How We Consume Music

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“Where words fail, music speaks.”

For over 55,000 years, music has proven this saying true. But with massive leaps in technology over the last century, what does the relationship between an individual and music look like in today’s world?

Here at Fusion, we think the answer is pretty exciting.

Mobile devices, wide-spread Wi-Fi and an enormous selection of streaming providers, combined with improved distribution and availability of tracks, tailored playlists and AI-driven personalization means we live in one of the richest periods of music ever experienced. Now more than ever, music can speak. Let’s take a look at the journey leading up to this point, before diving into some of the best streaming options and a sneak peek at the future of music.

Let’s see how far we’ve come

There aren’t many industries which have been disrupted as often as the music industry over the last century or so.

It all started with a stroke of genius from Thomas Edison in 1877. Prior to this, music was only available upon creation, with live performances people’s sole source of musical entertainment. The phonograph changed this, introducing what would evolve into the modern-day vinyl record—a physical device, capable of playing music back. Revolutionary, in its day!

From there, music distribution changed form faster than ice in a hot frying pan. Vinyl led to radio, radio led to tape, tape to compact disc, and compact discs to MP3s, electronic music and the streaming phenomenon we see today. With every disruption, another layer of quality or accessibility has been added—radio allowed a vast array of songs to be played, tapes created mobility, MP3s introduced quality, and streaming has combined all three.

It’s all about streaming

Unless you’re a hipster playing vinyl records, chances are your main source of music is streaming.

Streaming has done for the music world what no other industry change has provided so far. It’s turned music from an activity that we seek out and engage in, to music being an extension of ourselves—the backdrop to our lives. Whether you’re out on the boat or on a daily commute, streaming is there.

Specifically, why streaming? The key is in the ability of streaming providers to create playlists, specifically tailored to your mood, context and preferences. Streaming platforms like Deezer employ a mix of human curators, and artificial intelligence to create this musical recipe for your ears. Speaking of this process, Deezer’s Julie Knibbe says, “The goal is making it easier, offering up new tracks but also what people like. Having that balance makes sure people rediscover things they love but also learn what’s new.”

Gone are the days of setting up your device to play an album and listening to it from start to finish. Now, you just enter your mood and setting, and your provider will select the perfect combination of songs for your situation.

Streaming—your options

We’ve crunched the numbers on the world’s top streaming providers, and below are our recommendations for you to choose from, depending on your preferences:

1. Spotify

As a pioneer of the streaming-era, it’s still hard to go past Spotify as the number one streaming service available in the world. In terms of playlist quantity, user interface, and availability of tracks, Spotify is the market leader. When it comes to quality, there are a couple of options—96 kbps is the standard streaming quality, with the option of 180 kbps also on the free version, and 320 ‘extreme quality’ with a premium subscription.

2. Tidal

Marketing itself as a destination for listeners who want music at a higher quality than Spotify, Tidal offers Lossless High-Fidelity music (24-bit, 1411kbps) on a premium subscription. Tidal also offers a semi-premium subscription at a comparable price to Spotify, with slightly stronger sound quality (AAC 320). For the highest level of listening, Tidal is your answer—the top premium package offers sound that is not compressed, and streams at CD quality.

3. Apple Music

It goes without saying, one of the main considerations with Apple Music is whether or not you have Apple devices. If you do, great—Apple Music integrates stunningly with all of your other Apple devices, and offers 10 times the storage space that Spotify does. It also has a 24-hour live radio station with songs curated by some of the world’s best DJs and artists. However, if you’re not an Apple-junkie, this is unlikely to be the choice for you.

4. Pandora

As a passive listeners’ paradise, Pandora allows listeners to click, and relax. With industry-leading technology on playlist creation, Pandora has sought to distill music down to its essence, understanding what makes the best tracks and playlists in each genre based on hundreds of criteria. If you like to leave the choices up to the professionals, then Pandora is a great, simple option.

The future of music

Music has undergone an incredible amount of change over recent times, and is now more integrated into our daily lives than ever.

What’s next? We think it’s just getting started.

Technology around voice activation is becoming more and more well-honed (just look at Amazon’s Alexa for example), and this is bound to become a big part of the music listening experience. At is stands, as convenient and personalized as the music has become, it’s still not the same as explaining your favorite track to a friend. Soon, we believe, you’ll simply be able to speak your mood into your device, and the music will begin playing.

Regardless of what changes are in store for the music in the future, here at FUSION we’re incredibly excited to be a part of it, and can’t wait to continue enhancing the listening experience.