Shuffling Technology for Creativity?

Jerry Del Colliano has an interesting column on the Shuffle feature of MP3 players. (We’ve previously discussed this in "iPod shuffle = new radio ?").

Is it a case of technology triumphing over creativity? With the effects of radio consolidation run rampant, frustrated listeners have turned to alternatives like the Shuffle, as well as internet radio.

Colliano wonders whether this is a good thing. Features such as Shuffle plays back only songs we know and like — but avoids finding the new, the unknown, the challenging:

"But when we look at the music industry as a whole, is Shuffle a copout? Shuffle allows us to pick songs we know and love and make them sound new again. This is in direct opposition to the idea and passion of finding new music to fall in love with instead of sticking with the familiar classics. The download model, which drives the Shuffle concept, has given a vibrant new life to the once-mighty single market."

I find that the success of shuffle is not so much the result of a technological triumph — rather, it marks one business failing (terrestrial radio) being replaced with another business success (iTunes, iPod, Sat radio, Net Streaming). Radio consolidation marked the death knell of local, innovative, intelligent music programming over the free airwaves. And the Technology Industry has stepped in to fill the void.

What does this mean for the music industry going forward — or in fact, going backwards. The album model is being subverted once again for a singles model:

"For decades in the classic rock period, you were compelled to buy
an entire album, not just a single. Can you imagine just buying
“Comfortably Numb” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall when you didn’t own the
entire album? Today, the iPod generation does just that. Does the
newly-found ability to buy download singles and the major labels’
willingness to sell music in this model help to create great new
records? Ask yourself this question: how many truly great (I mean a 10
out of 10) albums have you bought in the last 15 years? How many of
those records were released in the last few years? When you do spring
for an album, how often do find that there are only one or two good
tracks on it? How often do you wish you hadn’t bought that album you
thought you would like for $15 when you could have bought a DVD movie
for $24 that you are almost guaranteed to like?"

The one thing I have to take issue with Colliano on is the "10" CDs. As we noted at the end of 2004, there are plenty of terrific CDs.

You just don’t hear them on the radio . . .


The Shuffle Phenomenon – A Technological Fix For a Creative Problem?
Jerry Del Colliano
The Audio Revolution, March 10, 2005

And Now For Some *Real* Radio
By Mark Morford – Wednesday, March 9, 2005

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. paperwight commented on Mar 12

    This is in direct opposition to the idea and passion of finding new music to fall in love with instead of sticking with the familiar classics.

    Has he listened to broadcast radio recently? There is almost nothing out there which will introduce people to new and interesting music other than a few college stations and a couple weekend shows on the lower ranked public radio stations in large cities. If I want new stuff, I go to internet radio, where I can pick a genre and hear all kinds of interesting stuff.

    As far as comfort, I’d far rather listen to an MP3 player shuffling the tired old music I like than the tired old music that a ClearChannel focus group liked.

  2. David Bennett commented on Mar 13

    The technology could easily evolve to the pattern found at Amazon. “Based on previous choices you might like:” “listeners who like x also like:” then add in some free songs (randomly selected or from a list) for purchases and it quickly evolves.

  3. p commented on Mar 13

    There is no trade-off presented here … Please remember how music enters an iPod or Shuffle …

  4. ward commented on Mar 14

    Randomizing the order songs are presented makes each one stand alone more than if they always play in the same context. So, an artist has greater not less incentive to make an array of quality songs rather than just a couple hits!

  5. dsquared commented on Mar 14

    Nah, most movies suck too. I hate paying up for an entire DVD when all I really want is a couple of car crashes, Nicole Kidman taking her top off and someone shouting “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”. When are the movie industry dinosaurs gonna wake up to this trend, etc ,etc.

    [please God realise that I’m joking!]

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