Smart speakers set to dominate music streaming

Smart speaker - Alexa

Smart speaker use is rising rapidly and may contribute towards a shift away from radio, according to the latest joint British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) report.

The new report titled, Everybody’s Talkin’ – Smart Speakers and their impact on music consumption, examines the potential that voice-controlled smart speakers have to transform how fans engage with music.

Key findings show that music is the most popular use for smart speakers, with ‘users listening to more audio than they did before purchasing one of these devices.’

One study found that 34 percent of Echo and home owners spend more than four hours a day listening to music, compared to 24 percent of the general population.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of smart speaker owners have a premium subscription to a music-streaming service, with 39 percent saying that their time listening to the device is replacing time spent listening to AM and FM stations – creating the opportunity to convert radio listeners into paying music subscribers.

Among the impacts on the industry are how playlists are programmed around contextual topics such as ‘music to work-out to’. The report – authored by Music Ally’s Stuart Dredge – states: ‘Labels must now create metadata around genre, mood and user activities.’

Looking to the future of smart speakers, it suggests usage could help to drive sales of physical music and increase purchases of concert and festival tickets. ‘Where a fan likes music they hear, then can just as easily use devices to order a physical copy of a recording, particularly on LP’.

In terms of the challenges faced, the report points to issues with metadata and marketing. ‘If you make a generalised request, where will the algorithm that powers the search take you? If you ask for a concerto, which recording out of the dozens or more that may exist will it transport you to?’

Commenting on the report, ERA chief executive Kim Bayley said: ‘Music began with the human voice, so how appropriate that the voice is fast emerging as the future of entertainment technology.

‘It promises music fans a more fluid and personal relationship with the music they love. Over the past decade, ERA’s members have reshaped the entertainment industry, benefiting both consumers and content owners.

‘Thanks to new digital services, an industry in rapid decline is now back to growth. If ever it was in doubt, it is clear that innovative new services drive music listening and music revenues.’

BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor added: ‘Smart speakers are poised to kick-start the next stage of the music streaming revolution, attracting more casual listeners into subscription services drawn by music as the “killer app” for these devices.

‘This exciting new technology will not only transform how we engage with music, encouraging more shared listening, but also how we discover it.

‘The challenge and opportunity for labels and artists will be to ensure their music is as easily available and as effectively marketed via AI voice assistants as it has been through the screen interface.’