A year in mobile is like five years in any other industry. Here are a few trends I see playing out in 2012.
1. Ubiquitous connectivity will change the game for music streaming services. Currently, you have to choose what you want to listen to offline, ahead of time. If you forget a track or screw up what you chose, you’re out of luck on (most) airplanes, subways, garages, and even on some streets in San Francisco and New York. In 2012, international flights will start getting WiFi. New York City is testing connectivity on the subway. When it gets to the point where consumers are not worrying about connectivity, the line between owning and renting your music will blur even further. A potential boon for Spotify, MOG, and all other streaming services.
2. Smart use of location for deals on tickets: Currently, apps like Songkick and Live Nation will tell you when artists are performing in your area – based on your iPod library. The next evolution of this will be promoters actually offering last minute deals on concerts (down to an hour before show) to fans in the immediate vicinity of the venue, in an effort to sell out shows.
3. Facebook and iTunes. Ping has not lived up to expectations, even if Apple hasn’t publicly admitted it. What would change this is Facebook integration; Facebook inside iTunes, especially in the mobile app, would enable easy music discovery through the social graph, just like Spotify currently sharing what you’re listening to, to Facebook.
4. Path: This new social network, especially geared for close friends and family, is spreading like wildfire, and one of the most popular features is to tell your friends what you’re “listening to.” Your friends can instantly listen to a preview of the song by clicking on it (courtesy of iTunes) and, of course, there is a buy link into iTunes. Trusted friends will always be the best source of music discovery.
5. Social. Listening to music has always been a social activity. Apps will continue to surround fans in a social experience while listening to their favorite artists. Having things like commenting, “liking,” and sharing in apps are no longer optional in 2012, they’re the baseline. The next phase includes exciting things like letting fans choose the set list in real time at a concert via mobile device, finding your friends in real time at a concert, and seeing what your friends are listening to in real time (à la Path).
6. Next Gen QR Codes. QR codes came of age in 2011. But they’re not perfect; they’re strange looking and scanning them often takes too long. The next phase of QR codes will eliminate the “code” part and make real objects the “QR code.” Fans will be able to scan, for example, a poster, or a stage, and get additional info, bonus content, special offers and more. Layar and Aurasma are two companies pioneering this.
2012 is going to be a rocking year for both music and mobile. Get ready for a hell of a ride!