Listening to Music (How the Smart Phone Has Impacted our Lives)

By Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor

“I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else” -Lily Tomlin

I love music. Almost any music. Most of my friends stopped listening to current music several decades ago. I marched on and continued listening to new music, e.g., alternative, electronica, and scores of new artists. Admittedly, I still hold on to the past and have yet to give up my LPs which are now much coveted by my son. I also have a rather unhealthy number of CDs as well as packing 28,000 songs into my classic iPod which I never leave home without. My favorites are loaded into my iPhone (I still need to delete the U2 album forced onto my cell phone!) for easy access via headphones/ear buds and Bluetooth without the need to skip unwanted songs.

I started with LPs. Then, the push was on to purchase CDs and then mp3’s, a song at a time or a full album. LPs are back in vogue, but now the push is on to stream music via music streaming services providing access to millions of songs. Two of the best known are Pandora and Spotify. These services seek to assist you with suggested playlists, artists and genres for whatever mood you might be in. Pandora feels obligated to tell me in an email what I listened to last month….in one ear and apparently not out the other! These music services track your music choices analytically in order to determine your musical preferences creating playlists and recommending music.  If you thought you were privately listening to RAP or Polka music, someone out there or something may be watching you.

Apple Music has now entered the scene. Apple Music will also use analytics but will rely on human curators to suggest playlists and artists to its users based on your listening history.   All of these music services allow you to sort by artist, genre and mood also suggesting holiday play lists and seasonal playlists. One thing that Apple Music will do is to allow me to listen to all my old records as well as buy new ones by linking with iTunes. It will also offer Connect to allow artists to be able to interact with their fans. The music streaming services are highly competitive as they fight for market share and I am sure that all of them will eventually offer the same features. Oh, and while these streaming services will cost around $10/month, Apple Music will also offer a free global radio station with live selections by human DJs, old school mixing with new school! And, best of all, all of this is happily sitting in my cell phone literally and figuratively at my fingertips.

This may not bode well for record stores but there are plenty of us that still want to browse through physical albums and CDs. If you are ever in LA, consider a trip to Amoeba Music or my old stomping ground in the Boston area, Newbury Comics. On the way there or while you are in the store, you can narrow your search by listening to your favorite music or sampling an artist on your phone!

July 16, 2015
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