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Some Ideas for Improving the Music Streaming Experience

16 ideas that could improve the experience of music lovers in the streaming age

A quick list recapping ideas (and related posts) for features that could possibly very useful to users of music streaming services. 

1. Classical music can be offered properly. IDAGIO for example has shown how. If only one the majors (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music etc.) could acquire/license/merge it. (Browsing classical music the right way)

2. Dealing with new music is also less than ideal in current services. Simple tools, like a checkmark to distinguish listened and not listened songs, could help a lot. A practical to way for users to consolidate and go thru all music recommendations they receive would also help a lot. (Streaming Anxiety: There Should be a Better Way to Listen to New Music)

3. Adding songs to the library should be very easy, all the time. (Ranking Streaming Services by How Easy It Is to Add Songs to Library)

4. Programming a list of upcoming songs (queue) is something that could become more robust.  (Play It Next, Sam. The Case for Better Queuing.)

5. Just an idea. Streaming apps don’t have to be so monolithic in they interfaces. Spotify has almost 300 million users and they all have access to same features. Perhaps branching out a bit would be helpful for all involved. . (Thought Experiment – “Spotify XP”) (Apps as Stars and Constellations)

6. The social part of music streaming can evolve a lot. First a simple idea: daily “pinned tracks”: A quick Twitter Thread: Pinned Tracks.  And of course, there is China.

7. Anthologies! Imagine bringing the wealth of content from a reference guide like “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” directly in a streaming platform that hosts all this music? But to that you need proper tools to merge the music list, the texts, the images, the album information and the highlighted songs into the interface. And again, you need this set up in such a way that you can explore this content thru several sessions, and the app must remember exactly where you left off in a previous session.  (The 9,000 Song Long Playlist: There Must Be a Better Way)

8. Actually! It is funny that much of this functionality is already available, but only for podcasts in Spotify. (Podcasts vs songs)

9. More Ideas on The Future of Playlists: There is no way to navigate a list of playlists in a practical way.  There is no way to resume listening where one stopped each of those lists. Then there is the problem of playlists updates. Songs added, moved around, removed.

What about those songs I have heard dozens of times? Wouldn’t it be great if I could eventually filter out all of them when checking a some new playlist?

(The way that streaming services make previous versions of playlists unavailable is actually a striking demonstration of how streaming users have little power over the interface. “If you liked it, add it to your library before it is gone” is a warning from the invisible streaming gods to the tiny mortals/listeners).

10. Continuing on the theme of a Home for Playlists. The playlists (and albums too!) could be presented in a interface similar to the Mac Photos, where there are several, several ways to manipulate a large number of files.

11. The universe of available Apple Music playlists is wonderful! Why they are so hard to  find? (Improving Playlists)

12. When the Dropbox blog wrote about a Newsletter that recommends streaming music for people to concentrate (entering a state of flow as they say) I could not resist the irony: streaming services tools can be the weakest link in the quest of flow: Streaming in a State of Flow

13. A hypothesis: maybe we are severely underestimating the aggregate demand for more powerful features? For example, a proposed browsing option or queue feature that average users would only use once a year… For Spotify right now this would represent 30 MAUs…  Discovering vs Exploring – Tools for the Future of Music Streaming

14. Deezer’s Flow is a very intriguing idea that could be further developed. Maybe this could be the real future of radio? The stations should be several, customisable flows of music that the user can dip in and out?

15. It too easy to make a “mistake” while playing music. By accident, you skip a song, or interrupts the song currently playing to start another one. You start a playlist and lose your queue of future songs. Or you have three songs in a queue. You want to play next song right away, but by accident you press it 3 times and go directly to last song on queue. Queue songs 1 and 2 are lost now… The solution seems simple: a powerful “undo” button that restores the playing situation exactly as it was prior to last performed action.

16. The multi-device syncing could be further extended from where it is. For example, during most of the day I use a main phone, but I keep a secondary device to use in the car. Switching between devices for music listening on almost any music streaming app could be much more seamless than currently is. (Spotify Connect works fine for switching devices at this very moment, but this is not the case. When I start a listening session with the car phone I likely was not listening the main phone and there is no way to continue from the list/album/mix where I was on the other phone).

These are all ideas, but maybe the important fact is that users have an intense, extensive, intimate relationship with their music streaming apps. They are used several hours a day (and night), in an immense diversity of contexts and moods. Every little detail can be hugely important in such a close relationship. At the same, these are long-term relationships. How many users have been using Spotify for five or ten years? These long term users have growing libraries and collections of lists. They are accustomed to using streaming as they main/only source of music. The interface, apps and features should also grow in reach and capability as well. 

The streaming apps exist in an specific context where they are created, developed and maintained by their unique owners, profit-seeking private companies. In the end, every decision of how users access, search, browse and organise their music are arbitrary management decisions that can be shaped by the peculiar combination of individuals, culture and incentives present at the moment. Being so, these companies and management teams should always have in mind that they have the responsibility to care about their interfaces, and how they decisions and choices may affect their listeners. It sound a bit grandiose, but music is important and deserves the extra effort. 

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