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‘Listeners lose passion for music on streaming platforms’

Surfing immense music libraries is less satisfying than old-fashioned collecting, according to Israeli researchers.

An orchestra plays for passers-by on a Jerusalem street, Aug. 21, 2022. Photo by Yosef Mizrahi/TPS.
An orchestra plays for passers-by on a Jerusalem street, Aug. 21, 2022. Photo by Yosef Mizrahi/TPS.

Israeli researchers have uncovered a link between collecting and enjoying music, offering insights into how streaming applications affect the way people perceive and experience music.

The study, led by Bar-Ilan University’s professor Ofer Bergman and recently published in the peer-reviewed journal “Personal and Ubiquitous Computing,” highlights the potential for a more satisfying listening experience through active music collection.

“Our studies underscore the vital role of music collection in shaping the subjective experience of music consumption. By actively engaging in the act of collecting within streaming platforms, users can elevate their enjoyment levels and possibly reignite their passion for music,” said Bergman.

For decades, music enthusiasts collected vinyl records, eight-track tapes and audio cassettes, or downloaded songs onto MP3 players, forming personal collections reflecting their individual tastes.

But the shift to streaming music platforms such as Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music has profoundly changed the way people collect music. Listeners now have unprecedented access to immense libraries of songs at no extra cost, along with algorithmic recommendations.

The streaming services are certainly convenient. But streaming’s impact on listeners’ passions remained unexplored until now.

In the first study of the series, Bergman and his researchers conducted qualitative interviews, revealing a notable trend of reduced excitement among participants in the current musical landscape. The sheer abundance of music accessible at little to no expense was found to have diluted the subjective value of music, leaving some listeners with a sense of detachment.

In the second part of the research, questionnaire studies delved into the impact of streaming apps on music collection habits. As expected, the researchers found a clear decrease in the size of personal music collections as people shifted to streaming. But amid this shift, Bergman’s team found a direct correlation between the size of a person’s music collection and their level of listening enjoyment.

To explore the psychological underpinnings behind this paradox, the researchers launched a third study. In a controlled experiment, participants were prompted to rate their enjoyment of music in real-time using a chat-bot interface, both before and after actively collecting music.

The participants said that the act of collecting music was not only pleasant but also positively affected their engagement with the music.

The researchers say their findings open new avenues for streaming app developers and music listeners to strike a balance between the technology and personal curation.

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