Welcome to the Amplified Future. You are entering a world in which millions of people will benefit from precision and personalized medicine; new populations will have affordable access to quality health resources, and health science research will move from the lab to the wild—using real-time biometric tracking on the individual.
The lines separating neuroscience, wellness, and entertainment are becoming blurred; digital health products and wellness-tech platforms are racing to add new features to more accurately measure your wellbeing. Wearables are migrating to the ears, and anyone with a smartphone and pair of sensor-rich Hearables will be equipped to optimize their own health and performance in real and measurable ways.
A new marriage of music and exponential technology promises to transport us beyond entertainment by boldly redefining music as an integrated healing modality. Music is becoming a game-changer for products and programs looking to win in the highly competitive digital health marketplace. Scientifically validated and emotionally engaging therapeutics using music and sound for the user’s wellbeing will soon be a new standard, available to anyone, anytime.
According to Exponential Medicine founder Dr. Daniel Kraft, COVID-19 accelerated the rise of new and emerging digital health innovations lining up to transform the future of personalized and precision medicine. This accelerated wave of digital health solutions and the exponential advancement of wellness tech is forging previously uncharted paths.
New digital devices are being designed to monitor our vitals on the go and offer real-time recommendations for enhancing our physical and emotional well-being. These same technologies can provide early detection data to help us avoid life-threatening diseases, all as we go about our daily routines.
While the news continues to focus on vaccines and politics, there is an explosion in new technologies and content solutions designed to address escalating issues in wellness, stress management, attention disorders, emotional regulation, productivity, and that half-a-trillion-dollar global challenge—sleep.
The Amplified Future will help catalyze a long-awaited migration from old-school sick care to personalized, proactive, and democratized health care.
What role will music and audio play in the Amplified Future?
The leadership at the Samsung-owned audio conglomerate Harman has identified a parallel emerging trend that they call the Decade of Sound. What they fail to recognize, however, is that there is much more to at play in the Amplified Future than a new wave of advances in audio technology.
In the Amplified Future, you can expect more than the simple additions of music and audio to existing digital wellness platforms. We are about to witness a revolution: the Hearables Revolution. Beyond richer sonic experiences for the listener, exponential advances in sound and technology will offer ongoing and multivariable predictive health analysis through sensor-rich hearables, wearables, and smart-home audio products, creating opportunities for the individual that have never been possible before.
I recently asked Dr. Kraft for his take on this convergence of the Hearables Revolution, music, and the digital health explosion. He described the Amplified Future as one in which we will “redefine the future of music as medicine.”
Prescriptive Audio Content
Content, another major part of the equation, is also evolving in the direction of health and wellness. Audio is quickly becoming a primary format for delivering both content and digital therapeutics. While the technology used by providers for measuring efficacy and engagement differs widely and continues to evolve, many audio-based solutions previously labeled as alternative therapies are already seeing exponential spikes in growth and consumer demand. These digital wellness offerings include guided meditations, mindfulness practices, breathing practices, digital sleep aids, AI-driven CBT programs, and at-home movement and exercise programs.
And music, the crown jewel of audio, is slowly making its way to the top in multiple categories.
Growing Demand for Music As a Non-Pharmaceutical Wellness Solution
The music-for-wellness market continues to grow as consumer demand steadily increases and health remains a leading global concern. The growth is further fueled as more artists take interest in serving the well-being of fans, major wellness platforms compete for market share, and traditional record labels fight to get a slice of the functional music pie.
As opposed to the desire to just hear the latest charting hits, the consumer demand is based on a much more essential need. According to a recent article in Business Wire and a report from ResearchAndMarkets.com, one out of every six people around the globe are currently facing at least one mental health disorder. Stress and depression were cited as the most common issues. The CDC recently reported that in June of this year over 30% of Americans suffered from symptoms of anxiety or depression.
More and more people are turning to music for relief, and for good reason.
