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Self Initiated Fred Wordie Mid 2017

A project looking at our changing relationship with music in the age of streaming. With thanks to Dressin Red, Arcylic, The Fall of Eve, Cameron Schaefer and everyone else who helped me out along the way.

THE BRIEF “Yes, the robots are coming, and they will be a great help. But the next time an underground music movement like punk rock, hip-hop or drum & bass comes along, I’ll continue to trust humans with an inspired grasp of the magic of new sounds and cultural movements, instead of a stream of data delivered via software agent. That might work for automated radio stations and elevator music, but real music lovers get their beats from humans.� -Adario Strange Due to the rise of digital and on-demand streaming of music, music seems to have lost value in our lives. I will explore the difference between human centred and Ai based music recommendation, as well as exploring the side effects of Ai on the music business. I will attempt to speak to both musicians and music fans while exploring this topic. In an attempt to create a new experience surrounding music recommendation that will contrast the current system of Ai created playlists, and benefit not only listeners but musicians as well.

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PA RT O N E Int ro d u cti o n Init ia l R e s e a r c h Int er vie w s Fol l o w U p s Overview Personas Music J our ne y Ti m e lin e Mo m e n t s Half-time Thoughts

Initial poster for which I pitched my self initiated project

Introduction DIVING INTO THE WORLD OF MUSIC DISCOVERY AND VALUE IN THE AGE OF THE STREAMING SERVICE Given as this is a self-initiated project I feel it’s important to speak about why I wanted to tackle such a broad topic as music. Since a young age, I had always enjoyed music in the way that I think all kids do but it wasn’t until the age of around 14 when I actually took ownership of my music taste. This is when I started my music collection of mp3s and a scattering of other physical artefacts. It was at this age that I started taking pride in my music discoveries, the bands that I found before the rest of my peers did. For the next 7 years, I wore this music taste on my sleeve, it’s how I kept in contact with distant friends and how I aimed to impress girls at the handful of parties I attended at that age. From this love came a wanting to take part in the music scene, to create my own art even though I lacked any music education. However, I thought what I lacked in piano skills, I made up for in my music collection, and I was fascinated by the idea of storytelling through mixtapes. So for the about 5 years now, I have been making hour-long mixtapes, trying to repurpose music I love to tell new stories. About 2 years ago I started streaming music on various platforms, I used it mainly as a place to demo music before downloading the mp3 or buying a physical release. Then about a year ago I fell into rhythm with Spotify and its

discovery feature called “Discover Weekly”. Spotify likes to describe this as a weekly playlist of songs chosen for you, that feels like a close friend would pick for you and only you. It felt this way, although I didn’t fall in love with all the songs on the playlists, the ease of getting new songs I enjoyed every week with no effort felt great... until it wasn’t. About 6 months into using Discover Weekly as my main music discovery avenue I become disenfranchised with it, rather than feeling like the service was helping my music discovery, I felt it was stagnating it. However, It was when I sat down to make a new mixtape that I realised Spotify had done no more than vegetate my music discovery - when looking through my catalogue of music, I realised that I did not know, let alone love most of the songs I had saved from my Spotify discoveries. I had always used mixtapes to share the songs I loved, with the people who I thought would appreciate them and with the unlimited catalogue of music Spotify and other streaming platforms had offered me, I had grown to value very few enough to use in this context. This change in my relationship with music led me to question how other music lovers were engaging in music and how the industry as a whole dealing with this major transition in how music is discovered, engaged with and collected.


1. https://www.theverge. com/2015/9/30/9416579/ spotify-discover-weekly-online-music-curation-interview

Initial Research LOOKING AT THE INTERNET FOR THE MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST AI CURATION To start my research, I began by looking into various music streaming services, with my original focus on music discovery. I quickly discovered in the age of music streaming one of the key unique functions which music platforms were advertising was their choice of music discovery. For Spotify it was their “discover weekly” playlist, an Ai curated playlist based on the music you have already listened to. For Apple Music it was all about the human curation, playlists made by Apple curators recommend to your on your music history. All of these systems aim to help users find new music by taking out the need of digging through virtual crates. However, it was evident to see why all of these systems had similar issues. As Ben Popper, of the Verge Magazine, puts it they “are far too safe and uninspired - the equivalent of a wedding DJ who isn’t going to risk clearing the dance floor.”1


