Music listening: Are we heading towards a data blackout?

New year, new me, new industry reports, new forecasts.

When it was revealed that YouTube had lost its music streaming dominance to subscription services, one finding in particular caught my attention: the media’s response to people listening to music more via music streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc) than via video streaming platforms (YouTube, Vevo). The industry seems to be surprised and almost shocked about it.

Isn’t it obvious?

Just make a list of all attributes and benefits video streaming platforms have as opposed to music streaming platforms in terms of listening to music and you will see that Spotify, Apple Music and the likes are the clear winners.

But this is only a limited way of explaining why the reports are presenting such findings.

Let’s look at music listening from a holistic/contextual point of view. I call it:

The 3 Ps of music listening – public, personalised, private

(where each P is followed by the next P in time)

Public

The internet gave us the opportunity to make music public – quickly and cheaply. It started the era of free data access as well as massive data production. If you were a musician without a record deal, the internet was the ideal tool to get your musical creativity out there. It gave you exposure. People were (and still are) generating a huge amount of content. Without limitation of quality – high or low. The more views, likes and shares the better. ‘Make it public’ was the motto.

Personalised

Then marketers and brands learned to utilise this huge amount of data – aka big data – in order to present a great value proposition in the music industry: music streaming platforms. It also kind of saved the music industry. Smart heads started collecting and analysing this vast amount of data; data coming from musicians as well as consumers.

Musicians added to the pool of data, whereas consumers played around in it – and marketeers observed this big pool party. Only the best marketeers drew smart conclusions from it and channelled their observations into music streaming platforms. The goal was to create the most personalised and smartest product possible. Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal are the pioneers here. Why should a consumer dive into the big pool of data which presents so many options but also unexpected dangers – one being bad quality music and/or video files – when they can sit back, relax and get high quality music served on a silver plate, tailored to their taste?

Is it really that surprising that music streaming platforms are taking over the likes of YouTube and Vevo? I don’t think so.

We are now embarking on the heydays of music streaming platforms. They are slowly taking over the music industry and are becoming smarter and more personalised with every passing day – and with every piece of data they receive. The more data the consumer is adding to the pool of data, the better will be the music listening experience. How jolly! Let’s feed them. Let’s give them all the data we have, let’s feed the monster so that it can control us by knowing everything about us…

...wait control us?!

Sounds a bit like a Black Mirror episode to me. This is where I think the third P comes along.

Private

At some point in the future, I believe that privacy will be a luxury product. Something people will want to pay huge amounts of money for. Because it won’t be enough to just hide in your house behind closed doors and blackened out windows. You will still be somehow connected to the data collector, where all you want is to be disconnected from it.

Privacy will be expensive at first. Once more and more ways have been developed to guarantee it, the service will become cheaper and therefore available for the masses.

So how will this impact our music listening needs and behaviours?

This is a shout out to brands and the music industry. Think about it. It will be up for brands and marketeers to find ways to make products and services relevant within this movement – cherishing privacy but also tailored to the customer’s remaining needs.

And the music industry should think about the good of the musicians and how they can use this trend to their advantage, with perhaps a new business model. Remember this one time, where the music industry ignored the digital movement and believed that music will still be sold and listened to physically? Yeah, let’s not repeat that.

So are we heading towards a data blackout? Well, it looks reasonable to me to have such a theory. I better start saving.

Laura Grzeszczak is client service and project manager at MassiveMusic

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