Streaming For The Win?

Streaming services like Rdio, Beats, Spotify, etc... are things that I've played with since their inception. I remember listening to Rhapsody in the early 2000's and thinking that this was a great thing. I used it not only to enjoy music that I already knew, but I also used it as a way of exploring new artists. Unfortunately for Rhapsody, their referral system was so out of whack that I would go to Amazon, look up artists that I knew and check on the referrals of other users. Another win for humans over algorithms; at least at that time.

The logic behind referral systems has become much better. Pandora was the first to actually work for me. Many bookmarks that I made while listening would end up in my Amazon cart. The only shortcoming with Pandora was that it's library is somewhat limited so after a while you ended up hearing the same stuff over and over for a particular station. Also, when expanding the scope of a particular station, you as the user, had to know other artists that were in or near the same ballpark in order to branch out in some kind of cohesive manner.

I remember trying to expand a station I made with Pat Metheny by adding Sly and the Family Stone to the station. My thinking was, what a wonderful mixture of styles could be arrived at if one was to mix those two artists together. Unfortunately, Pandora's system was only able to give me either music like Pat Metheny or like Sly - no happy hybrid of styles. THAT was what I was hoping for and WAS NOT what I got.

All this reminds me of when I was first told of the Playstation in 1994. My brother-in-law at the time told me that it was going to feature 3D games. My mind immediately jumped to the notion of beautiful environments in full, indiscernible-from-real-life resolution. This, as we all know, was not the case. Even now, with the newest generation of consoles and the best PC gear available, we can still see that we're not there yet. Close though!

So back to the music. Other services like Rdio, Spotify and Beats are getting better and better. I will occasionally switch from one to the next to see how things are going. The idea of adding the social aspect to the systems is a great idea. On Rdio I follow certain folk who have similar tastes to mine. From there I've heard and enjoyed many new artists. I might even say that I've become part hipster at this point. (don't tell anyone!).

Beats has a feature called the Sentence that a lot of people like. In it you can create a sentence that has select-able fill-ins ala a limited version of Mad Libs. Once you've made your sentence, a playlist ensues. The sentence that I'm currently listening to is (bold words are my choices): Im at my computer & feel like recovering by myself to classic rock. My first song was an old Who gem which did help with my current recovery (I had a long, long week, if you know what I mean.) So this is very cool. Along with the curated lists by humans, and I may have found my new landing place for streaming music.

So, what's the point? I guess that what I'm saying is that despite the protests of David Byrne, Pete Townshend and others, streaming music is here to stay. Hopefully it won't completely remove the desire to purchase music or more to the point, remove a source of income for our most valuable resource, artists. But who knows? Maybe, eventually they'll come up with a system so complex that you can have original music created on the spot for your Saturday morning recovery. And maybe someday, machines and computers will be so wonderful and creative that they won't need us. Keep your eyes peeled.