Has music streaming made music less enjoyable? - studies

A number of studies from Israel's Bar-Ilan University have analyzed the modern music streaming ecosystem and how it impacts music collection and enjoyment.

 An illustrative image of modern music streaming. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
An illustrative image of modern music streaming.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

When streaming music is easily available online and on apps, has the collection of tapes, records, or other means of storing your favorite pieces been affected?

Since Thomas Edison’s invention of the gramophone over a century ago, people had to collect their favorite music to listen to it. Streaming music applications enable music lovers to collect any amount of pieces at no additional cost – by “liking” songs and adding them to playlists.

While streaming technology also allows users to create music collections, maintaining a collection is optional, as for the first time in music-consuming history users can reliably listen to music outside their collections.

The relationship between music collection and enjoyment in the streaming era

A series of three studies at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan has uncovered a fascinating relationship between music collection and listening enjoyment in the era of streaming music. The studies shed light on the impact of streaming applications on the subjective evaluation of music and suggest that rediscovering the act of music collecting can significantly enhance the overall listening experience.

The first paper of the series, led by information science Prof. Ofer Bergman, presented a qualitative study revealing that interviewees expressed a sense of diminished excitement towards music in the current landscape. The abundance of songs available at little to no cost was perceived as having “cheapened” their subjective evaluation of music.

 An artistic illustration of a human brain and music. (credit: INGIMAGE)
An artistic illustration of a human brain and music. (credit: INGIMAGE)

The results of a second questionnaire study indicated a drastic reduction in collection size as individuals transitioned to streaming apps. However, the study also uncovered compelling evidence highlighting the advantages of streaming collections. Notably, a positive correlation was identified between collection size and listening enjoyment. This led to a discussion of psychological theories which may explain this intriguing contradiction.

To delve deeper into the connection between music collection and listening enjoyment, the researchers conducted a controlled experiment. Participants were asked to rate their listening enjoyment in real-time using a chat-bot interface, both before and after collecting music.

The results, recently published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing under the title “Collecting music in the streaming age,” showed that current listening enjoyment levels were relatively low. Participants also reported that the act of collecting music was pleasant rather than burdensome. Most importantly, results indicated that listening to the collected music significantly elevated participants’ listening enjoyment.

For over a century, people avidly collected music. However, with the rise of streaming apps, users have increasingly relied on algorithms to choose songs for them, often disregarding the option to build personal collections. The culmination of these three studies strongly suggests that a reevaluation is in order. By encouraging users to embrace music collection within streaming applications, their listening enjoyment can be substantially enhanced.

“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,” Bergman concluded. “This research opens up exciting new avenues for streaming app developers and music listeners alike. By recognizing the significance of music collection within the streaming era, a harmonious balance between algorithmic recommendations and personal curation can be achieved, leading to a reinvigorated and enriching musical journey.”