listen to it. This on-demand experience is a familiar one for users of services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, and now Pandora (via Pandora Premium) offers this feature as well. The more available the music is, the more likely it is that the streaming music behemoths can provide individuals with the music experience they crave.
Personalization: Everybody is unique, and nothing defines a person’s uniqueness more than their musical habits, styles, and preferences. The musical variations from person to person can be wide or can be nuanced, but each individual has preferences that are uniquely their own. Take me for instance: Many people have me pegged for listening exclusively to a specific brand of indie rock, post punk, and new wave. What they probably don’t know is that I have an extensive knowledge of classic rock, have recently dived into my childhood favorites like Chicago, and have a soft spot for Def Leppard’s “Photograph”.
It is this type of musical diversity that a streaming music service can celebrate and cater to, and a lot of them are making strides to do just that. Spotify offers personalized playlists (Discover Weekly and Your Daily Mix) based on a combination of recent and holistic listening history. These are frequently refreshed to give listeners their old favorites mixed with something new to listen to. Pandora Premium offers the ability to fully build out custom playlists based on a few songs a user wants included, an incredible way of meshing on-demand with the personalization methods Pandora prides itself on. Pandora still applies the Music Genome to Premium, combining algorithms with human analytics, studying and collecting a wide array of musical details about artists, tracks, and each individual user to properly identify the most meaningful music listening experience. Users will be able to add similar songs to their playlists with just one tap.
Discovery: If you’re like me, there are times when listening to your old favorites can get boring, and sometimes, in worst case scenarios, completely stale and underwhelming. In these dire times, music discovery options are key to regaining your footing. Casual and effortless discovery has been a part of the Pandora footprint since its inception in 2000. Listeners are able to discover a multitude of artists based on the artist stations they choose to listen to. For example, a listener selects the Fleet Foxes curated station and, in just an hour, discovers they like Iron & Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Tallest Man on Earth. Apple Music has a specific “For You” section built into their platform, using your preference inputs to help you find your next favorite song or artist. Spotify offers a wide array of playlist options to help you discover new music. The aforementioned curated Discover Weekly and Your Daily Mix are two key methods of discovery, with many more available if you really dig into their platform. Let’s not forget about SoundCloud either. Their platform is built on the premise of user-initiated discovery—the makeup of their platform is DIY/emerging artists, and can be a great discovery tool if you have time to seek and play.
Kris English, Associate Media Director, DigitasLBi Chicago