Let’s re-invent the music experience

Much debate has gone into the business of how we purchase and listen to music. Last month, U2 and Thom Yorke released their music digitally to varying responses.

The backlash from the U2 and Apple love fest with the free download release of their album was so great — the focus was lost on how to delete the music rather than listening to it.

Then Thom Yorke of Radhiohead a few weeks later comes along and releases his new solo album via bittorrent. Novel idea, but peer-to-peer still has a ways to go before it’s accepted as a way of purchasing music (and not downloading it illegally).

U2 and Thom Yorke

David Byrne, Beck and The Black Keys (to name a few) have all had their say on the state of music moving forward. This discussion is about as old as Napster.

As someone who still values a great album — the focus of the debate has been all wrong. Let’s face it, streaming and downloads are here to stay. Spotify, Pandora, etc… they’re not going away. And that’s OK. New technologies should be embraced rather than quickly discarded because it’s different.

To me, the problem isn’t about how we get our music. It’s about the emotional disconnect we have with the music — which has relegated the final product to nothing more than a cheap commodity.

As someone who was raised at the tail-end of the vinyl era, I remember countless hours of just getting lost in the album art. Zeppelin IV with it’s gate fold. The Quadrophenia booklet. The mural illustration on the inside panels of The Wall. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground. Sgt Peppers. They all made an unforgettable impression on me and the millions of others who were listening. I quickly identified with the music and the message. It was personal.

LP_PackagingSgt Peppers

Untitled-1-01The Wall


As Charlie Parker once said, “Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”

He was obviously giving his thoughts from the artists perspective. But that could also come from the listeners point of view as well.

Unfortunately, that experience is long gone. But it doesn’t mean we can’t get it back.

This is where design comes in. Design needs to lead the charge of re-connecting the artist to the listener. We’re the only one’s who can find the solution. Not only fix it — but make it better. We understand the human experience.

I don’t have the answer (yet), but if we value everything music offers, designers need to take charge and make it the experience worthy of the blood each artist puts into making it. If we do this right, then maybe we won’t think of music as a commodity anymore. And everyone wins.

Just like back in the good old days when it all started and ended with the experience.

Stay tuned.

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