A recent meta-study released in Frontiers in Psychology cited an international body of research done during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic showing the usefulness of music to enhance well-being. Among other benefits, the findings showed that music promoted emotional well-being for hospital clinical staff in Italy by reducing feelings of fear, sadness, and worry. In Australia, a positive association was found between music listening and life satisfaction.
In another cross-cultural survey, including subjects from 11 different countries, music has been found to be more or as effective as other strategies (including hobbies, physical activity, reading, eating/cooking, doing productive activities, mindfulness, and movie watching). Other research done during the pandemic, combining stats from both music listening and music playing, showed that music was considered the most helpful coping activity in the United States, Italy, and Spain.
According to a recent Forbes article by Cathy Olson, mental health app sessions have grown 66% year over year, and the expected valuation of global mental-health apps went up 27% since 2019. The use of music for coping with anxiety and depression, both on and off these platforms, has also grown proportionately.
Music As a Product Differentiator
In addition to being the drug of choice for many, music is quickly becoming a key differentiator, with the ability to increase both engagement and efficacy for digital wellness and mental health platforms. Leading meditation app Calm is quickly becoming an established music label, leveraging direct artist relationships and competing head-to-head with major record companies in the music and wellness arena.
Continued growth in demand means new opportunities for artists interested in wellness and functional music, greater investment into technologies that validate and help create music for well-being, and more music choices for consumers looking for alternative solutions to health and mental health challenges.
Music and Digital Wellness Trends
As the use of music and music-infused solutions by wellness brands rises, it is creating a more robust and higher-fidelity audio ecosystem on the way up. Whether a company’s motivation is to differentiate itself in a noisy market, increase user engagement, or create greater efficacy, future-facing wellness platforms are starting to sing along.
With the increase in consumer demand for music—paired with the need for alternative wellness, employee motivation, and productivity solutions—individuals and companies alike are looking for more engaging, fun, and validated ways to successfully integrate music into their offerings.
How do we create truly world-class, transformative experiences for the user through the convergence of Music, Health, and Technology?
Some of the key ingredients showing up in emerging trends include:
- Partnerships across multiple content platforms
- Higher valuation of music content companies
- Greater integration of exponential technologies
- Increasing investments into wearables and Hearables
- Regulatory changes for digital wellness interventions
- Higher quality and more engaging user experiences
- Increasing demand for scientific validation of content for wellness
- A commitment to better music and real artists in functional music
- Growing recognition of the value of high-resolution audio
Engagement and Efficacy in Music & Wellness: Can We Have Both?
To compete in today’s wellness marketplace, customer retention is key. To have a true impact on the well-being of the listener, both engagement and efficacy are critical. In traditional health care, the biggest challenge is not a lack of solutions; it’s patient compliance. In the direct-to-consumer digital wellness market, compliance = user engagement.
Music is one of the most powerful engagement tools, but preference plays such an important role; therefore the ability to suggest highly personalized recommendations is critical. Welcome to the complex inner workings of music as precision medicine.
If an app or platform is seeking engagement and retention, as well as efficacy, investing in high-quality and personalized content is key to a great user experience. And music—as validated by history, science, and Hollywood—can play a significant role in the quality of that experience.
Healthtech and wellness entrepreneurs are slowly coming to realize what the producers of great films and sold-out concert halls have long understood. Two thousand choices of mediocre music and low-fidelity soundscapes are less likely to help a brand than a dozen great pieces of music designed to shape the optimal experience and serve the desired outcomes of the user, regardless if the larger library was cheaper to create or acquire. In addition, for wellness startups to compete with music streaming giants—the latter of whom have multi-million song libraries containing much of the greatest music ever recorded—those startups will have to offer a superior user experience and better wellness outcomes.
Shifting Marketplace: Wellness and Music Merge
The good news is that the psychological and physiological benefits of music have been tested and validated for thousands of years. Today, musicians and music companies are teaming up with the mental wellness industry in new ways as wellness companies jockey for market dominance and artists seek meaningful audience connections.
So, how are leading wellness companies starting to play differently in the music space?
What lessons are they learning from demanding users and creators of popular music?