While investigating these platforms I identified a divide; many people saying they loved discovery tools but equally as many saying that thought music discovery was awful. One clear insight from this desk research though was that music has become much more democratised with many more people making music, due to the ease of creating and uploading music on the internet. This is also being complimented by people listening to a more diverse amounts of music, due to the ease of streaming services allowing you to try many songs without having to buy. It became apparent that desk research alone was not going to help me with this project, due to the conflicting array opinions and a multitude of information. So I instead decided to interview music fans to develop insights, I could then investigate further with desk research.

“[Spotify Discover Weekly] played him Swedish electropop he didn’t know, and things he’d known and liked in the distant past – DAF, Van der Graaf Generator. But then he made a face. ‘It’s wallpaper, though,’ he said. ‘They’re making it wallpaper.’ ~ Ben Ratliff


Interviews SPEAKING TO MUSIC FANS AND THE ARTISTS WHO CREATE THE MUSIC THEY LOVE. I talked to a total of 12 people between the ages of 18-25 during my interviews and found that most had a similar ritual when it came to listening to music, even though the genres they listened to varied hugely. Questions varied from “tell me your musical history” to “how do you find your best discoveries”. From these broad questions, a few overarching themes became clear. Firstly, my interviewees barely listened to music as a primary task anymore. People predominately were listening to music as a background to other activities, whether it be walking, working or washing up, music was a backdrop. This lead to people listening to a lot of music but not critically listening to songs. Secondly, people were listening to a hugely varied selection of music, not necessarily one genre or artist. This meant that only 4 interviewees played albums through often. Users were predominately listening to playlists they had created or to pre-made ones, both human and Ai curated. Thirdly, when asked the question, “what is your music

collection?” Most people did not have an answer on the tip of their tongue, and all really struggled to highlight where they store their music. Yet, most agreed that when they were younger, they had CD collections or iTunes libraries that encapsulated the music they valued and showed of their taste. As one interviewee summed it up, “Spotify is my collection but not my treasure” and extrapolated to tell me it was full of songs added on a whim that they never listened to again. Lastly, interviewees by the most part were paying for music through services like Spotify but did feel a sense of guilt because they had heard that musicians made very little money through these services. They claimed they paid artists more when they went to their gigs but only if the artist played in their city. The other comment that caught my eye was that interviewees felt they paid the “music tax” through subscription models and hence had no qualm in downloading music illegally if they couldn’t access it through their chosen service.



A cultral probe that interviewees were asked to write down their music discvoeryies in.

Another cultral probe, that asked intervieews the kind of music they wished to discover.


Follow Ups USING A CULTURAL PROBE TO IDENTITY HOW INTERVIEWEES WERE DISCOVERING MUSIC After doing the interviews, it became apparent that people were struggling to sum up where their most significant discoveries came from. To help people identify and record their discoveries I made little booklets to write down their musical findings. The interviewees were left with these little booklets for a week, after which time I did some follow-up interviews. These booklets were really informative for two main reasons; firstly, interviewees had a broad range of sources for music discoveries but most contained some input from an Ai. Whether that be a youtube autoplay suggestion or from Spotify discover weekly playlist. These were mixed up with songs heard on the radio, or suggestions from sights like Pitchfork2. However, only a tiny handful came from friends and these we as valued more than the songs discovered by other means because interviewees attached faces and meanings to these songs. The second important point was that the respondents were really excited to share their musical discoveries with me. There was pride in people’s eyes are they showed of their tastes. When asked about this interviewees mentioned

that they didn’t often discuss music anymore and were excited by the chance to talk about new music they liked. While doing these cultural probes I also interviewed a few musicians, including an up and coming indie band, a bedroom producer and metal band with a substantial fan base. The central insight that came from these interviews was the lack of transparency between fans and musicians. For example, one producer I spoke to claimed he had made nothing from his time making music. However, a lot of his friends felt he was making money from his tracks because he was on a music label and had been played on the radio. This lack of transparency was also found with the metal band who said that they spent as much time on social media keeping fans engaged as they did making music. They explained that when they first started a fan would buy a CD for £10 and that was it. However, with streaming, fans had to stream their single many times for the band to get anywhere near £1. So the band was forced to keep fans engaged and listening to their music. From here I started to organise all my research and find the moments that could be starting points to design from.


