Tunes and Tech: The Future of How we Listen to Music

Future of music

Discussing the intersection of technology and music with iHeartRadio Chief Product Officer Chris Williams.

With more options than ever for listening to music at our fingertips, the way we discover, share and spread the word about what’s hot is changing.

To get some insight into what’s next for the radio industry, 24Life spoke to Chris Williams, chief product officer at iHeartRadio.

Technology and music …

24Life: How does technology shape the way we hear music on the radio and at live events?

Chris Williams (CW): It’s the sharing component. Just having someone hear music is the first step to discovering a new favorite artist. Someone has to expose you to it. Now technology allows us to share what we find with our friends in a much faster way. And once you expose your friends or family to it, they can find out more about the artist on their own. Before technology, you were dependent on the information being delivered to you over the course of time, but now radio technology has shortened that curve of discovery so people can invest in the artist sooner.

24Life: How does radio play a part in the success of a song?

CW: Radio tells us if we are right or wrong quickly. It allows us to share great finds with a large amount of people immediately, which isn’t possible through any other medium than radio. And the audience is accepting and willing with an intention to consume new music. Also radio is something that is communal for people. You understand that you are listening to the same station with others who share your same taste in music, and it’s all happening real-time.

24Life: What’s the future of listening to music as technology becomes more and more advanced?

CW: As we look at the trends over the last five to ten years, broadcast radio remains the core experience, even with fragmentation of real-time TV and print media consumption, etc. We’ve seen that radio still reaches the same audience that it did in 1970, and 92 percent of people have radio in their lives in some way every single week, and that’s been consistent over the last five-to-six decades.

I think that’s because it’s the real-time experience, and it’s personal. It’s human. It’s local. It has a meaningful connection, and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future.

And there are a billion radios out there in the country, and it’s not a challenging medium to access. It’s everywhere you go and now there is a digital extension, so you can add another 250 million smartphones and tablets that you can access your radio station on.

What we will continue to see is that radio will become more accessible in more places, whether that is through Xbox, Apple TV, etc., where people can access their favorite radio stations.

Behind the scenes at iHeartRadio …

24Life: How does iHeartRadio come up with its playlists?

CW: We have two primary considerations when serving our audience. First is formatically: We want to make sure that we have a healthy representation of the country’s spectrum of music, as well as niche stations, ranging from 80s country to a family-oriented Christian-based country station. Second: We look at thematic playlists, which have a contextual relevance. For instance, we have a station that does incredibly well called Caffeinated Country, which is upbeat and high energy and good for people to listen to while working out.

Of course, at the core of coming up with all of our playlists is the element of human creation. Our programmers [who are subject matter experts located in more than 150 markets and are currently running their own local radio stations] know the music and know their fans.

Grab your headphones …

Looking for some great tunes? Here are three stations perfectly curated for you from the expert programmers at iHeartRadio.

Photo credit: iStock, Thinkstock – megaflopp.