Curated Radio, the Key To Tomorrow Or the End of Individual Discovery Possibilities?

You have all heard of it and in someway experienced it on your I-pod of one of the many Internet stations that exist. It’s call “curated radio” and is an attempt to find out what your musical taste is and then to provide you with exactly that along with a few suggestions. These are basically a computer’s interpretation of the analytical information that it gathers on you and your listening habits to deliver you what it “believes” that you will enjoy musically.

In theory the idea is a good one, providing you with hours on end of the music and artists that you supposedly will love but in practice I believe it is one of the last things that we need. You see, for me as a music buff and producer the music I produce comes from my outside experiences and influences. It is a reflection of my whims, experiences and indeed those wonderful discoveries that I make either by suggestions of those I respect or from hearing an odd station or song that is totally different from what I listen to thus standing out and compelling me to take notice.

This random involuntary absorbing of sounds is a wonderful and amazing occurrence which is the essence of true creativity and inspiration for a creative person. In the music business, the only necessary constant is creativity, which in our world is our personal oxygen. If this should be removed from the process of impacting upon us then we are going to suffer, as will you as listeners and lovers of music.

Should this new feature come to dominate in our world, I fear that we are going to become desensitized to the wonders of the varied genres and styles of music that are out there. Will we become less aware of that outside of our limited sphere of influence of our mind thus becoming somewhat closed minded to the wonders of other music which we might never listen to in our normal course of a day. This much in the same way an individual growing up in a neighborhood of one ethnicity or race of people and then trying to socialize with others over time may find the process of integration into society comfortable and indeed.

Imagine a world where you hear one person telling you what you should listen to and the only music that you are going to like based upon your profile? Imagine also if you need not ever push a button or doing a thing to enjoy the endless music you love or at least you are told you love? As it now stands, we are already entering a downward spiral in our musical taste with the segregation of songs on Sirius XM by channel year genre and even more finitely by Artist and repertoire. Now if that does not show you where we are heading if we don’t wake up, nothing will. The consumers today do so little to uncover and find new gems as it is and this feature of curated or robotic profiling stands to take our taste which is constantly shrinking and being taken down from it’s full potential one peg at a time bringing us all that much closer to removing our freedom of choice and ability to discover that which we might NEVER even know we loved.

This is a potentially tragic and devastating aspect of the curated channel and threatens our ability to discover and grow. Much in the same way that Steve Jobs of Apple had a mantra to bring the consumer that which they did not yet realize that they could not live without, the human condition and interaction is needed to bring to our friends and families that music which is new, interesting and something they might NEVER have listened to if not for an outside influence or recommendation. What is in peril here is the removal of risk and unpredictability in the discovery process of new music and great classics never brought to our attention before.

I can still remember growing up as a young boy in my house in Everett, Mass, just outside of Boston, that I was surrounded by so many influences in music that impacted upon me greatly and shaped me to who I have become in this Music Industry. I can safely say that if not for all the weird influences in my life, I would have never become the accomplished producer that I now am working with so many varied genres and artists that I have been blessed with in my career.

Music was all around me and it was as varied and abundant as a buffet at Red Lobster there for me to immerse myself into. My sister listened to Eydie Gorme’, Johnny Mathis, Barbara Streisand and Frank Sinatra. My brother exposed me to the wonders of Gene Chandler, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker and the Monotones while my uncle Anthony who lived on the fist floor of our three storied home and played the violin had Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Gene Krupa. All this was happening as I was listening to Led Zepplin, Naz with Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Hendrix, the Beatles and the Box Tops. If you want a musical Pu Pu Platter, man I had it going on. The point is that as I grew the music and influences grew with me and came everywhere that I went. I took them with me and used them as my mental reference library of sorts which gave me such a leg up on all my peers who only had the one type of music and artist which they knew while I could rely on a wealth of knowledge to recall and rely on. I was so fortunate to be exposed to and learn melody, which all these songs were rich in and is the essence of success on a worldwide platform.

In my opinion, it’s best if you are an audiophile or just a fan of the arts and music in each and ever form, it’s critical that you always remain open minded and well rounded. Look at the discovery process of being exposed to alternatives to your core listening as a wine tasting event for your ears. I call my music my Mental Glass of Water as it clears my senses in the same way Water clears the palette before each course of a wonderful meal.

