Music has long played a critical role in popularizing consumer technology. In the 1990s, dance tracks helped make Sony’s PlayStation and video games cool for adults. In the 2000s, easy access to free downloads through Napster and other file-sharing services convinced many to subscribe to broadband, and Apple’s iPod paved the way for the iPhone. In the 2010s, music is driving adoption of the smart home and artificial intelligence (AI), via smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.
There are three strong reasons why music will remain a powerful tool for any technology company seeking to serve consumers:
Music is already the soundtrack to many people’s lives. Numerous surveys conducted by Ovum have found that young consumers value listening to music more than watching TV, playing video games, or using social networks, with about 80% of 16- to 34-year-olds describing the activity as either “important” or “vital” to them.
Few digital consumer technologies wouldn’t benefit from added music. Playing music is already the most regularly used application among users of Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other AI assistants (see Figure 1). Connected cars, fitness apps, social media, and smart earbuds can and will be improved by tighter integration with streaming.
Emerging technologies will make listening even more enjoyable. The spread of music into more times and spaces in the consumer’s world will add to the immersion listeners feel. AI will play a critical role in making experiences more personal and valuable, by understanding and reacting to the user’s listening history, context, and, increasingly, emotions.
Figure 1: Frequency of music listening by users on digital assistants, selected countries
In other words, music will augment ever more aspects of consumers’ lives. True, making money directly from music will increasingly be dominated by one business model; subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music are forecast to account for 73% of recorded-music retail sales in 2022, bringing in $21.5bn. But as in the 1990s, the 2000s, and today, music’s influence will be felt by an array of existing and emerging players from across the consumer telecoms, media, and technology market.
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