The Evolution of Social Music

February 17, 2009


Lots of inovations have taken place to take forward music from being something that we encoutered to owning, being a personnal ownership, Walkmans, MinidisciPods. All these devices make music a very personnal experience. The latest format music is taking is that of a socail persuasion

In Todd Rundgren‘s presentation, Time for the Music Industry to Evolve, he notes that with the introduction of the Sony Walkman Tape Player to the marketplace in 1979, it was the first personalized listening experience that people had.  Previous to that if you wanted a personalized listening experience you had to do it in your own home.  This enabled you to take the music with you and it began to adapt to people’s lifestyles. Their listening habits began to change and essentially the music became the background to their lives.  Mix tapes grew highly popular and became a common exchange between ‘star-crossed lovers’ and the like.  This made their music experience active, but mix tapes were still quite tedious to make and your access to music was limited to the people that you knew…


Officially called the ‘Discman’, the first CD based Walkman was initially launched in 1984.  The progression from the Tape Player to the CD Player gave users an increased sense of control over their personalized music experience and would enable them to skip, digitally rewind or fast forward, shuffle, repeat, and loop.  With this heightened sense of control, music was brought to the foreground of people’s lives and began to transform their lifestyles in a way that seemed to more heavily reflect the culture they consumed.  Although traveling with a player and CD case wasn’t as clumsy as tapes, its drawback, pending on the size of your collection, was the bulky, book like case.  This shift in format temporarily took users towards a passive music experience.

The CD-R specification was first published in 1988 by Philips and Sony in the ‘Orange Book’.  In the late 1990’s, high-speed CD burners began to appear in home and office computers.  Its common problem was buffer under run.  For a variety of reasons, the computers at the time could not muster the I/O performance needed to keep the data stream to the burner steadily fed.  If it ran short, the burner would be forced to halt the writing process, leaving a truncated track that usually rendered the disc useless.  Typically, depending on the quality of your computer, it was in your best interest to stop using it during the process to prevent lost time and discs from being wrecked.

During this time period, the cassette-based Walkman was generally passed over in favor of the emerging digital technologies of CD.  Furthermore, with the emergence of the MP3 CD Player and the burnt mix, it was the first time people could, most effortlessly, place the songs they wanted to hear in a ‘maximized order.’  The music would become a part of people’s lifestyles, their listening habits would evolve, and essentially the music became the soundtrack to their lives.  Although this was not the first time that a personalized music experience allowed users to be more actively involved and become ‘curators’ of their music collection, it was only for ‘one work’ at a time.’  Soon, as CD-R Burners became standard on computers, these mixes were widely democratized and accessible to almost everyone.  The ease of mixing progressed heavily, but it relied on external technology.  For many, the introduction of Napster in 1998 meant that their music collection was no longer limited to their social ties, but rather to the Internet connection that enabled them to easily get songs from other people’s computers.

Apple iPods

Once the iPod was introduced on October 23, 2001, it increased people’s ability to maximize their music experience quicker, navigate it more smoothly, and have optimum control over the music they listened to.  Instead of adapting to people’s lifestyles like the Walkman Tape Player, it was now integrating itself into almost everything they did.  The music they listened to was no longer a fixed soundtrack to their lives, but an ongoing experience where they could create song maps in advance or on the go.  Song mapping, encouraged people to ‘take the wheel of the iPod and steer’ themselves in the direction of the optimum music experience that they desired.  They became the ‘curator’ of their entire music collection. Song_mapping This is where the concepts of Experience Maximization and Song Mapping are most prevalent, because people are trying to optimize and excerpt control over music experiences that haven’t yet occurred to avoid future frustrations.  As well as plot out maps of songs that are intended to maximize the level of satisfaction they expect to derive from activities like running by itself.

This personalized, maximized, and fully controlled experience could be taken with you wherever you go and be plugged into docking stations that created a home like listening venue where you choose to set up.  In this case, ‘home is where you make it,’ allowing you to bring a certain degree of familiarity and comfort into foreign surroundings.  Although your office may not sound as good as your home music system, in a sense, it could at least feel like it.  Over the last thirty years, what we’ve seen is a shift from the personal ‘home music experience’ to the personalized ‘feels like home music experience.’  In this personalized realm, music progressed from the background to the foreground of our lives.  It went onto become the soundtrack and then transformed into a song map.  This ‘Evolution of Social Music’ reveals bits and pieces about how the way people interact with music has changed and opens a window into the very diverse and complex listening habits that we have developed.

Watch full talk here


  1. Oh!!!
    It’s interesting.

  2. i prefer to buy those cd players with anti-shock mounts because they are much better ‘`*

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  4. Twitter API rate limit for this account has been exceeded. This will be rest in 3m 23s. Wth? That’s what my twitter is saying-.- wth?

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