Research Overview COLLECTING MY RESEARCH INTO MORE UNDERSTANDABLE INFOGRAPHICS. After spending two weeks interviewing a range of music fans and musicians, I started to gather my research and lay it out in a more meaningful manner. This initially meant comparing information from my user group and trying to organise it into distinct personas. In total, I created 3 personas based on 3 types of music listener I interviewed. The casual listener, who has no major pain points and really likes how streaming culture is based primarily on their needs. The avid listener, who feels trapped between the convenience of streaming and the high price of entry into the physical (vinyl etc.) music world. The amateur influences, who are invested in their taste and aim to spread the music they love but struggle to due to the poor sharing infrastructure of music services. These helped me later on when I wanted to test my ideas against users and to check my reasoning was still sound. The other way I organised my interview data was to plot the music history of my interviewees from 5 till now. What I discovered from doing this was that the sociable aspect of music had changed over time. An example of this was how at a younger ages people claimed to discuss music more than they did currently. Small changes like asking people what song was playing at parties age 16 vs. using an app like Shazam to identify songs at parties now, were making music less sociable. The timeline for me suggested that at a younger age, music was a more shared experience. Whether that be looking up to an older sibling for music suggestions, letting a friend sync their iPod to your iTunes library or letting a genre of music define your group of friends; your music taste was something you wore on your sleeve and was shared with people close to you. However, it had become a thing for “I� where it was easier to snoop on your friends Spotify listens then to ask them what they liked - Ai suggestion and unlimited streaming services had taken away the need to discuss music.


Casual Listener Tools:

Overall Aim:

- Not to have to worry about what to play next - Fill the void of silence well working or walking with nice sounds

On Community:

“...Will listen to friend’s suggestions only if I have nothing else too...” On Collections:

“...My collections are my play-lists made from liked songs...”



- Have easily accessible music - Good Music Suggestions - Have comfortable music - Save music for latter listening -Share songs w/ friends Feeling:

- Ai recommendation - Friends (if in the mood) - Media (the crowd)

Pain Points:

- Mostly content

- Ads on free services

- A bit guilty for not paying

- Not challenged so Ai recommendations trap you in a palatable bubble

- Music isn’t life changing

Main Quote:

“...Discover Weekly is very comfortable...” 10

Avid Listener Tools:

Overall Aim:

- Discover Interesting new music - Store and Listen to said music - Support artists in some way

On Community:


“...Don’t feel bad for illegal downloading, I pay the streaming Tax...”

- Listen both casually and critically - Discover music outside comfort zone - Uncover stories about said music - Easily listen to music well exploring

On Collections:


Pain Points:

- Don’t feel they value music enough currently - Feel more value in discovering music myself - Want ownership - comfortable is often easier

- No discussion around music with peers - Feels pressured when told to listen to something - Streaming exclusives - Not challenged by Ai

“...Spotify is my collection but not my treasure...”


- Ai recommendation - Radio - Friends (who they trust) - Tastemakers - Music Publications - Serendipity

Main Quote:

“...Streaming convenience wins but I don’t want to admit it...” 11

Amateur Influencers Tools:

Overall Aim:

- Discover Interesting new music - Store and Listen to said music - Support artists - Share said music with friends

On Community:

“...(Spotify are) making it Wallpaper...”

On Collections:

“...The Story behind the music is important...”


