The Rise of Alexa: How We Consume Music Is Changing


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Smart Speakers provide Effortless Listening for Years to Come

Putting the Word in – How strong is voice command when it comes to playing your favourite song?

Along with their virtual companions, Cortana and Alexa, Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home voice-based devices have forever altered how we consume music and will forever change the way music is catalogued.

Voice queries will allow listeners to effortlessly request and listen to music that suits their immediate mood or preference without having to interact with any other form of text language or even filtering through albums or playlists. Music distribution and consumption is changing.

“What do you play when the person says “play a sad song”? My son’s 9. He talks to Alexa non-stop all day. He has no concept of albums. He has no concept of media brands. He has no concept of playlist thing or groups of songs. His relationships are with Alexa and with the artist or the song name. He is […] discovering things in the voice environment. And [that is] a whole thread in music right. How do we prepare for voice? What’s the metadata looks like? What’s the tagging look like? How do we read emotions there?” 

Bob Moz, MD of Techstars Music

This is such an interesting concept. We have not really tapped into the discovery of the voice environment when it is associated with that of music. It opens new channels for the likes of marketers, promoters and record labels to push their signed artists to the top.

Concepts of albums and playlists will soon be a distant memory – all we will ever know is individual song names. Yet again, convenience trumps all. Deep, thoughtful playlist search for ‘that’ song or “play something fun”? For a non-avid listener that does not delve into this, it’s a no-brainer really.

For someone who loves diving into unheard playlists and impactful concept albums – digital or physical – I have never been a fan of Alexa’s convenience. But I can understand the love for it, I’m sure. I like to have more meaning with my music, it not only allows further enjoyment but it provides a bit more context to the music. A song played in the midst of a vinyl as opposed to it jumbled into an ‘anchor point’ of “sadness” will always do it, I think.

But hey – when preoccupied prepping meals in the kitchen or running behind schedule, relying on the likes of Alexa to play anything that it comes up with, I can get on board with that for sure.

With the release of Echo aptly timed with Amazon’s new streaming platform, Amazon Prime Music, smart devices nestle neatly into the plethora of digital music. With the voice action, “play music” being the primary function for these devices (with “what is the weather like” in a close second,) it comes as no surprise that they are pushing for a truly voice-based music world.

With it expected to rise in the coming years, you can almost predict that this was a major marketing ploy. A ploy to boost streaming subscriptions and sales in home devices simultaneously and have evidently, forever changed the way music is played and ultimately catalogued.

… Becoming a force to be reckoned with …

The Distribution of Music using Voice

“This lexical upheaval will mean titles of songs and names of acts will have to be recalibrated to ensure the right key words put them at the top of the results. 

Spinnin’ Records has already renamed its biggest playlists with this in mind to, as it puts it, ‘create specific, top-of-mind branded keywords that can work as anchor points while asking a voice enabled product which music to play’.

“The next big recruitment drive at record companies will be around voice experts who can advise on how songs are created and promoted – all the way from the recording studio to the marketing teams – so as to perform best in a voice-based music world. You might not have twigged at the time, but One Direction‘s 2013 hit Best Song Ever was powerfully prescient – an eerie foreshadowing of what will happen.”

Eamonn Forde, Music Business Writer
Voice Command is the new convenient

Noted from Spinnin’ Records as ‘anchor points’, it can allow us to pinpoint exactly what the user wishes to listen too, and can hone in these keywords to essentially control the users’ listening preferences.

These ‘anchor points’ drives new opportunity for new artists to be placed in a users’ queue with little significance, and to essentially promote a record labels’ next best thing. Songs can be effortlessly created in the sea of pop drivel that is catered out like a conveyer belt. Without much thought of imagination, songs can be made simply for the purpose of promotion and selling a few hundred at at time. While this allows the unseen and unheard to rise with the popular, it can drive down the engagement between fan and artist, which may ultimately lead to inconsistencies in the purchasing of the artists’ music.

So, what’s the damage?

With the rise of home devices entering the convenience of our homes almost as a kitchen utility, it has allowed us to effortlessly listen to music by removing the act of browsing through playlists ourselves. With the rise of home devices and streaming subscriptions, it gives us a further insight into how strategies can be placed in the future to develop, categorise and filter the necessary from the unnecessary into how music is accessed from digital music streaming platforms.

Songs, albums and even playlists will be digitally filtered with some being categorised via these ‘anchor points’ which will allow the record companies to know exactly which songs are being played.

This can allow the new artist who are up and coming to essentially be slotted into the same funnel as the popular.

While this is all well and good, it is another strategy that allows the corporate giants to use artificial technology to their own financial gain, with voice control becoming another way for them to tap further into how we think.

To be honest, I wouldn’t really be that surprised if Alexa already knew what we think.

Some links for further reading:

One response to “The Rise of Alexa: How We Consume Music Is Changing”

  1. OpenAI’s Jukebox: Are We Playing God? – Man vs Music: Finding The Answers avatar
    OpenAI’s Jukebox: Are We Playing God? – Man vs Music: Finding The Answers

    […] The Rise of Alexa: How We Consume Music Is Changing […]


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