Your Youth is a Genre

When I was in high school, my friends and I were music snobs. We liked what we liked, and really disliked what we didn’t.

We knew who the other groups of snobs were too. They liked different stuff, and hated what we liked. Some kids were even listening to hip-hop. HIP-HOP!

Music was the basis of all of our stupid teenage micro-cultures. It signified who to love and hate. It fueled arguments over coffee and cigarettes at Denny’s until the wee hours of the morning. It was the most important art ever created.

Then one day you grow up and realize that it’s all been bundled together into a station on satellite radio.

That’s right.

The music that defined you has been sewn into some horrific human centipede of musicians that made music in the same decade. It might be flanked by the Spin Doctors and the lady with the hat from Four Non-Blondes.

And then you arrive at daycare to pick up your kids.

If you can’t play to a small room, analytics can’t save you.

We have never been more easily tracked (think technology provided by the likes of Luth Research and the MANY others.) The wake of data that we leave behind as we work our way through the world has made it easy for large organizations to lump us all into larger buckets of ever-bigger data. Seeing patterns of behavior from that viewpoint makes it possible to incrementally change things to affect that behavior, one way or the other.

But for most of us, big data is much less important. What matters is creating value for small groups of people. If you can’t move a dozen people, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to the point where big data will be helpful.

I’ve experienced this as a musician. Getting a room of 5-20 people to transform from individuals to an audience is incredibly difficult.

Emily Haines, the incredible talent that fronts the band Metric, put it really well in an interview (about fashion, of all things):

…the moments I’m most proud of are those first shows where we managed to get 15 people in a random bar to be committed to what’s happening with the music. I know it’s hard for people to imagine that would be the hardest shows we’ve ever played. I’ve played with Lou Reed, I’ve played to tens of thousands of people, I’ve played for the Queen, but nothing is harder than those moments when you have the conviction to play in front of those 15 people and own it.

If you can’t move a few people, it’s going to be hard to move thousands. It might be because of the Herd effect. It’s difficult for people to get on board with anything until they see other people doing it.

Nobody wants to be the first person on the dance floor. It’s not always easy to get a buffet line started. To be the first one to open a beer at a professional event.

But it’s also difficult to get yourself to fully commit in such an intimate setting. It can feel like stepping in front of a firing squad. Your feedback will be instantaneous, and it might be unfiltered. You might feel silly or self-conscious in a way that is much different than standing in front of a large crowd. If you’re in Texas, there might be beer bottles exploding against the chicken wire protecting the stage.

If you are bombing, you’re still committed. You have to finish whatever it is that you set out to do. That follow-through can be incredibly difficult. Especially when things start-off badly.

Learning to read a room is important. Learning to remain committed in the face of a room that may or may not be buying-in is critical. You might have to make adjustments as you are reading the room, but It’s ultimately staying committed that is going to get people to buy in.

It’s scary. People have a hard time doing it. But having the grit to put yourself back in that position again and again is how people learn to master a small room.

It’s how comedians learn to be great. It’s how musicians learn to be great. And it’s how creative people learn to be great.

If you can’t play to a small room, analytics aren’t going to save you.

Minimum Viable Music Fandom

I like Apple Music. There. I said it.

I also liked Beats Music. So that might not be a big deal.

It came along at a time when my willingness to be fussy about listening to music was at an all time low. I’m trying to do the least amount of music management possible, short of listening to the radio. Having two boys under five at home and a time-intensive job will eat away at the margins of time where curating music used to live.

We walk in the door, I flip on my Bluetooth speaker, open the Music app, it shows me five or six playlists that are going to be fairly close to what I want to hear, I hit a button, and it just goes.

There’s no flipping through CDs, scrolling through music files, downloading or syncing or anything. There’s no time spent burning cycles and searching for what I’d even be interested in listening to right now. You also don’t have to make a playlist for every album you’d like to keep in your collection (looking at you, Spotify). All of my purchased music and streaming music that I like are together in one collection. At last.

As well as that, connecting through bluetooth to your speaker is as simple as 1-2-3. Bluetooth speakers are not only easy to use, but they play music so much better than if you were just playing it through your phone or your earphones. If you’re interested in purchasing, rest assured the meilleure enceinte Bluetooth 2020 are reviewed and listed on iTest’s site. They certainly are a valuable investment!

I’m also not trying to keep my music off of the cloud, or sync with iPods, or maintain metadata in my iTunes collection. Sure the UI is complex, but I haven’t found it to be the nightmare that many have. Also, I haven’t lost any owned music. But I don’t really worry about that, since I can’t imagine a time when I’d stop using streaming music.

All of that being said, I have two gripes with it. Both of which will hopefully be solved soon.

  1. It doesn’t work with Sonos yet — Sonos is launching their Apple Music beta later this month, but it’s been a really long wait. Bluetooth speakers are an OK stopgap, but not a permanent solution.
  2. It’s hard to tell what is downloaded versus what is in the cloud. When Wifi is problematic at the gym I’d like to listen to what’s on my device. I don’t have unlimited data, and I don’t want to accidentally burn through my data plan listening to Slayer on the treadmill, so I’ve turned wireless data access off for the music app. It’s a sensible solution until you’re away from wifi and want to search for something … it doesn’t work.

Ultimately, Apple Music gives me what I have always wanted from a streaming music client. Minimum Viable Music Fandom.