- Listen both casually and critically - Discover music outside comfort zone, as well as the artists - Easily listen to music well exploring - Share music with people who would appreciate it Feeling:

- Uninspired to share music - Happy with the music they are discovering - Missing the social dimension of music


- Ai recommendation - Radio - Friends - Tastemakers - Music Publications - Serendipity

Pain Points:

- Lack of meaningful feedback loop - Lack of community or discussion - Friends don’t often send them music

Main Quote:

“...When I share music it feels like I’m shouting into the void...” 12

Gen Y Music Journey 5-10




-- N/A

-- Parents


-- N/A

-- Can only discover as much as allowed to -- Listen to what’s put on


-- N/a

-- Music is a negotiation -- Don’t have a say -- Don’t really care

18-25 15-18 10-15

-- Respected “Cool” People -- Older Sibling etc -- Happen stance

-- Asking at parties -- Discussion with friends -- Radio and self discovery

-- Chosen friends -- Shazam at Parties -- Radio and self discovery

-- Overhearing music -- Collected and Borrowed CDs -- Making own choices

-- A want to discover -- A want to share -- Communal music

-- Music for work -- Music for walking -- No ‘collection’ -- Streaming

-- Taking ownership -- This is a cool tune -- My ... has such a cool taste in music

-- This is my taste -- I like this music -- Wore music on sleeve

-- Music for me -- I don’t need or want your input






After collecting all my research and pulling out key insights and moments, I realised that my insights could be grouped into three main areas revolving around not only music discovery but also music value and collection. This, in turn, could all be placed along a user journey, with music discovery being pre-use, music value being use and music collection being post-use. This insight into my own research was a real turning point in my project, whereas before I had a bulk of interesting information but no clear design opportunity. This layout allowed me to pinpoint key areas along the user journey that I could design for.

Snooping on a friend is easier then asking a friend

People want to feel like they discovered their own music

Pre-Use Discovery As spoken about before music discovery has become a very insular pursuit with many people relying on Ai suggestions, radio or Shazam for new music discoveries, with very little peer to peer recommendation. When peer to peer recommendations does happen, a lot of avid listeners are adverse to suggestions because they want to feel like they

discovered it. This means that people sharing music feel disheartened and not valued for their recommendations. The lack of physical representation of what your currently listeing to on streaming services, means that there is no tool to start a disucussion about music like a pile of CDs in car footwell does.


Monthly minum wage for 1 person is hard to attain on Spotify

Artists have to engage fans over a long period of time to make money

During Music Value These value insights show the lack of transparency in the music business currently, with artists having to engage fans for long periods of time to even make minimum wage on platforms such as Spotify. This figure changes to 1.2 million streams to make minimum if you are on a major


label because they take a huge cut due to dealing with Spotify. Musicians and fans both agreed that the best way to help out musicians is to go to their gigs, but many fans I spoke to found that hard when they listen to international acts that don’t often tour in their city.

The ease of streaming from the cloud has meant less people have an offline collection

Playlists have replaced muisc libaries, as temporary collections

Post-Use Collection One of the biggest side effects of streaming is the loss of the music collection. Where most interviewees could point me to their music collection of 5 years ago, an iTunes library, or ten years ago a CD collection. Most struggled to point out to me their current music collection, as it was spread

across many services and was made up of many temporary playlists, which meant much less to them than their old collections had. This is partly due to how much music collections worked as a tool to spark discussions about music and in doing so discover new music from friends.


Half-Time Thoughts TAKE STOCK AFTER THE FIRST HALF OF THIS PROJECT After 5 weeks working on this project, I felt very far behind where I wanted to be at this point. I had spoken to a lot of people and gathered a lot of information but had really struggled to design anything. I had collected little insights like someone might collect badges but did not have one moment I felt was strong enough to build my self-initiated from. I felt a lot of pressure to do my best work for my final project, and this pressure made me reluctant to tie myself down to one insight. With this in mind, I went home for spring “break” and tried not to think about the project too much. During this time I was driving with a friend in my car, and a new Gorillaz song came on the radio, and we started discussing how much we both loved the old Gorillaz music. Then my friend, to clarify how much he liked Gorillaz, said, “Oh yeah, I love them. I have them on Vinyl.” I realised that vinyl was a solution to many of my identified insights, but it was a surrogate solution that didn’t really fit with today’s listening habits. For example, as a tool to start a discussion about music, flicking through racks of vinyl always leads to the people involved suggesting others music and “nerding out” over little details. As a way to support artists, vinyl is great, not only do you give artists more money then Spotify would, but you also own a little bit of the artists work physically. This physical item not only plays music but it contains liner notes that tell you more about the music you love and is a bit of art you can display and show off your taste. However, vinyl is outdated in the way we listen today. For example, people I spoke to were listening to albums less and less but were instead were listening to playlists of many artists. Hence buying a vinyl would only support one of the artists you like, not all. Secondly, vinyl is very expensive both to buy and to play, hence why “half the people buying vinyl don’t actually bother listening to it.” With this, I realised over my spring “break” that vinyl was very close to the solution but need to be re-thought out in the age of streaming, playlists and Ai. Hence I decided to run a workshop with musicians, fans and music industry professionals to help come up with a way to redefine what “I have that on vinyl” could mean for the age of digital streaming. With this in mind, I was excited to get back and start working, I have always loved running workshops, and this would give me the energy and drive to get back into this project after treading water for the first half of this project.


