Sweep through the countryside and your in-car audio system selects a relaxing slice of ambient Brian Eno. Pound over a potholed dirt-track and the soundtrack changes to teeth-grinding drum ‘n’ bass.
“Connected cars” installed with intuitive digital audio systems, predicting your personal taste and journey requirements, will rescue the music industry from the collapse of high-street record stores, a new report predicts.
The Digital Music Nation 2013 survey, published by trade body BPI, forecasts a new wave of growth as next-generation audio systems, which link the car and the living room to new digital music services, replace revenues lost by the decline of physical CDs.
Paul Smernicki, Director of Digital, at Universal Music UK, the company behind Rihanna and Jake Bugg, said: “The car and the living room – neither have been nailed. The Holy Grail is how to give someone a completely seamless musical experience that just follows them around."
"I want to be able to tell my car where I’m going and for it to devise a playlist to last the journey based on my musical tastes. That’s the future that will take people to a whole new digital immersion level. There is great music intelligence out there to help us to do so."
Companies like Echo Nest, a music intelligence platform which crawls through a database of 30 million songs to provide the data for digital recommendation services, are bringing intuitive playlists closer.
Mr Smernicki said: “The intuitive possibilities mean that you can get in your car and it can deliver exactly what you want to hear because it knows you so well. And late night it could play more upbeat tracks to keep you alert at the wheel.”
He explained: “When people are on the A3, the in-car system will be able to tell you what drivers on the road are listening to. You can factor in weather forecasts from the Met Office API key to create a complete personalised listening environment.”
The report identified developments which hint at the potential. In Europe, the streaming service Spotify linked with Seat in Spain last year to bundle subscriptions into its Ibiza cars. Spotify can also be installed directly into the AV receivers sold by the hi-fi companies Denon and Marantz.
Spotify recommends tracks including Wasn’t Born To Follow by The Byrds and Take The Long Way Home on its suggested driving playlists.
Ford has announced a US partnership with the streaming service Rhapsody, allowing Bluetooth-connected drivers to alter their musical selection using voice commands and steering wheel buttons.
The latest BMW model’s internal hard-drive has room for 3,000 tracks but that will increase to 14 million under a new deal integrating vehicles with an iPhone app from the streaming service MOG.
ABI Research forecasts that 50.9 million “connected cars”, equipped with 4G or WiFi networked audio systems, will be sold every year by 2017. It adds that around 5.7 million connected cars will be shipped in 2012.
Pascal de Mul, head of hardware partnerships at Spotify, which has more than 20 million global users including 5 million paying subscribers, said: “Spotify’s ultimate aim is to make listening to all the world’s music completely easy and seamless through every platform possible, wherever and whenever you are. We are working on delivering fantastic Spotify integrations for cars, and are looking forward to announcing some news on this very soon.”
A Mintel survey found that 47 per cent of car owners aged over 17 listened to music more in their car than at home, rising to over 50 per cent among those under 34, representing an important opportunity for new revenue streams for the industry as monthly music subscriptions, offering instant access to millions of songs, become more popular.
The BPI report found that almost one in five consumers (19.6 per cent) now prefers to buy all their music as downloads. Last year, 27.7 per cent of UK music fans purchased downloads or streamed songs on services like Spotify or YouTube.
The survey also predicts that 44 million people are expected to be 4G mobile subscribers by the end of 2016 with network operators expected to include music services as a key part of their high speed mobile package. More than 18.7 million (nearly seven in 10 households) are also expected to own tablet devices by 2016.
By 2015, 10 million UK homes will have “connected speakers” installed, allowing people to stream high-quality audio around their homes from a central “hub”.
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