Chasing the Ephemeral
When did music become so temporary?
2017 feels off. 2016 was weird. The world has seemingly shifted, moving at a pace that not many can keep up with. We’re always looking for the next best thing, the coolest photos, the next ‘like’. Our news has been condensed into 140 characters into a timeline based on views. If you’re not popular, you don’t matter. In a world overloaded with data, we’ve stopped looking at the long term and only concern ourselves with what is current.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about “Connecting with Music” — it felt current but as we approach ‘the song of the summer’, it feels more prescient than ever. Like so many other forms of content, music has become disposable. The youngest generation consumes it in 15–60 second lip-sync’d videos on musical.ly. The next generation is enslaved to the current platform, fueling these empty rooms with content and receiving little to nothing back but ephemeral hearts and follow bots.
I often wonder what it’s going to be like when the current ‘influencer’ generation grows up. Will these individuals understand the value they generate, or will they be enslaved to their ecosystems being supplied a lifestyle by the brands that provide them with their spoils? What happens if they want to stop? Does their lifestyle end as they step off the platform? Does their content disappear when they do?
Everyone is looking for the next product, but what if the next product is actually us?
Think about what what would happen if Spotify didn’t have any music, if Snapchat didn’t have any users, or if Instagram didn’t have any good photos? These services would be empty fields, tilling the soil instead of farming user data. We have become the products of these ecosystems utilizing their services for organizing our data while the services utilize us for everything. They become interesting user experiences, while users become the servants. Why should these platforms be valued at billions of dollars when the majority of users are creating content in return for ADHD?
This post might feel slightly dystopian, kinda like the Matrix, and potentially unimaginable. But have you really stopped to consider what’s going on? Have you had your Spotify playlists disappear? Did you have your ‘Favorite Rap from the 90’s’ playlist and notice that Jay-Z is no longer a part of it? Or maybe you’ve asked Siri to play something and she “didn’t quite get that”.
Music is something more than a passing technological trend. It’s more than the social media it currently lives on. Music has helped usher in many technologies because it has the power to move people, the power to cause political change, and the power to evoke emotion. Since music is so special, why do we treat it like a disposable good?
The majority of the music platforms today don’t care about music — they care about selling you the phone, the speaker, or consumer goods. Spotify does care about music but because their margins are so thin, they are at the mercy of the major labels. What if there was a way to take back control of our music and at the same time, take back control of our digital selves? Music shouldn’t be disposable, but we’re currently treating it like it is just a ten second message. It’s time to create persistent digital data that we control, data that we can go back to in 30 years and see what we were listening to and hopefully even listen once again. If something new becomes the standard, should we have the ability to move our libraries onto these new systems?
We’re exploring what it would take to accomplish this lofty goal and it seems like blockchains are the place to do that. Blockchains provide a globally persistent layer of information that anyone can harness. We need the ability to create self sovereign digital identities, such as with uPort, which can hold your digital information in a profile that you own. Even if a platform disappears into the fold, you should be able to take your data to the next big thing. It’s time to stop chasing the ephemeral because at this rate, what’s next?