Day 1 of Music at SXSW and…

…everyone is talking about contextual playlists and fan data. That and the fact Jay Z is playing tomorrow, and this bizarre look alike…

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 As the streets of sunny Austin threaten to cave in from the weight of music fans, tech geeks and industry folk, the buzz-word seems to be ‘contextual’ – playlists can now be created to for your entire day, not just your ‘work-out’. With an abundance of listener data available due to smart phones and streaming platforms, how can this information be used to improve listener experience? And exactly who are the listeners anyway?

As Paul Lamere from The Echo Nest (the co that Spotify just bought) put in it, in his session called Beyond The Play Button this morning ‘listeners are not created equal’. Their habits aren’t just dictated by gender, age and geographical position etc. They’re dictated by the listener type – or personality type too.

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Are you a ‘lean back listener’ or ‘a lean forward listener?’ As a person who consumes music, you’re either someone that actively participates in music discovery, going further than your friends in the hunt for new sounds, or you’re quite happy to let it come to you instead. Because The Echo Nest ‘understand music at a fine grain level,’ they aim to turn the casual listener into someone that actually engages with artists they like.

Lamere talked about a host of apps aimed at taking music discovery to the next level for both music geeks and your average radio listener. From apps that curate playlists to apps that turn tracks into editable blocks so you can create your own versions of your favorite song to apps that create a never-ending jukebox of similar tempo tracks…the music tech terrain is an exciting place to be.

But the most interesting topic was contextual playlists. Your phone knows what day it is, where you are, if you’re running or stationary. It knows your habits. With all this personal info readily available in the little thing you never leave the house without, how long will it be until you can simply press play on the soundtrack to your day / week / year / life? (With zero effort or thought!)

Gone are the days of the simplicity of a fan being someone who just buys a record. A band must discover who exactly these people are; what they do for work/fun/fitness etc . Data gathered by the likes of ticketing companies, streaming services and even credit card issuers can help paint the picture. Smart bands (like smart brands) are now working out innovative ways to connect with fans thanks to evolving technology, culture and social media. With making an album seeming dull these days, why not create an experience instead? Maybe a fan would be more willing to stump up some cash for a 5k run / trip on the tour bus / album of selfies and a beer afterwards with their favorite band than they would a copy of their digitals?

So no matter whether you’re into Spotify or Beats, you’re a super fan or super techy, get ready for some big changes in music discovery – because they’re coming for you. And this time it’s personal.



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