So if you are given the opportunity to choose Curated Radio over your own taste and suggestions from outsiders who you don’t even know but have taste and know what feels good, please choose option number two. The freedom of choice is yours so never allow anyone or any service to remove it and start the slow and relentless process of taking over the remaining senses that we still possess and control.

email
  • Jim Tavegia

    But that is precisely their point….they only want us to choose what color device we want. They know that the majority who have accepted MP3 as THE format know that the masses are driven by convenience, so they will make it even more convenient for you not to even think about something new or what to play next.

    Beats turned private headphone listening not into some better or more personal, but as a “fashion statement’, quality be damned. and for hundreds of dollars the masses bought it.

    FB does it to me all the time I am on and I have to wade through it and delete most of it when I didn’t ask to see it. It is aggravating and my choice is to stay off FB.

    It really isn’t that much different then when I listened to my transistor radio as a lad in the late 50’s. I picked the stations that played “my kind of music” and just listened, but I did make sure to listen when they did the top 10, or top 50 count-down of popular songs. It was easier then to turn the dial and find a new station which was a good thing.

    Now I just buy high rez downloads and burn DVD-Rs of them, or CDs & some used ones, and from my computer make my own playlists or album lists of songs I want to hear and put them in my high rez players. More effort for sure, but that is what great audio takes any way.

    • Jim, I love your passion, take and reading your feelings. You are very expressive and I can hear the kid in you and it’s wonderful.

      You are so right in your story of music discovery from the 50’s on and it was how music was spread. Today the great people in music used to be available to A&R, Develop and indeed in Radio to provide the backdrop to introduce the new music.

      That was a day when there were more creative and diverse purveyors of music and the curators had diversity within their own realms but that is not the norm today.

      You are the exception and the spirt of discovery does not exist since it is not put into the listeners today and they live in little sub bubbles of music which is tragic.

      I love what you do to keep your music taste alive and my column is mean to applaud you and open the minds of the followers that a day when you don’t know what is good for your own needs and likes is the saddest day of all.

      Thanks for you wonderful comments

  • Anthony Kimball

    I totally agree with you when you said “it’s best if you are an audiophile or just a fan of the arts and music in each and ever(y) form, it’s critical that you always remain open minded and well rounded.” At the same time, I have no problem with a website (streaming service etc.) introducing me to Armik while I’m listening to Al Di Meola. I don’t think this will be the dominant way people will discover new music. Curiosity, I think is what makes us “musical seekers”. When I’m reading an interview with Eddie Van Halen and he talks about Allan Holdsworth as a major influence, I am moved to check him out (easier than when we were kids thanks to the internet). I think there are people that will open their ears to different types of music, and there are some who won’t. To those who won’t, Curated Radio may be a good thing.

    • You make an excellent point Anthony and it is well stated. I look at my job in this industry as one who won’t accept that the majority of the people don’t have the knowledge or taste to be open to varied styles of music.|

      Call me an optimist but time and time again, I have seen those who were the worst offenders and hold outs be the biggest beneficiaries and then staunch supporters of that which they resisted.

      It’s not an easy battle but I spent my life loving and caring for music and the artists and that means you must care and help the end users.

      Thank God for those like you who get it and are the benchmarks for others to follow!

  • Anthony Kimball

    I guess I’m an eternal optimist as well. I believe (hope) there are enough people out there with minds open enough to LISTEN rather that collate music into different boxes,genres etc. I have a great respect for the engineers, producers et al who do actually care for the musicians/music.

    • I share your optimism Anthony and have always seen the glass have full when many can’t even find it!

      The future of music is bright as long as there are enough people like you and myself to let others know that discovery of that which you never would have considered in formulating your taste, can give you some of the best aural experiences of all!

      The fact you hold such great reverence for the producers, engineers and mixers show that you are indeed a music connoisseur and true audiophile.

  • Jeff from Michigan

    Right on, John.
    Remember going into a record store and buying an album from someone you’ve never heard of, just because the cover was so cool?
    I remember telling someone a couple of weeks ago that I would be happiest if EVERYTHING that I heard for the next year was something that I had never heard before. That’s why for my money, an interesting person spinning stuff at the good old public radio station is so cool – more than likely I will be hearing stuff for the first time. Some of it good, some great, and some not to my liking. Boy, I would hate it if I wasn’t able to listen to and discover new music in this way.
    Thanks for a great column!