“ Oh yeah, I love them. I have them Vinyl ”

THE BRIEF No2 When looking at the current climate surrounding music, there are three key insights that need to be considered. Firstly, there is a lack of transparency with streaming services that leaves listeners feeling guilty for not paying musicians enough, and musicians feeling that they have to spend as much time making music as they do keeping fans engaged on social media. Secondly, there has been a loss of music collection with the adoption of playlists over libraries. These music collections used to be ways of people showing off the music they valued and were also valuable as tools to encourage and aid person to person music discovery and discussion. The “avid listener” has been forgotten when it comes to music services, as they feel that streaming services don’t cater to their needs, but the price of entry to vinyl prohibits them from physical formats they desire. Vinyl does not work for avid listeners as it doesn’t acknowledge how many music fans listen to music today. With fans listening to multiple artists at the same time, not having the space to store large quantities of vinyl or the money to buy Hi-Fi systems to play them With this project, I will design a service or product that will fill this gap. By creating something that will serve as a way for avid listeners to value the wide range of music they love, I aim to give Avid listeners a way of saying “I have that on vinyl” without actually having that on vinyl.

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PA RT T W O Workshop Plan Workshop Outcome Init ia l C o n ce p t De v e lo p e m e nt Fi n al C o n ce p t Fi n al M od e l Fi n al Mod e l Cont. Final Thoughts

3. 4. aweek/hill52aw/

Workshop Plan DESIGNING A WORKSHOP TO ENABLE THE CO-CREATION OF A PRODUCT OR SERVICE FOR THE AVID LISTENER. After redefining my brief for the second part of the project I know that I didn’t want to approach this problem with just music fans, musicians or music labels in mind but all three. There are examples like Spotify that seem to put fans in the front of their business model or Bandcamp3 which is perfect for musicians but lacks the usability that fans want. So I decided to create a co-design workshop that would bring all parties to the table. With that in mind, I had 6 music fans, 3 musicians, 1 artist manager and 1 person who worked for Hill 524 (the GSA university radio) attending the workshop. The workshop ran over 2 hours and included activities that covered all parts of the double diamond briefly. To start, I gave a presentation of my work so far including my target user group and the insights I had gathered. I then got people to start thinking creatively with an icebreaker task in which participants were asked to draw their most valued music artefact or experience. These also doubled as valuable research to draw upon after the workshop. Next, I had the participants interview each other in short 5-minute rounds, using a pack of questions aimed at either music fans or musicians. These gave the participants insights they could base their design proposals off. From here I had


the two tables discuss what they had found out during the interviews and also draw insights from their own knowledge. To focus them in after this open discussion the participants were asked to pick insights to use as pillars for the design section of the workshop. 2 of these insights were things that artists wanted considered in a design proposal and 2 more that fans wanted from a new concept. For the design proposal part of the workshop, I used a quick interative task that asked participants to think of 12 crazy ideas each that would get them thinking of more concrete design outcomes. The two tables then spent the remainder of the session finalising one final outcome to present to the other group. In hindsight, I feel I should have come to the workshop with a more clear vision of what these outcomes should have been. Although the results were good and the insights created were invaluable, I feel the workshop could have achieved more if I had not left the brief so open. In a catch 22 of sorts, this workshop would have resulted in better outcomes if I had designed it with the knowledge of the insights generated by said workshop. With that in mind, I was thankful for everyone that came to it and especially Neal Cameron for facilitating the 2nd table.


