A Quick Update...

Fumigations suck.

My apartment building’s being fumigated for termites this week. I’m not one to make excuses for myself, but (ok, you can cue in the violins here…) because of the necessary preparations for the fumigation, I wasn’t able to write this week’s post. I know that life gets in the way sometimes, but I can’t help to feel a little guilty of not following through with my goal of creating a weekly post. That being the case, instead of promising a post once a week on my blog, I’ll be posting once every two weeks from here on out.

This extra week will also give me a bit more time to write up more fleshed out posts. I have a couple interesting posts in the pipeline covering topics from the UX of Amazon Alexa to Deezer, but again, I need a little more time to produce better content, instead of spewing the content out for the sake of having a post for the week.

All this being said, I thought I’d leave you guys with some thought-provoking figures I came across in Statista’s Digital Economy Compass 2018 report that was published early this year.

When it comes to biometric technology, I would have expected wearables to outpace smartphones until the market’s saturated. However, according to Statista, smartphones will outpace wearables in 2019 in terms of the share of the technology that will include biometric sensors of some sort.

What are the implications for health and fitness related companies? Clearly there’ll be more consumer data to collect, but, when looking at the evolving digital landscape from the music industry perspective, this type of data provides further opportunities to contextualize music/playlists - a obvious unique selling proposition for major music streaming players like Spotify and fitness-related startups like Studio, which are working towards building “exciting digital experience far beyond what a traditional treadmill offers”.

Behaviorism And Its Momentum

Happy Sunday everyone!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to work on a fleshed out post this week, but I have an interesting one in the pipeline (hint: it involves the branding behind Drake and the human amygdala).

In the meantime, I figured I’d take a look at the momentum of a passion topic of mine: behavioral economics.

I’ve written a bit about behavioral economics on my blog, but I thought it’d be interesting to take a step back and look at interest for the topic at hand.

Interestingly enough, the queries for the term “Behaviorism” look to be cyclical when looking at the trend line on a global scale, with most of the queries coming from the African continent. The peaks happen from February to May and September to December, while the dips occur in late July and late December. The peak in the trend line for “Behavioral Economics” occurred around the time that the Noble Prize was awarded to Richard Thaler for his work on the topic. I wonder if the increase in terms have to do with psychology students in school that have to look up the term.

When looking at the trend lines focusing on USA, we see a similar seasonal trend for the term “Behaviorism”, with the peaks occurring in late August/early September and the dips around mid-December. Being that the school year usually starts around late August/early September, Being that some of the top related queries for the term “Behaviorism” are related to pet behaviorists in the vicinity, could it be that most people are looking up for a pet behaviorist around this time? Or is the start of the school year (which coincidentally happens around late August/early September) have to do with the peaks we’re seeing? Last theory: could it be that investors are conducting research on behaviorism leading up to the dreaded month of October? Some food for thought until next time… Would love to hear any thoughts on the subject though!

Test Driving YouTube Music

As I had mentioned in a previous post, humans are creatures of habit. Being that I feel invested in my premium Spotify account due to the the fact that I have the comfort of navigating a user interface I’m familiar with, I figured I’d step out of my comfort zone and give YouTube’s paid music streaming service a try. I was also going into the experience pretty curious about the music recommendations from the streaming service. Being that the Google-owned platform has their own proprietary recommendation algorithm and understanding its potential for new music discovery for consumers, my curiosity was getting the best of me.

The on-boarding was fairly fluid. Upon staling the app, I was asking to log in using my existing YouTube account information. Resourceful on behalf of the YouTube Music app since this applies already established consumption behaviors from your existing YouTube account. The app also had me to select artists that I liked, further collecting more data on my listening preference. After setting up, the app presented the main screen (mind you, I usually stream when I’m at the gym, hence the slew of rap artists and hip-hop recommendations). Two things struck me on the main page: the endless personalized “Your Mixtape” playlist and the simplistic approach to the total number of tabs shown at the bottom of the screen. The bottom bar is extremely similar to Spotify’s latest app redesign for users in their paid premium tier, which rolled out the redesign after I started my YouTube Music trial run. The main difference is that while YouTube Music has a Hotlist button, Spotify has a Search button in the same middle positioning. YouTube has a search button in the upper right corner of the screen.

The hotlist shows a selection of new and trending videos. What I found really convenient was the option of selecting whether you wanted to play the video or just the audio version of the track. Being that I primarily stream music in the gym, I’ve been finding the Spotify vertical videos a bit of a nuisance. It’s great content, I don’t necessarily want to sift through videos to find the right track for the moment.

