Spotify, Pandora, MOG, Aweditorium and many more aim to provide the ultimate experience in music discovery -- they claim to have the "winning strategy" with their unique combination of an extensive catalog, social media integration, and algorithms. But what about the human element in music discovery? Not just your friend who tells you what’s cool -- which is cool -- but real DJs, with a passion for music and the evolution of an artist. What about websites and blogs like Pitchfork and Stereogum -- humans who write about music and even present the music they write about? In the age of machines, is the human dead? Is there still a need for the knowledgeable, passionate, quirky but unpredictable human?Are hybrid models like We Are Hunted and WahWah.fm the future?In "Man vs. Machine for Music Discovery" KCRW, the noted station in Los Angeles, CA will convene a diverse panel to discuss their potential for success and what they might portend for the future of man vs. machine.
We all know social media's genius at pretending to read our minds. Facebook and Google+ reintroduce us to our friends; Pandora plays us music we're algorithmically likely to enjoy; Amazon delivers us to authors who feel statistically familiar. This sleight of hand flatters us and pulls us inward.
But what it doesn’t do so well is surprise us. Our sense of serendipity—the startling coincidence, the amazing happenstance—has eroded severely. A random greeting from a long-lost friend once would have been a lightning bolt in your day; by now, it’s much tougher to lose touch with someone than get reacquainted. If your most discreet pals plot your surprise party, their presence in your location-based apps will give up the ghost. Want to go wander around a foreign city? Forget it: Google has made getting lost not just obsolete but technically impossible.
Will surprise be the next hot online commodity? We’ve seen signs that it might. Chatroulette’s randomness enthralled us briefly, and group-deal sites’ digital coupons deliver us the odd caipoeira lesson—but could surprise be more valuable than that? Will social media, or advertisers, figure out how to sell us back our serendipity?
9th–13th March 2012