masthead image

WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

The future of music playback

Some future junk I needed to get off my brain:

The future playback of recorded music will not be tied to physical media (e.g., compact discs) or singular virtual players (e.g., iPods), but to many objects with shapes and sizes designed to appeal to our tactile relationships with music and, at the same time, to have the features of a virtual music device. I imagine these being called Playbacks (not really, but just to give them a name).

(So, this post follows on my earlier notes on physical music, the business of music, more than CDs, and CD symbolism.)

Playbacks may look like CDs. Many will cost about the same cost as a CD. But, Playbacks will be everywhere, appearing as all kinds of things. Some will look like traditional recorded media (CDs, tapes, LPs), but some will look utterly different.

Imagine something that maybe looks like a CD, costs $10, but has most or all of the features of an iPod, radio transmitter and receiver, and more. But, because it's cheap and compact, it can be molded into all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Playbacks will have three important sets of features: 1) physical style and symbolism. 2) wireless receive and transmit. 3) virtual music libraries and playlists.

The physical design of Playbacks will be focused on either the symbolic value of an object, or the utility of a user interface, or both. If you want to listen to music when you are going to sleep, you may well use a Playback that looks like, and actually is, a pillow. If you want to listen to mid-1950s rock n roll, you might use a Playback that looks like a 45 rpm single.

People will collect Playbacks because they are nice, physical, objects to associate with music. Some people will have what looks like a CD collection of ten CDs, but each will be a Playback with massive storage of digital audio (and, why not, video too).

Playbacks will appear in all different shapes and sizes to match all kinds of rituals associated with listening to music. These will be both personal / individual rituals and social / community rituals.

People will produce "branded" Playbacks—you'll be able to play Spinal Tap on any Playback, but when all of your friends get together, you'll want to bring out the 18" Stonehenge Playback. Musicians and artists make some money designing and selling Playbacks to go with specific music.

People will have more than one Playback because each one's physical difference will make it easier to organize one's music collection. All of your Polynesian music might be on a Playback that looks like a hibiscus, while your funk Playback might look like a pair of Bootsy's glasses.

Individuals and communities will evolve shared meaning in these kinds of symbols. We'll create things that remind us of the music we enjoy, and those things will represent our own categories of music.

People will not simply trade files / songs, they will trade whole Playbacks with tens of thousands of songs on them.

Of course, any Playback will be able to play any music, and people will have music "libraries"—these just won't need to be tied to either a physical media collection or a singular music player.

Not all Playbacks will have amps, but they will be able to broadcast digital (wifi, Bluetooth, etc.) signals to other units with amps, including personal players listened to with headphones and large, "public address" systems.

Playbacks will function as peer-to-peer radio stations, and people will also take multiple Playback signals, mix them, and transmit their mixes in both playlist and mash-up styles.

Concerts will mix live music and remixes of local Playback broadcasts, including everyone singing along (imagine a recording of your favorite concert with you signing along, ala karaoke). Concerts will be instantaneously recorded and transmitted to every playback in the room.

Musicians will release incomplete music to be remixed. But, the ever increasing pervasiveness of recorded / digital music will continue to spark interest in live and even specifically acoustic music.

Having the latest recording will be so commonplace, that what will be exciting is being the first person (or among the first people) to record a performance, get it on a Playback and broadcast it to others. And, ironically, the less digital and less pre-recorded a performance, the greater value in being the first to add it to a Playback and broadcast it.

We can look at our role as musicians and see a quantum shift eighty or so years ago with the popular embrace of recorded and broadcast music (which, of course, killed the music business of prior eras). Playbacks will be another such shift: at last, there truly will be no physical connection between the mediums through which we hear music and how that music was made.

And so, we will re-create the physical connection by making Playbacks specifically physical. We will find ways to project the subtle abstract dimensions of music to aesthetic and evocative physical symbols of our desire to playback. And, we will relish and share those symbols as our portals to worlds of music.


While I've been dribbling this post out over the past couple weeks, I've also seen some things that I thought were relevant to all of this:

The Digital Music Weblog on a new wireless music hub (via Marc Canter).

An article on Promiscuous BluePod file swapping (via BoingBoing.)

Think of it as Radio Simply Sydicated from Doc Searls, and Jeff Jarvis' response, Explode your radio.

(In case it isn't obvious, I think CDs and the current record and radio businesses are literally history—at least from the near future!)


Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Comments are now closed on this entry.

nearby posts:




. . . the new music player is very coming soon and such . . .