The Art of Discovery
For some time the possibilities of true music discovery have been a distinct area of interest for me. I am excited by the idea of discovery that really achieves what it describes, search that allows you to find not just what you were knowingly looking for, but as if by magic, what you didn’t even realise you were looking for till you just found it.
The manner in which the average person discovers music still has a lot to do with recommendations from friends, or trusted entities. And despite the media vultures circling above MySpace, it is still the primary source for discovering what a band you just found out about sounds like and for tour dates etc.
The technological masterpiece that is the iPhone app Shazam, takes such discovery a step forward, allowing you to discover the name and artist of a track you are listening to at that second, wherever you are. A neat pairing of on-demand and discovery, which has now amassed over 50 million global users.
But once you have heard about an artist and decided they possess a sound that you like, finding similar artists is still a nut that has to be universally cracked, particularly by on-demand streaming services. Last.fm is the class leader for discovery by genre or similar artists, and I was really pleased on hearing of their latest partnership with Shazam.
The new Shazam Encore and (SHAZAM)RED iPhone apps allow you to listen to Last.fm stations directly from your tagged Shazam tracks. A much more appealing offering at the $4.99 price tag. You can create new stations from those tracks in Last.fm, provided you have the Last.fm iPhone app installed, plus you can view ticket and tour details for tagged artists.
As the Mashable blog puts it, the pairing “takes away the need to go the extra step of researching an artist, and also lets you find other artists with similar sounds.”
The process of enabling such great and fine-tuned discovery across the board is going to be a discovery process of sorts in itself. A discovery of exactly which company partnerships will manage to find just the right solution, and then of how that solution is delivered for just the right price.
There are many music tech companies that are doing very well at solving their little piece of the music consumption culture jigsaw, but it is the exciting partnerships yet to come that will really enable some of the magic we’re all still waiting for to happen.
As Spotify CEO Daniel Ek was keen to relate at the New Music Seminar in L.A, the concept is not tied down by what they can superficially offer, “In certain territories, in downloads we’re number two or three after iTunes. So, through our platform there are different monetization’s that are happening.”
Experimentation to discover what works is something of a theme behind the idea of Spotify as a platform, where other offerings can come together to best serve both artist and consumer. And it is exactly that experimentation of partnerships that can hopefully bring lots more pleasant surprises to the table.
Ek goes on to explain, “We want a platform where we can [allow] lots and lots of experimentation. We don’t know what will work for an individual artist…I think if we start getting the entire music industry with us on this, we can see them experimenting on things like putting lyrics next to every track, or videos, or behind-the-scenes videos if you actually buy the album. Or you might be getting a playlist with the live set list of the show you saw.”
These tech partnerships would ideally be saving one or other the hassle of developing skills outside their core set and makes a stronger end product because of it. And there is a lot to be said for harnessing the power to strike while the iron is hot – getting the allies you need beside you to really nail it.
Marie-Alicia Chang is a Co-founder of start-up anayltics company MusicMetric and a regular columnist here at TMV.