Song Stories

Music Industry Analyst Describes Shifts In Listening Habits

Episode Summary

According to professor Aram Sinnreich, author of the 2013 book The Piracy Crusade: How the Music Industry’s War on Sharing Destroys Markets and Erodes Civil Liberties, college students have changed significantly in their music listening habits and overall musical tastes over the last decade, in part due to market forces and technological innovations. Ten years ago, undergrads typically had a CD collection, perhaps supplemented by a computer hard drive full of MP3 files downloaded from a file-sharing service and listened to using Winamp or iTunes. Students carefully managed their music libraries and strongly identified with one specific genre or group of genres. It’s also likely that they owned an Apple iPod or MP3 player or used an old Sony Walkman. Today, students with access to a computer or smartphone with an Internet or data connection have millions of songs at their fingertips if they don’t mind sitting through a couple of annoying ads. They’re more likely to experiment with new styles and develop broader musical tastes, because the cost of exploring different artists and songs has become so minimal. When you read a news story about a new music app, you often wonder if the startup team sanity-checked their product idea with potential users. Did they visit a university campus and ask a classroom of students, “Can anyone here see themselves using this music app? If so, why would it be useful or valuable to you?” It would seem prudent for them to spend a week walking around a variety of college campuses, observing how students listen to, discover, and interact with music. I think it would be an eye-opening experience, as it would give them a view into real music listening habits of a cross-section of the target population, as opposed to, say, people in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is why I wanted to interview Aram Sinnreich, who is an assistant professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. Sinnreich has both a music industry analyst’s insights into what’s happening in the market and a university professor’s view of what’s going on with students in his classroom.

Episode Notes

According to professor Aram Sinnreich, author of the 2013 book The Piracy Crusade: How the Music Industry’s War on Sharing Destroys Markets and Erodes Civil Liberties, college students have changed significantly in their music listening habits and overall musical tastes over the last decade, in part due to market forces and technological innovations. Ten years ago, undergrads typically had a CD collection, perhaps supplemented by a computer hard drive full of MP3 files downloaded from a file-sharing service and listened to using Winamp or iTunes. Students carefully managed their music libraries and strongly identified with one specific genre or group of genres. It’s also likely that they owned an Apple iPod or MP3 player or used an old Sony Walkman. Today, students with access to a computer or smartphone with an Internet or data connection have millions of songs at their fingertips if they don’t mind sitting through a couple of annoying ads. They’re more likely to experiment with new styles and develop broader musical tastes, because the cost of exploring different artists and songs has become so minimal. When you read a news story about a new music app, you often wonder if the startup team sanity-checked their product idea with potential users. Did they visit a university campus and ask a classroom of students, “Can anyone here see themselves using this music app? If so, why would it be useful or valuable to you?” It would seem prudent for them to spend a week walking around a variety of college campuses, observing how students listen to, discover, and interact with music. I think it would be an eye-opening experience, as it would give them a view into real music listening habits of a cross-section of the target population, as opposed to, say, people in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is why I wanted to interview Aram Sinnreich, who is an assistant professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. Sinnreich has both a music industry analyst’s insights into what’s happening in the market and a university professor’s view of what’s going on with students in his classroom.