Here's a short story — the fifth in my series of future scenarios from the first draft of my book, which got edited out of the published version — about a casual music listener trying to find some music to go with a home video, and being led through the minefield of finding music that you can use legally on your soundtracks. [I found the picture on the left on Flickr: it's by quasimime, and used under a Creative Commons licence.]
There were several things I was trying to combine in this scenario, aside from the licensing question.
- I wanted to describe the experience of someone who doesn't care a lot about music, and just sees it as a means to an end. Most of us who write about music discovery are pretty fanatical about it ('savants' in the classification I use), and have to remind ourselves that not everyone behaves like us.
- The idea of building up a collection of digital music almost by accident: the download-era equivalent of acquiring lots of promotional CDs and the ones they stick on the covers of magazines.
- Having a search tool that sorts through this slurry of inconsistently tagged music files and returns something reasonably coherent from this Everything is Miscellaneous mess. Of course, the tool could equally well have been searching the miscellaneous grab-bag of music files online, as SeeqPod does, but for this story you perhaps have to imagine that the Englobulators have won and closed down SeeqPod and its siblings.
- Finally I wanted to show search and recommendations for using music instrumentally as an accompaniment for other activities. My hunch is that recommending music for specific purposes — whether as a video soundtrack or for a gym workout — is going to be more effective and more widely used than for the general, and more ambitious, purpose of finding your next favourite band. This doesn't apply only to music: I wish Flickr and iStockPhoto had better search and recommendations to help me find images to accompany presentation ideas.
End of introduction. Continue reading for the story.