Putting the Crowd in the Cloud

I have a favour to ask of you: I have the germ of an idea which I am developing for a forthcoming report and I want try it on you.  So please let me know your thoughts.

Apart from the persistent pressure of free, two of the recurring trends that look set to shape the future of digital music are:

  1. The Cloud
  2. Social

First a few thoughts on the cloud….

The cloud is of course is already with us, but largely as a collection of disparate connected music experiences (e.g. Pandora, Spotify, Comes With Music) rather than as something more all-encompassing.  I’m skeptical of the truly ubiquitous experience happening anytime soon.  Indeed, the practical limitations on ubiquitous connectivity mean that connectivity will in fact fall short of ubiquity for some time (more on that from my colleague Ian Fogg later this year).  But it is clear that over the next few years more of the dots will be joined.  And sometimes the dots will be joined by innovative workarounds, such as Spotify’s ‘offline’ streaming solution.

And a few thoughts on social…

Readers of my Music Product Manifesto will know that I’m a stronger believer in the near term potential of social in music experiences than I am of the cloud.  In order to effectively compete against free music products need to create new, unique music experiences and social interactivity is a key means of achieving this.  If you put a $0.99 iTunes download against a $0.50 Amazon download against a BitTorrent $0.00 download the BitTorrent download will always win.  Future music products need to do more. Formally layering social functionality into the experience is key here, both to add a connected element but also for discovery.  With so much noise online, trusted taste makers (or ‘curators’ as Nettwerk Music’s Tony McBride calls them) are key.  And who do we trust most for recommendations?  People we know and connect with.

My thesis is that these two dynamics not only don’t have to be, dare I say it, disconnected, but that they should be inextricably linked. Their paths should be moulded together. 

The likes of Last.FM (Audio Scrobbler) and Apple (Genius) have started to demonstrated the power of ‘Crowd Sourcing’ in the music discovery journey.  Spotify and YouTube and many others are showing the way for cloud based music experiences.

The time has come to be the crowd in the cloud.

Crowd in the Cloud

Social tools and media are of course already inherently connected and inherently cloud based, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or MySpace.  When woven into the fabric of a digital music offering they bring that experience to life.  In a connected music experience that exists across multiple devices and multiple platforms, social connectivity is more important than ever. Social connectivity turns a bored 10 minutes waiting for a train into a connected a fun engaged interaction with a friend, sharing playlists on MySpace. It transforms looking for something new to listen to on your iPhone into a social discovery journey.

This idea’s still taking shape, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I’ll post further on the concept as it evolves.

Comments

re: Putting the Crowd in the Cloud

Free is the mantra in Web 2.0. What drives success of these social platforms or websites is their ability to connect people. A prime example is Facebook that got people hooked on it by offering a simple yet effective platform to connect and now they enjoy the power of positive network externalities and thus are even considering charging a small fee to its premium users. Trend is definitely towards social connectivity!!

re: Putting the Crowd in the Cloud

totally agree that there needs to be a social layer with music services. Even today, i saw a friend post a Jayz vs Nas youtube clip on facebook, another friend commented on it, and it motivated me to watch it. So definently, social discovery and interaction will be key to music future.

Whether people will pay is another story because you are competing against free. Music needs to move into the realm of total social experience (they've been talking about this for years) via ticketing, merchandise, concerts, sponsorships, streaming and downloads etc... Because i dont see that many people paying for music. Spotify is also moving into this direction

re: Putting the Crowd in the Cloud

I think it's important to note that the social networks (i.e. Facebook) are few & far between. If you find one in 2010, it will be a niche market that is looking for a way to connect.

I think it's important to note that social networking needs to be a feature within the destination. It can't be the focal point itself.

"With so much noise online, trusted taste makers are key. "
Mark, you're speaking about http://GoRankEm.com :)
Who knows each artist's best material better than each artist's own fans? We've created the platform for the fans to rank their favorite songs from all their favorite artists.

-adam w.