15 mins

Warm Up

10 mins

Interview Matrix

15 mins


15 mins

Shower Thoughts 20 mins Final Idea

20 mins


10 mins


5 mins

Workshop Outcome AFTER THE WORKSHOP, I SET ABOUT ORGANISING THE MULTITUDE OF OUTCOMES BOTH FINALISED DESIGN AND SMALL TITBITS OF INFORMATION. The first tables discussion started by identifying how important the emotional side of music was for musicians and fans. The speculated over how it would be really interesting to change how we value music from a monetary system to an emotional one. They considered how artists would feel better about not making money from music, if they knew how much fans appreciated their work. The contemplated a system that would only charge listeners if they actually had an emotional connection to the song they were listening to. However, they ended up designing a subscription service that would give users 4 random concert tickets each month for a fixed price each month. These tickets would be for both well known and unknown acts. Their idea would be that the emotional connection between fans and artists already happens at gigs and they aimed to capitalise on this fact. They also thought that this would be a good way to help younger bands get discovered. The second table took a different tact and instead tried to increase transparency between artist and fans. They started by discussing how artist’s had given up the idea that people would pay for digital downloads and instead the table agreed that the solution was a pay what you want model for music. They also felt that fans would only pay extra for something physical and were not interested in for paying for more digital services. They ended up creating a tipping service for artists, that distributed a bit of extra money to the artists you listened to most. They also wanted a written record of the music they had listened to, as well as the money they had tipped to artists. So their concept also featured a weekly fax of your musical history. Even though the second group’s concept was extremely convoluted, involving machinery only found in the most outdated of government offices; I did see the value in such a service and decided to develop it, with the rest of the insights gathered from the workshop.


Workshop particepents completing the showerthought part of the workshop

Workshop particepents doing an interview, with one asking questions, one answering and one taking notes.



Starting to organize the research and outcomes from the workshop, to find hidden insights.


Initial Concept EXPANDING ON THE ARTISTS’ TIPPING SERVICE CONCEPT PRESENTED AT WORKSHOP After the workshop, I began to build on the idea that was pitched by the second table. The core idea would be a service that users would pay a subscription fee between £5 and £50 per month. The user would then install a small widget on their devices that would keep track of all the music listened to by the user on many pre-existing services, very much like last.fm5. This tracking would not only mean that artists would get paid proportionally for how much they were listened to, but the user would also be able to have a digital and fully comprehensive breakdown of their musical history. The subscription fee would be split between the artists you listen to proportionally, so the artists you listen to more would get paid more. However, my user group also


felt it was important that the money would go those who would need it most. Hence it would be weighted to pay less famous artists more. For example, if you listened to Adele, who has 17 million monthly listeners on Spotify, 12 times in a month and also listened to someone up and coming like Car Seat Headrest, who has 500,000 listeners each month, 12 times a month as well. Mr Car Seat Headrest would get paid a bigger slice of your subscription than lovely Adele. At this point in the project, I really liked this service model as it benefited artists and this collection of music data could be used to benefit the user in some new way. However, last part of the concept, the physical item, was very unresolved and so my next step was the subscriber would receive for their money.



Development THROWING MUDDY CONCEPTS AGAINS’T THE STUDIO WALL UNTIL AN IDEA STUCK When designing the user benefit of the service, I locked myself away with a stack of blank paper and pens and set about creating as many options as possible. To begin with, I attempted to articulate my new brief based on all my research and insights so far. What I landed for was “A physical artefact that supports artists in the way we listen today, that functions as a badge of support and starts conversations.” The first aspect of this was that it had to be physical - I knew this because of my workshop when one of the fan pillars of design was that it had to be non-digital or people would just pirate it online. I also knew that by having a physical object, the object would function much better as a conversation starter. When speaking to the head curator of the vinyl subscription service, Vinyl Me Please6, he said that he had never met someone boring who had vinyl displayed. For him, someone having vinyl was an advert to start a long conversion about music. This was the aim of my project as well. The next aspect was that it should respect the way users are listening to music today. This meant being about playlists, not albums and supporting multiple artists rather than just one like vinyl. The physical artefact must also work alongside already existing music infrastructure, like iPhones, Spotify, Youtube and whatever speakers the user already has. If my avid listener user found the entry price

