Apps are the future of music.
On the web, phones, and home entertainment systems, software applications are changing the way we listen to, discover, distribute, interact with, record, remix, and do just about anything else that involves music.
Most people reading this are probably familiar with the “digital music revolution” that ignited in the late ‘90s, but only now is that revolution reaching its most creative phase. In that first phase, the MP3 made recorded music invisible and weightless — no small feat, and one that changed the world. The app is the second major development in the digital music revolution. It makes the music player invisible and weightless, too.
You would never buy 20 hardware MP3 players, each with a specialized function. But you might install multiple apps on your various listening devices to track your favorite band, tell you about local shows, identify music, subscribe to millions of songs, stream customized radio-style stations, monitor your friends’ listening habits, and so on.
Billions of words have been written about digital music, many of them concluding that technology has done more to hurt music than help it. There is truth to the observation that the recorded music industry traded analog dollars for digital pennies during the first phase of this revolution, even as people continue to listen to more music in more ways than they ever did. But as popular as it has been to deride the recording industry, it’s no good for anyone if artists can’t afford to buy equipment, learn their craft and make the music we love.
App developers large and small are already creating new ways for people to discover, manipulate, and, yes, even pay for music. We believe application developers have the answers that will fuel the next phase of the digital music revolution, which is why we’re launching this publication. App developers might just end up saving the music industry — and even if they don’t, they’re already creating an unprecedented variety of ways in which to listen to music. And that’s newsworthy in itself.
At Evolver.fm, I will observe, track and analyze the music apps scene because I believe it’s crucial to how humans experience music, and how that experience is evolving. I’m not ready to divulge the entire gameplan, but for starters, this coverage will take the form of a daily blog.
Now for a word on objectivity. Why should you trust a publication about music apps that is funded by The Echo Nest, which makes money by licensing data to app developers, record labels, and myriad others looking to build new music technologies?
I know a thing or two about the “separation of church and state” that must exist between editorial and business concerns, having spent 13 years on the editorial staffs of CNET and Wired.com. The Echo Nest hired me because they firmly believe that a healthy music business requires a vibrant music app ecosystem — and for that, listeners and the industry itself need a reliable source for news and information about music apps on a growing number of platforms: phones, web, tablets, televisions, the car, and beyond. As for tone, The Echo Nest likes the transparent reporting style that won Wired.com so many awards, and wants me to apply the same standards here in covering music apps.
This publication will feature news, analysis, and other articles related to the music app scene, regardless of whether a given subject has anything to do with The Echo Nest’s business. If this publication can be accused of any bias, that would be that it favors the position that music apps are really neat. That’s an accusation I can live with, because I genuinely feel that these apps are the most significant step forward in the digital music revolution since the MP3, and I’ve been covering digital music since 1997.
The Echo Nest’s motivation in giving me the resources to do this is simple: to draw attention to music apps and clarify this fast-moving, noisy space for listeners. If more fans recognize apps’ power to transform their music experience, as we believe it will, that will mean more people buying music apps, more people making music apps, and a richer music app economy — and that’s good for The Echo Nest.
Music players have brains now, and in a sense, apps represent their thoughts. We at Evolver.fm are looking forward to offering insight, analysis, and tools to help you understand what’s happening to music — and, perhaps more importantly, to help you enjoy your connection to the sounds you love.
evolver.fm: evolving music past the play button
(Sunrise image courtesy of Flickr/Luis Argerich)