Uh oh. The celestial jukebox has arrived

The Spotify iPhone app has been approved. With this app, I will now be able to carry 5 million songs in my pocket, and every week thousands more songs will be added to my collection automatically.  This is the proverbial celestial jukebox – the great jukebox in the cloud that lets me listen to any song I want to hear.    This is  going to change how we listen to music.  When we can listen to any song,  anywhere, any time and on any device our current ways of interacting with music will be woefully inadequate.     Shuffle play with 5 million songs just won’t work. Listener’s paralyzed by too much choice will just go back to the Eagles greatest hits album because its easier and safer than trying to find something new.    People will start to wonder  “What good are 5 million songs if I only listen to the 100 that I listened to in high school?”  The new challenge that these next generation music services face is helping their listeners find new and interesting music.  Tools for music discovery will be key to keeping listener’s coming back.   Five years from now, the most successful music sites will be the ones that have figured out how to help people find new music.

What will music discovery look like in 5 years?   I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it will go way beyond the ‘artist radio’ approach that we see now.   I suspect that at the core of music discovery will be a smart, personalized, context-aware playlist engine that will give you a continuous stream of interesting music. The engine will know kind of music you like and don’t like, the kind of music you like to listen to when you are driving vs. working vs. relaxing,  the music taste of the people you are with,  your sense of musical adventure, what your friends are listening to, what songs were played on the TV shows you watched last night, what song fits well with the last song that was played, what artists are in the news, what artists are coming to town in the next few weeks, what artists have new albums coming out. The list goes on and on.  It is hard to predict what will happen in 5 years, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see something that looks like this: magicipod

(Image courtesy of David Jennings)

  1. #1 by brian on August 28, 2009 - 10:12 am

    It looks like it is not in the US store. :(

  2. #2 by adam on August 28, 2009 - 1:27 pm

  3. #3 by Nick Francis on August 28, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    You’re absolutely right. Filtering all this stuff in some relevant way to individual listeners will be the key. Once the music discovery process expands from artist/genre-based information, to include a context/listener-based process (age, taste, mood, time of day, etc), then there will be progress.

    Still…no matter how many songs you have access to, you can only listen to one tune at a time.

    So which one will it be? right here. right now.

  4. #4 by Dan Foley on August 31, 2009 - 9:35 am

    Perhaps geolocation will soon become part of the mix then – if the song suggestion mechanism knows where you are, it can guess at what you might be doing, and this could inform the type of song you might like to hear…

  5. #5 by David Jennings on September 2, 2009 - 7:29 am

    Dan, and others, my idea — which I adapted from one that Paul himself originated in 2006 — was that this iPod would have a bluetooth connection to your shoes (a la Nike/iPod) so it would know if you were walking/running/driving/sitting etc. It would have some kind of galvanic skin response detector in the button, so it would know your mood. It would, of course, have access to your entire listening history, and recommendations from your friends/’neighbours’ (in the last.fm sense). Sure, let’s add geolocation in as well — why not? And it would have one cracking algorithm to take all these feeds and determine _exactly_ the _one_ song you’d love to hear next. Patent pending.

  6. #6 by Ally on September 2, 2009 - 12:12 pm

    “etc etc etc…Sure, let’s add geolocation in as well — why not?”

    because people could be spending their time and money developing useful technologies instead of endlessly refining a machine which will a)never beat human intuition anyway and b)make no difference to anyone’s actual life ever?

    This is the same kind of over-refinement of a perfectly good technology as cosmetics companies spending billions on incremental improvements to shampoos and moisteurizers, and Gillette fitting more and more blades onto razors, and so on and so on. My soccer shirt doesn’t need special EZ-breathe(tm) and ClimaLite(tm) fabric, it’s just a shirt, I’ll get by without it!

    Please excuse the rant but as a music fan I don’t mind occasionally listening to music I don’t love. Sometimes I just like it, sometimes I don’t even like it. If all you eat is sweets, you’re eventually gonna feel sick.

  7. #7 by David Jennings on September 2, 2009 - 12:39 pm

    Ally, I’m sorry I didn’t make it sufficiently clear that my whole concept was a parody and a projection-towards-absurdity, intended to make almost exactly the same point as you are making.

  8. #8 by Ally on September 3, 2009 - 6:04 am

    Oh, OK, fair enough. That seems obvious now you mention it. I must’ve left my sense of humor at home yesterday :)

  9. #9 by Daniel on September 3, 2009 - 3:24 pm

    About that picture, a machine that knows, which music I will like, will also know, if I want to listen to music … so there’s no play button necessary.

    David, I think these machines will have a direct connection to our brain, gaining information about the music we would like to listen to. In the next step, these machines will not only access all music that has ever been created, they will be able to create exactly what we want to listen to, in a sense that they make us feel the way we want to feel. Hehe, and that’s the point where music will lose lots of its value … since these machines will also be able to create this feeling without the use of music.

  10. #10 by David Jennings on September 3, 2009 - 7:42 pm

    Yeah, you’re right, Daniel, the play button is just a ‘placebo’ user interface widget. It doesn’t really do anything, but in our market testing we found that the majority of users liked to have the feeling that they were actively ‘in control’ of the device, even if they weren’t. So we figured, give them a button to help exercise their thumbs; what harm can it do?

    The prototype I’m using often plays me movements from John Cage’s 4’33”. I think it shuffles them in different order to keep me interested.

  11. #11 by firebomb on November 1, 2009 - 7:21 am

    good post congratulations

  1. The celestial jukebox has arrived (?) « Cohesion Arts
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