I am a music lover. When it comes to innovations on how we are consuming our music I am the first one to try out new music services and concepts. Now – in January 2018 – I can honestly say that I tried (probably) every single music streaming service out there and every radio app. And I can tell you one thing: there are many music streaming services.
Yes, Spotify is only the largest one. Besides of Spotify, I tried them all: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Napster, YouTube, Google Play Music, Qoboz, and counting. Not only did I try and test every single music streaming service, but I also downloaded the most innovative radio apps from around the globe. These radio apps can offer you sometimes a superior listening experience than Spotify. I talk about apps like the BBC iPlayer Radio, Sirius XM, iHearRadio, or flux.fm. Still, something is missing – but what?
Let’s talk about music streaming first. The year 2018 just started and music streaming became the primary way how people worldwide consume their music. There are many streaming services and what they all have in common is usually a catalog of around 40-60 million tracks. However, having access to millions of records alone does not create a great user experience. Rather the opposite: a music catalog of 60 million songs is a pain in the ass. I learned it the hard way during the recent weeks when I tried Qobuz – a French high-fidelity music streaming service. While Qobuz offers high fidelity music streaming – all those millions of tracks which are available in HiFi aren’t worth a dime when you have no way to discover them. When you only listen to your favorite tracks of your favorite musicians how will you get to know new artists without listening to the radio?
Are algorithms Today’s Radio Hosts?
Music discovery is an essential part of today’s music streaming services. All music streaming services (except Qobuz) use algorithms and machine learning to predict new tracks and new artists to you. Some streaming services have better algorithms than others. I think that Apple Music offers me the best music recommendations while Spotify ranks second. Whatever, while music streaming services learn and adapt to your music taste somehow you still end up playing the same songs, and playlists over and over again. Right now, Spotify is recommending me every week nearly the same songs from the same or similar artists.
I talked with many friends and colleagues about their music streaming experience. I learned that nearly all of them have the same problem. The algorithms do recommend mostly dull songs. As a result, people I talked to ended up either following playlists on Spotify or they took the time to curate their own playlists. However, curating one’s playlist takes a lot of time. Usually, you click through Spotify recommendations and playlists and save your favorite songs to a new playlist. Then you listen to this playlist until you get tired of it and you start the process all over again.
The Human Touch
Discovering and selecting new records is a job a professional can do. I prefer playlists which were curated by real human beings. Playlists created by real music lovers. Tidal and Apple Music really try to focus on humanly selected playlists. Still, your choices end up being quite limited.
The job I describe has once been the job of a radio host. A radio host who prepared his own radio show by listening thousands of tracks, choosing the few very best of them and then playing them live on the radio. You can find these shows today – however, these talented radio hosts have their radio shows usually late at night. BBC Radio 1 offers a handful of highly talented music enthusiasts who provide you a fantastic variety of music late at night. I use the BBC iPlayer app to listen to these shows on demand. By the way, it seems like Apple Music commissioned some of the talented BBC Radio 1 staff for their own Beats One radio.
So long story short, the opportunity I pointed to in the headline of this article is the following: people miss music enthusiasts who curate the best music in a playlist or radio show. It’s annoying to play the same songs over and over again. I think the world is ready for an on-demand radio streaming service. Something that never existed before. It might work by combing the best-curated music by artists or DJs themselves, combining the great music with excellent moderation of top-notch journalists, funny breaks by comedians, or short chapters of audiobooks.
Sixty million songs are tremendous. However, we need talented people to select the gold nuggets of it and make them accessible to the world.
What is your opinion? How do you prefer consuming music? Let me know in the comment section?