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This blog has always been focused on writing about is writing about the different ways we all experience the meta within the universe. At this point, we’re all familiar with the concept of us all reading different news, experiencing different social media universes, and the way we consume content influences our daily lives.
But one thing that I find rather interesting is the meta surrounding our audio experiences.
What you listen to, how you listen to it, and how often you listen to it are all experiences that are different and unique to each and every one of us.
So today I want to do explore the different technologies and the ways that we consume audio… and what that means for the ultimate metaverse experience.
First, let’s start with Bluetooth.
Bluetooth has come a long way from its original battery-hungry method of transmitting data. Bluetooth is still primarily used for one purpose, to send data from 1 device to another over the air.
The actual science behind how it works is very interesting but a bit more complex than I’m capable of tackling. So I’ll leave that to the engineers, and today I’ll just say that with every is that with every form of over-the-air technology, comes one compromise. That compromise is either in the quality of data sent or the speed/transmission of sending that data.
So with Bluetooth, the biggest problem for the longest period of time was digital latency. It was very hard to send even CD-quality music over the air, out of the mouth, and add an amount of time that synced up with UI/UX interfaces…. so that we could easily interpret what was happening when we clicked play, pause, fast forward, scrubbing ETC.
However recently, and I mean within the last 5 years, Bluetooth has advanced very quickly. With the advancement of audio Kodak technologies like L-DAC, apt X is Apple’s proprietary AAC… We’ve gotten to the point where we can stream a high bit rate better than CD-quality music over the air.
But… just because technology is capable, doesn’t mean everybody does it. In fact most listeners, by my estimation, are usually listening to sub-CD quality audio.
That’s because most individuals using Bluetooth audio, are probably using some form of audio compression either in the streaming app they choose, the audio device that sends that data, or the device that they use to listen to that data.
Right now, in order to listen to high-quality or CD quality Music, you need to make sure that all of the settings in the app you stream, comma the downloads that you have on your device, and the device that you’re listening to all match.
So what does that mean?
It means you aren’t experiencing the audio at the best it can be.
Does that matter?
See what the average user becoming less and less in tune with what a great audio quality experience sounds like, we’ve actually seen a higher rise in music listening to forms of audio that aren’t highly mastered.
In fact, the entire music industry is shifted away from trying to make money off of high-quality music copies, and shifted towards trying to sell high quality interpersonal personal experiences..
When discussing the business model with a friend of mine who works in the audio industry, he said that the business has shifted from going on tour to promote your music, to promoting your music to go on tour. The entire finance model has shifted to make sure that users are incentivized to buy merchandise and tickets rather than actually listening to the music.
In other words, music is now the marketing platform for the music industry... not the product.
Because it costs so much for the average user to upload and record really high-quality audio, most of your up-and-coming new artists are going to be uploading their music music quality in a very standard MP3 format. Furthermore, they are more likely to use standard equipment off the consumer shelf or amazon store app.
So… depending on what audio quality you listen to, may determine what kind of music you like. Lower frequencies in the base and higher frequencies in the treble are the first things to get cut off in audio compression. Thus the mids are the things we end up paying more attention to.
As a side consequence, I believe we have accepted a lower standard of audio quality. That doesn’t mean our music sounds worse. That’s up to the music people to debate.
It means that our collective understanding of how music sounds is entirely shaped by the Bluetooth or wired audio we listen to during the experience.
Second. Let’s talk about curated content.
Before the age of recommended Playlists, we usually discovered music from friends or family recommendations, radio, or audio sharing in person. Cds, live entertainment, cassette tapes, vinyl, were all the ways we had of finding our next favorite artist.
And you may not remember this if your a young millennial or even an old Zoomer, but before the age of recommended music, people associated their taste in music with their exclusive personality traits. Now, more than ever, everyone listens to everything. Rap, pop, rock, jazz, country… well maybe not country… but most genres are personality agnostic.
Eminem, Beyonce, Adele, maroon 5, Lil Nas x, Jay z, Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, drake, Ed Sheehan, Post Malone, the Weekend, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber… these are the top streaming artists and the thing they have in common is genre-shifting.
This can be seen as either a pro or a con depending on your taste and music opinions. But music is becoming more of a shared meta experience rather than a segmented singular user experience.
The opposite is true if you listen to podcasts.
Now at the time of writing, podcasts resemble early forms of satellite radio. Extremely curated experiences based on gender, age, political preference and life choices.
At any given time, you can find podcasts from the top podcast creators that speak to target demographics. Murder mystery podcasts generally favor women while comedy podcasts generally favor men. Political podcasts, religious podcasts, self help podcasts, cultural podcasts, technology podcasts, everything you can think of… is segmented into many different categories of listening.
There are a few ways this audio music/podcasting disparity might impact the building of the metaverse.
Audio might help curate shared and open spaces that give people a way to connect online with one another in a way that brings cultural understanding and sentiment together. Users can interact their avatars in parasocial ways that eliminate the physical barrier of race, gender, sex, and politics.
We are watching this happen with Fortnites digital concerts. Avatars spawn into a shared meta-audio experience that delivers to each of them the same but interactive audio/visual reality. They can bond over the ridiculousness and incredulous nature of the experience.
However, at the same time, chat rooms have become infamous as harassment zones for women and people of color. Furthermore, when extremists gather, they usually have to gather in non-public arenas to avoid scrutiny of their ideology. VR voted very quickly and very easily become a space where unregulated extremist ideologies gather to plan, terrorize, and execute harm to our rule of law.
These are just the ways that I envision audio influencing the future of our metaverse. I think that while the metaverse is fun,, we will always need ways of grounding ourselves in reality to counter the potentially unwanted effects of metaverse expansion. What do you think would be a proper way to address and regulate the metaverse?
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