“We should get good enough that you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket to get the right stuff,” Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese told FiveThirtyEight in 2014, soon after Spotify acquired the Boston-based music intelligence startup. The corporate absorption would lead to Discover Weekly, and Lucchese's offhand comment speaks volumes about the evolution of listening—and creating, by default.
The impulse to press play goes beyond random desire: Music augments reality, making even the most mundane activities blissful. For decades, fans have owned that process, choosing their own soundtracks. Now, in an era of streaming successes and socials, the music business has transformed into a moments business. What’s it all mean?