When it came to the Search function, one thing I found limiting was the lack of searching through a voice query. Knowing how much voice interfaces are going to play a pivotal role in the years to come, I was pretty surprised to not find this option available. Other than that, the Search function was easier to navigate than Spotify’s. In similar fashion to Spotify, you scroll down the screen to see the results, whether it was a song you were looking for, an album, a music video, or a playlist featuring the artist of interest. However, what I found convenient were the buttons underneath the search text box, in order to jump to the section of interest, instead of having to endlessly scroll down the search results.

The last thing found a little annoying with YouTube Music was the lack of an option to add a track to the queue. One could drag and drop a track to position the song to be played next, but that a lot of dragging and dropping if you want to customize an existing playlist.

Now this might be subjective (in fact, I know it is) with a hint of confirmation bias, but I thought the suggested tracks from YouTube Music streaming service was much more in line with my personal taste, was fitting to the playlist being listened to, and most importantly consistently included new artists in the mix. While Spotify hits the first two of the three points above, it’s not very successful in introducing me to new artists (at least in my experience). Due to all of the music consumption data YouTube/Google’s been collecting from me for years, in addition to the slew of artist- and user-generated content they have on their platform, they might have the leg up on new artist discovery for consumers.

LATAM: Greatest Smartphone Use for Music

Source:  GS StatCounter

I came across the recently published 2018 IFPI Music Consumer Insight Report, which offers a snapshot of the role of music at different parts of our day and how music is driving growing adoption of technologies on a global scale, amongst other insights. When going through the report, I found a headline particularly interesting, The Highest Rate Of Smartphone Use For Music Is In Latin America. Knowing that Spotify’s been focused on high growth markets outside of the United States (where their facing steep competition) and that they recently announced a partnership with Samsung, in which “Spotify will become part of the set-up experience on Samsung devices”, I thought I’d check out the potential market for the android operating system market share in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, the two biggest players are Android and Apple IOS, with the Android OS having 85% of market share as of Q3 2018. With Mexico coming in at 93% of people using smartphones for music, Brazil at 92%, and Argentina at 89%, the whopping android market share undoubtedly places them in a better position to solidify their own music streaming foothold in Latin America. Touché Spotify.

Smart Speakers and The Consumption of Music

In a previous post, in which I announced my new position as Insights Strategist for Universal Music Group, I expressed an interest in the evolving media consumption behavior as a result of connected devices.

Source:  Edison Research

With the dawn of the internet of things came the introduction of smart cars, connected home automation devices, and wearable technologies among other nifty connected devices. While these gadgets are all fascinating smart technologies, none have taken hold in US households as much as smart speakers. In January 2018, smart speakers were being used by consumers that fell within the “Early Adopters” and “Early Majority” stages of the innovation curve. According to an Adobe Analytics study, almost 50% of US consumers will own a smart speaker after the 2018 holiday season.

The smart speaker revolution is undeniable.

What does this mean for the consumption of music?

In the same Adobe study mentioned above, 70% of the respondents reported using their smart speakers for music consumption, which makes it the primary activity followed by weather forecasting (64%), and alarms/reminder (46%).

In my personal experience, using a smart speaker seems to remove the friction when wanting to listen to music. When I want to listen to music, I don’t need to manually look up an artist, album, song, genre, etc. There’s a clear consumer pain point that was being addressed. However, since most smart speakers don’t have a screen, that means the results for voice queries for music have to be much accurate. If we were to look up an artist on a search engine or music streaming platform, we’re given several songs or albums to to choose from. With the lack of a screen to refer to, consumers are given the one algorithmic-driven result deemed most appropriate by smart speakers. That means that these smart devices have one shot to get the customer experience right and pull up the “right” song.

Keeping in mind choice paralysis (there are times when I want to listen to music, but feel a little overwhelmed by the vast catalogue of music out in the world) and as consumers interact with smart speakers in much more intuitive and natural ways (as opposed to written queries) the dependence on genre or mood queries will play a key role in music consumption. But, with the melting pot of music genres, how does one categorize the genre-bending band Gorillaz, for example? In an ethnographic study that Edision Research conducted, we can see the toddler asks Alexa to play “Elsa” and “Frozen”. Besides the fact that pronunciation is an essential factor for smart speakers to deal with (think about how many consumers might be mispronouncing an artist name or lyrics), the smart speaker device should comprehend that the “Elsa” and “Frozen” prompt means to play “Let It Go”. But doesn’t this change if there’s an artist named “Elsa”?

All this means that there’s going to be a lazer-like focus on getting the music metadata right to serve up the right music at the right moment.

This is an extremely fascinating time to be alive. Voice is here and seems to be the future.

P.S. While there might be some apprehension from digital immigrants to use smart speakers, isn’t it fascinating to think that the same toddler from above is going to grow up naturally accepting Alexa as a digital assistant?