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September 21, 2007

Music discovery

Just found this post from Hype Machine. They asked readers "How do you discover music?" and, not surprisingly, the top answer was from online editorials, followed by friends' recommendations. The lowest rating was given to "Online Mechanical", which means via recommendation bots of the Last.fm or Pandora kind.

The authors attribute this low response to the newness of these devices but I'm not convinced. I suspect that these devices are simply not accurate enough (yet!). They don't have credibility as a service that points you to interesting music, so people don't trust them. If/when they improve, I'm sure they'll be taken up with all the gusto of a lot of fads ...

But the most interesting part of this post is at the end: the "other" list and the comments. One comment I found particularly interesting and probably underestimated was the first one, which notes that music discovery does NOT mean NEW music discovery - sometimes the most interesting music is older - classic rock or classic performances.

Most popular means of music discovery.

I think this is one of the undervalued realisations of the online environment: the Music Industry is paying the price for hitching its wagon to fashion/trend/novelty. Teenagers, the driving force for popular music differentiation in the post-war period, were invented for the purposes of marketing and they differentiated themselves by rejecting the old in favour of the new/young. This, by definition, encourages disposable product and long-term dissatisfaction, and requires a continual demand for new high-quality product, which is notoriously difficult to meet.

But there are some musics that still work a long time after they were new and novel, and these are often denigrated by the machine, but extremely profitable. The artists who focus on delivering long-term relationships and cultural value will be the ones who can sustain a career in this new environment. The novelty acts may make a lot of money in a short time, but will not sustain it. (Not that there's anything new about that ...)

Posted by Hughie at September 21, 2007 11:31 AM

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