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Moments, not music

I found a paragraph in this article about the modern music industry interesting.

“We’re not in the music space,” Spotify founder Daniel Ek told the New Yorker in 2014. “We’re in the moment space.” While Ek’s statement seems counterintuitive, it’s important to remember that Spotify makes monthly payments to rights holders in exchange for the right to stream their catalogs, from which its data-driven algorithms draw when recommending songs to users. It also uses this raw material to populate its hyper-specific curated playlists, which center on microgenres (“Christian Dance Party,” “Coffee Table Jazz”), moods (“Melancholia,” “Confidence Boost”), and activities (“Coping with Loss,” “Williamsburg Brunch”), and often have hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers.

The idea, as the article goes on to state, is that individual songs aren’t the focus of our modern listening as much as the moods that can be created by grouping songs together are. So, people value a workout playlist of high impact songs, or a chillax playlist of mellow songs. The songs themselves are small parts of a greater whole.

As a result, the article states, some musicians are writing music with the goal of being part of a certain type of playlist. For reasons explained in the article, this can help them get their music discovered. The article notes…

Ultimately, it’s this treatment of songs as atomized, nonspecific widgets—not the shoddy payouts or the incentives to game the system—that represents the greatest challenge for artists in the era of streaming. Where we once thought of music with identifiable creators as “art,” and the Muzak we hear in malls and doctors’ waiting rooms as generic background audio, streaming muddies that distinction. It encourages us to think of all types of music as a tool for creating “moments” that enhance our lives.

It’s definitely interesting food for thought.

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