for vinyl to be too high, I didn’t envisage them buying into another music format for a similar price. Lastly, I wanted this artefact to function as a badge of honour, a show of support for said artist. I wanted to create an object that could be referenced in the way vinyl is, “Oh I have that on [insert project name].” This meant weaving in the visual side of music into my concept, you can’t point at the sound of a song but you can point at album covers. With this all in mind, I started throwing ideas around. These varied from a digital screen in your living room that would display your last played album covers, to receiving a mini postcard from an artist after you played their track over 10 times. The idea I had in my head for a long time was a 12inch poster of your most played album cover and on the back would be a list of all your music plays for that month. I really liked this idea but knew it lacked that specialness that vinyl offered, it would just be a vinyl sleeve with some songs on the back after all. This step in the process was vital as I felt I had something but knew it wasn’t there yet. Input from both my tutors and peers was crucial here as a part of me wanted to settle for the first idea I landed on due to the fact I was running out of time with this project. However, these inputs helped me strive for something more and pushed me to come up with my initial idea.


Final Concept DESIGNING A BESPOKE MAGAZINE BASED ON A USERS PERSONAL MUSIC HISTORY. After thinking iteratively, I finally landed on my final concept. The model behind the service would work the same as previously described, but the artefact would be a bespoke monthly magazine. The basic overview of the service followed as such; a widget on your devices would track your plays each month. A designer would then design a unique layout for each month of the magazine. This would include a design for the cover of the magazine and for the inside pages which would provide information on your plays each month. This layout would be populated by an Ai that would find information about your top 4 songs each month. This information could be the lyrics from your favourite songs and the meanings behind them taken from Genius7, a list of samples used in the song’s construction from Whosampled8 or even reviews from sites like Pitchfork9. In total, this magazine would contain a basic overview of your most played artists each month, and how much money you tipped them through your subscription, an in-depth look at your 4 top played songs each month and a write up on the designer of that month’s issue. The whole magazine would open up to reveal a bespoke poster that would function as a talking point and a way for a user to express their love of music. After making the mock up of this, I took it to my user group for feedback. I was immediately encouraged by the way my interviewees spent a lot of the time talking about the songs inside rather than the design of the magazine. The fans and artists alike loved the transparency of seeing where your money went and also liked that this list would function as a time capsule of each month’s listens. They also relished the lyric explanations and sample breakdowns but wondered if artists could have more input in the information. They also unamusedly agreed that the design of the magazine was too throwaway and would be easy to discarded each month. Some suggested that a quarterly magazine would function better and more accurately portray changes in their music history. 7. 8. 9.


Explorng different forms for the magazine concept, as well as different designs for each month








Final Model A PERFECT BOUND QUARTLY MAGAIZNE GIVING THE USER INSIGHTS INTO THE MUSIC THEY LOVED THAT QUARTER My final model for this project was a more refined quarterly edition of my earlier prototype, with a few key changes. Firstly, the form factor was an 11-inch square perfect bound magazine. I wanted to make it 12 inches so it would feel familiar to vinyl owners and feel like it belonged to a music lover. However, I had to settle for a smaller form factor due to printing limitations. The new magazine would be 56 pages long and cover 3 months of the user music history. This increased space would allow for more information on the users top 6 songs from each month, as well as making this magazine something that you would be happy to display alongside any coffee table book. The magazine also came in a vinyl like a sleeve that could be displayed independently to the magazine. The next significant change was the mixtape that came with the magazine. The idea behind this was that a user could pick up a magazine from last year and be quickly be immersed in the music from that quarter. This mixtape could be accessed through an app after scanning the front of the magazine cover. Due to law, you cannot host music on an app without the rights, but you are allowed to host mixtapes or radio shows that don’t have track IDs. So the mixtape for each quarter would be one 18 track mix, 6 songs for each month. The page numbers for the magazine would reflect this by not being page numbers but instead time stamps of where each song started on the mixtape. Lastly, I named the service Liner-Notes, as a reflection of the medium that inspired it. Liner notes in their original fashion are little bits of paper that came with physical music formats of the past. They helped the artist communicate visually more information about the album, whether that be photographs, lyrics or song credits. I feel that what I have created is a form of liner note for the modern listener not about or benefiting one artist but about and supporting all the artists that defined your month in music.



