MTV, the jukebox of my childhood, created the soundtrack to our household. It was the stream that kept a creative culture afloat in my life despite my underdeveloped taste in music. Nonetheless, even at that age I could feel that it was an important piece of my media consumerism. A song would pop up every once in a while that my older sister would want turned up. I was learned by example that music discovery was a valuable adolescence right of passage.
One autumn day in 1990 a beat resonated in my heart, it moved me. There I was, just 12 years old, watching an opening scene featuring the percussion ensemble of Paul Simon’s Obvious Child, it made me feel so much excitement for creativity and human spirit that it surely shaped my passion for music and art. To just say that the album that it belonged to, Rhythm of The Saints, became the core soundtrack to my life for the next few years, might be an understatement because it was also an inspiration to me as a songwriter, and now I know that if it weren’t for MTV I might not have experienced the discovery of it the same way. The convergence of the music with the video and the playlist programming of MTV played a big role in the discovery.
These days, with discovery being primarily an algorithm based shuffle, music discovery is much more technologically developed. I look at the first run in this world as Pandora, where the radio station that you created would offer new songs that fit the playlist, songs that you may have not heard before.
The intuitive machine behind music streaming powerhouse Spotify took this to a new level by widening the circle to have the analytical programming include much more independent music and therefore more to discover that you normally wouldn’t find elsewhere.
In a league of its own, YouTube created another level of intimate videos, a world of personal music discovery with their algorithms suggesting covers and originals by artists in their bedroom or backyard. YouTube is perhaps the best example of the evolution of the music video convergence in today’s algorithmic music consumerism since the time of MTV. The algorithm of YouTube dictates what you watch 70% of the time. 81% of American YouTube users say they regularly watch videos recommended by the algorithm according to the article “Many Turn to YouTube for Children’s Content, News, How-To Lessons” by the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (NOVEMBER 7, 2018)
The second largest force for me from the pre-streaming era of music discovery was from movies. Soundtracks were developed and led people to fall in love with songs that supported the stories they adored. How does this come into play now for music discovery with movie streaming giants such as Netflix? Are more people discovering music from TV and movies nowadays?
I feel confident that algorithmic music consumerism will continue to develop with more analytical data that is received from the listener's devices. Could there also be a resurgence in good old word-of-mouth music discovery as music appreciation develops alongside the robotic feed of music? Will there be a wholehearted response to the technological push that streaming services deliver?