This is one of a series of posts describing some of the projects we would love to work on. As a holistic digital design firm, Jackson Fish Market is very fortunate to have really bright clients come to us with super interesting projects on a regular basis. But rather than wait for them to come to us, we figured we might let the world know which projects we’d love to work on. Each of these ideas is something we’re passionate about. And for each we have a deep set of ideas to help make them a reality. So if one of these is something you’re thinking about, call us. We’d love to help.
The way we discover, purchase, and consume music has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. There has been plenty of time for the software that we use to listen to music to evolve in that time. And it has, except in the single most important area when it comes to really improving the experience of listening to music – playlists.
Now, we understand that not all people depend on playlists to organize their music. But for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll think of playlists in the broadest sense. Whether it’s a “saved song” on Spotify, a thumbs up on Pandora, favorited something on SoundCloud, or just a purchased song on Amazon or iTunes, we consider it all a declaration of intent on the part of the consumer that *this* track is part of their library of music. Of course, there’s a wide variety of behavior patterns within that broad definition. Some people just have one big list of music in which they’ve expressed an interest, and others have detailed and organized playlists for every occasion and mood.
In our opinion, the single biggest problem with the way we consume music is the lack of playlist portability. And the music software and content vendors know this. None of them have any incentive to change this. Vendors *want* “lock-in”. For example, Amazon has a distinct disincentive to let purchasers of books on the Kindle platform to move their books to the iBooks platform. Now especially when it comes to content, the technology providers have a convenient excuse in the form of the content providers. The licenses are often written with so many stipulations that the content owners want you to repurchase your content over and over again for each new format, on each new device.
Unfortunately, this only has the effect of distancing the connection of the consumer from the content owner. The consumer doesn’t feel a connection withe a content owner who wants to charge them over and over again for the same thing. The content owners, should want to “own” the relationship with their consumer. And in cases where the content owners are the artists themselves, that’s often what we see happening.
Now, imagine for a moment, a service that keeps track of all the music I love. All of it. A soundtrack from a movie, the latest pop album, an old out-of-print piece of Jazz vinyl, some indie EDM, old mp3s from a now defunct band that I downloaded off of mp3.com before they too became defunct, a thumbs up for a track on pandora, etc. Imagine a service that keeps track of all of this music that I love and enjoy. And now imagine that this same service can check the status of my licensing relationship with each of these tracks by checking iTunes or Amazon or my Spotify subscription status. And now imagine that wherever I am, on any device, in any location, this service will do its best to serve up the music that I love from any available source.
Not on your hard drive? Here it is from YouTube. Not on Spotify? How about we create a Pandora station of similar music where it’s likely to show up.
We know there are ham-fisted attempts at solving this problem today. iTunes Match is spotty and often doesn’t work. Amazon has given me access to ripped versions of every CD I’ve ever purchased on Amazon. Spotify (and just about everyone) will import and/or feebly synchronize with my local iTunes folder. Of course, if Spotify doesn’t have something, even if I own it, Spotify won’t roam that track.
Despite these efforts that in our opinion have fallen short, the technology to solve this problem is quite the opposite of rocket science. The business deals to make this happen are extraordinarily difficult. Or are they?
We wonder: What would happen if a kernel of this software was built, and if that kernel was able to show the magic of having your musical preferences be universal instead of siloed. Would that software gain enough momentum to help break down some of the licensing issues?
One final note. We know that a standard playlist/preference format and exchange/sync protocol is another way to solve this problem. In other words, there doesn’t need to be one master silo to replace all the others if we build a set of open bridges between all the services. But that path seems even less likely to us.
If you’re looking to create something like this, and would like an excited team to help you design the identity, the hardware, the software, and the marketing experiences, don’t hesitate to let us know.