A few weeks ago, Maria Eriksson attended the San Francisco Music Tech Summit – a yearly get together for businesses, investors and journalists working in the field of music and technology. The event – which mainly consisted of discussion seminars and product displays – took place between the 10th and the 11th of November, and gave lots of insights about where the music tech scene imagines that their future might lead.
During the summit, discussion panels for example centered on issues relating to data mining, music analysis, market expansion, royalty payments, music recommendation systems, and current legal grey-zones within the music industries. Data driven PR/branding strategies for artists and record labels was also widely discussed, and the following four things became especially noteworthy during the event:
In terms of discussing where the future of music recommendations is heading, it seems like more and more businesses and actors are getting their eyes set on biometrically driven forms of music personalization. This includes the merging of music recommendation systems with wearable technologies that for example detect what persons are present in a room, or the pulse, mood, and bodily state of individual listeners. If streaming platforms (and other music services) have been engaged with trying to establish intimate knowledge of their listeners for a long time, this indicates that they are now also occupied with trying to get under their skin–quite literally–by basing music recommendations on bodily features such as skin temperature and the pace of blood streams.
During the event, it also became apparent that lyrics have so far been a (surprisingly) overlooked element in music recommendation systems. This for example became clear when Abhay Kashyap presented his work on “Rapalytics” – an application which analyzes rap songs based on lyrics. While vast and multiple forms of data now underlie how streamed music moves and is displayed, it seems like one of the most obvious elements of music–its lyrics–have so far been put to the side. What are the logics and reasons behind music recommendation systems–as of yet–mostly appearing as illiterate devices in terms of lyrics?
When “the streaming genie is now out of the bottle, and is not likely to be put back in”, as Harris Frank, president of Interlude Music put it, new ways of finding additional sources of revenue for artists seems to occupy many peoples mind. For example, the company Booktrack suggested that artists should sell their music to soundtrack to e-books in order to help readers make their “inner imagination come alive” – thus suggesting that the field of activities that have music added to them is likely to expand in the future. As a way to safely monitor and keep track of such musical streams, the idea of introducing block chain technologies was also put forward by Stephen White, CEO of Dubset Media Holdings.
Last, after a long period of debating uneven royalty payments to artists, discussions around the controversial revenue models of streaming platforms now seem to have taken a new turn. Instead of primarily arguing for higher royalty payments, the spotlight has now instead been directed towards vaporizing streams – that is, streams that simply seem to disappear and aren’t registered as earnings. The controversy started with the digital monitoring company Audiam finding out that Spotify had not been paying the indie label Victory Records for a large amount of their streams. Arguing that the once lost – but now re-discovered streams – might only be the tip of an iceberg, accurate measurement of music streams has now become a central concern. What does it mean that streams might “fall through the cracks” of streaming platforms?