A mock up of the widget that shows up when you listen to music on your computer.

41 Scanning the cover of your personal magazine in order to get access to your mixtape

A user following along to the lyrics of a song as they listen again to it use their mixtape



A list of tour dates in you area based on your listened to that year

The monthly summary page, which shows you were top 20 artists each month and how much you tipped them with your subscription



Final Model Continued DESIGNING A BESPOKE MAGAZINE BASED ON A USERS PERSONAL MUSIC HISTORY. To communicate this concept I wanted to create a convincing mock-up that would help sell my idea. To do so, I created one full magazine mock-up and 4 other sleeves that would show how different designers would effect each month’s issue. For the full mock-up, I created a fake designer who I used as my basis as a brief for this quarter’s layout. Their brief was to amplify the colours of the album artwork and focus on the lyrics of the songs. So I started by designing a cover and then adapted that to an internal layout. I followed a similar thought process for the other 4 cases with the briefs varying from looking at the spectrograms of songs and other ways of visualising music to a more abstract modernist aesthetic. However, I believe my project would have been hugely helped by having a few graphic designers to collaborate with on these other designs. They would have brought fresh eyes to the project and might have chosen to focus on aspects of the music that I had not thought of, such as the equipment used to record said song or more information about the designer of the album artwork. The aim with these covers would be that they would work as solo works of art that could hang on your wall or be displayed on a coffee table. By keeping the same form factor but changing the contents, it enables these magazines to become a collection in their own right. I also included information on the cover of the spines, so that when a wall gets too full with Liner-Notes, they can be relegated to a bookshelf and serve as music albums of past years. So maybe in a years time when a friend comes over, and you’re discussing that holiday you took 2 years ago. You can bring the relevant Liner-Notes down from the shelf and, listen and read to the songs that were the background to that trip.


Mock-ups of the covers and insides of how other designers might style and choose what to focus on with thier layouts.

51 The Spines of the 2016 Liner-Notes covers

Final Thoughts This project and this in particular PPJ has been one of the hardest experiences I have had at during my time at GSA. Not because I found this project taxing regarding my ability to conduct research or finalised a final concept, these are skills that have been ironed into me during my time at GSA. What challenged me most about this last project was not resting on my lorals and hard coded GSA process. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do more than I had done before on other projects, and create a project that I was proud of and reflected my practice as a designer. This self-imposed attitude greatly hindered the first half of this project - I spent way too much time researching, hoping to find that gem of an insight that would make this project great - this culminated in a feeling of being lost at the half way point. However, I realised over Easter break that this pining for the perfect project would get me nowhere and I just needed to focus on the parts of the course I enjoyed. Hence, I conducted the co-design workshop, a part of the design process I have always enjoyed and very rarely found the opportunity to implement. This workshop energised me and showed me that this final project could be interesting and exciting. From here on I fell into much more of a rhythm, that resulted in me being able to keep to my deadlines and keep moving forward with the project. I haven’t really had enough time to reflect on the project as whole to work out its particular strengths and weaknesses. However, I know that one aspect of this project that I know didn’t spend enough time on is the development


aspect. The concern of not having a finished project lead me to rush through the development phase. For example, even though I am happy with the final model, I felt that the app part of it was tacked on rather than developed alongside it. With an extra week during this project, I would have hosted another workshop, with the aim of developing the outlined service I fell upon after the first workshop. I think this could have given me a more thoughtful outcome. I also feel that I should have involved music labels much more in this process, as they would have had intersting insights that I couldn’t have gotten from fans or artists. One aspect I am happy about with this project was the final prototypes I developed. I have struggled during my time on the course with making, and even though I think I have improved over my four years, I am usually disappointed when my hands can’t make what’s in my head. However, this time I left a week to design and print my final model and I am really happy with the outcomes. In conclusion, yes this project had problems, like getting lost in a poorly written brief and spending too much time in a deep hole of research but it also had aspects that I am proud of like the co-design workshop and final model. At the end of the project, it is clear that the parts that worked were when I trusted the process and not when I strived to have creative insights. It’s this attitude and also the process of seeking and understanding criticism from both friends and experts that I will value most when I leave GSA.