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Music Needs Tribal Streaming

Stocks in this article: P FB

Notte sees this as a positive side of the data mining, the machine mirroring of our tastes back to us; a new generation of fans gets to discover the music by older, known acts.

"It's a desire to be part of what you weren't around to experience the first time," Notte writes. "It's about acknowledging the greatness of the past while crushing generational tyranny in the present."

But even here, I see a downside: these second-time-around acts have an established reputation, reviews widely available, hit records that already tracked on Billboard, access to major venues, cover stories in magazines. For new acts, the process of getting noticed on these services is much, much harder.

Music requires an enormous extension of personal trust. Establishing that trust requires social settings, shared listening experiences. Small social groups, families, circles of friends, reinforce each other's musical loves. In order to gain our trust, to really be loved, music has to be placed directly into the intimate context of our social lives. In order to surprise us, new music has to appear in that comfortable, shared environment.

Facebook (FB) offers some promise in this regard, as its interest is based almost entirely on friend-to-friend interactions. Songs and artists are shared, often through YouTube, and those recommendations definitely carry more weight. But because it is Facebook and because it is YouTube, that experience isn't monetized -- not for the artists anyway. In pursuing a natural course of shared musical experience, we're just digging the hole for musical culture a little deeper.

The big missing piece here, for all streaming music platforms and all of the music industry, is the cultivation and promotion for smaller acts, a job that used to be done by record labels and DJs. It was once possible to put out a single, put it on radio on a dozen stations across the country and let entire circles of friends hear it at the same time. They would all be listening to one radio, sharing the listening experience the same way they would if they were in a club with a live band.

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