Over the past decade, music successfully went mobile with the iPod, and social with the success of networks like Last.fm and MySpace Music. Without a doubt, the driving theme of 2011 was not only mass social appeal but also “access” -- the launch of cloud storage services and streaming audio providers, coupled with the popularity of smart phones, has given users unprecedented access to huge libraries of music regardless of location or device. It’s a subtle but fundamental shift, one that is certainly going to change how we decide what music to listen to.
That being said, 2011 will also be remembered as the year tablets truly took off. There’s no need to reiterate the success of the iPad 2 -- it launched early this year, and Apple still can barely handle the overwhelming demand. Print publishers by now have had the time and opportunity to completely reinvent how readers interact with their media, and music publishers in particular have benefited from the aforementioned access provided by cloud and streaming services. Now more than ever, editorial discretion and direction is needed to navigate vaults of music millions of songs deep. From magazines to cloud services, and everything in between, here are a few of the of the biggest music technology trends that will likely dominate 2012.
All Hail the Cloud
This year’s breakout success of tablets created a useful device that fits somewhere between smart phones and laptops. While they were welcome as a new, satisfying way to consume content, they created the burden of having to sync content across multiple devices. Thankfully, Apple, Google and Amazon all launched cloud based storage services to let us do that. As these services become refined, it will soon be second nature to assume all your content is available all the time.
Magazines Become Apps, Tech Companies Become Publishers
When the Newsstand app was bundled with the iOS 5 release, publishing company Condé Nast experienced a 268% boost in digital subscriptions, a clear indicator people are ready to consume media on their tablets and phones. SPIN also hopped on the trend, launching SPIN Play for the iPad as an innovative version of the magazine that includes over 90 streaming songs and videos with a $7.99 digital subscription. But magazines aren’t just going to become iOS and Android apps; Spotify’s announcement of 3rd party app development is going to create a new role for magazines like Rolling Stone as editorial filters for the practically infinite pool of on-demand music. Even Google Music has a budding in-house editorial team.
Context Drives Music Discovery
As historic as the development of the Music Genome Project is, and as successful as Pandora has been in utilizing it, the algorithm hasn’t advanced much as of late. The combination of better smartphone technology and the layers of social media wrapped around every app we use is creating an opportunity for more nuanced construction of custom radio stations and playlists. Imagine music playback based on factors like location, time, activity or identity. A smart playlist based on the best of Bay Area hip-hop, for example, when you touch down in California.
Everybody is a Producer
The cliché is common on college campuses and trendy urban music scenes, “Everybody is a DJ.” In 2012, though, everyone is going to become a producer, as barriers to entry are lowered and functional studio software, everything from synthesizers to customizable midi maps, are ported to consumer electronics like iPads. EDM as a genre, from Nico Jaar to Skrillex, exploded this year, and part of the reason is simply that people are getting really good at producing music on laptops, where they have portable studios. As musicians continue to tinker with this space, it's only going to lead to more and more sonic innovation.