Healthtech and digital wellness companies are starting to realize the importance of partnering with experienced, successful and popular music creators, as well as with companies that have mastered the science of creating content for maximum human engagement. Whether they are motivated by brand positioning, subscription sales or a true commitment to better wellness outcomes, the pairing between wellness tech platforms on one side and talent, music, and media experts on the other side is on the rise.
Major music and media companies like the Universal Music Group (who recently went public with a $54B evaluation) are also realizing the importance of providing healthy alternatives to a rapidly growing audience looking for solutions beyond traditional entertainment to cope with their mental stresses. These same players are eager to earn top placement on popular functional and wellness music playlists on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music. The popularity of these playlists has grown during COVID-19, as have the concerns around mental health by COVID-displaced recording artists and the companies and fans who support them.
Even newer start-ups in the wellness tech space are realizing the importance of quality and artist-centric content. Despite lacking the deep pockets of major industry players, music and wellness tech companies like the Lucid Project, Musicmap and Endel are following the lead of Calm and Headspace by adding artist-based collaborations to their offerings.
The trump card, beyond speed and agility, that many of these start-ups have is their ability to focus on future-facing technology. They are already using sensors, algorithms and biometric data to formulate and deliver music solutions that are more personalized and responsive to the listeners’ wellness needs. Music apps designed for wellness also have the advantage of optimizing their UX for a more fluid experience and very specific user outcomes. Whereas the do-it-all and promotion-heavy interfaces for the Big 3 music streaming services can be stressful and cumbersome to navigate or optimize for wellness.
Integrated music and hardware companies have other advantages. Muse, the popular brain-sensing headband and an early entry into the meditation and digital wellness playing field, uses clinical-grade EEG for tracking your thoughts and biomarkers. The app offers responsive soundscapes and music as real-time audio feedback to help you meditate. Long used by top athletes and CEOs, Muse provides immediate, accurate, and actionable data, using responsive audio to let you hear the sound of your own mind.
A good way to differentiate the content and experiences these wellness-focused and tech-savvy music ventures are offering might be best summed up by the Lucid Project’s original brand tagline: Music That Listens.
New Ways Music and Wellness Companies Are Listening
It’s no longer just the start-ups that are listening, however. Streaming music leader Spotify has been making major moves behind the green curtain. Like competitors Apple, Amazon, and Google, they recognize the need to start collecting real-time biomarker data to make better music recommendations—and they recognize the human voice is a rich source of useful, real-time data.
Spotify had a patent granted in January that would allow the app to analyze a number of factors through your voice, and make song recommendations based on your emotional state, accent, and age. The patent will also allow them to analyze your social setting and current environment, combining different data sources to know if you are alone, in a small group or at a party. Even before listening to your next song, the app will be listening to you. Far beyond simply following your voice commands (as in NLP), your musical tech companion—including your phone and smart home speakers—will be listening to dozens of other audio clues without you even knowing it.
Like the emotional AI app Musicmap, Spotify is exploring ways to identify a user’s personality profile and has been granted a patent to use these insights, in combination with other data collected, to recommend and personalize music, podcasts, and ads. The added advantage for Spotify will be the ability to go beyond analyzing the user’s song selections by including biomarkers captured from human voice samples, a feature we can expect from a number of future-facing music and wellness apps going forward. Several AI wellness start-ups, and major players who have both health and music divisions, will soon be taking greater advantage of the billions of R&D dollars already invested into the Voice Economy.
The benefit for the user will be the ability to manage and apply that data to serve their own wellbeing. When that becomes a fluid user experience, people will be able to more accurately integrate their favorite music into desired psychological and physiological outcomes.
These technological advances at the intersection of music and wellbeing make me ponder what kind of foresight the Chinese ancients had when they decided to use nearly the same alphabetic character to represent Music, Medicine, and Happiness. They also help validate the advantage for any future-facing music company to have a Director of Health & Happiness.
The Exponential Amplified Future: Slow, Then Really Fast
As is the nature of exponential technologies, there can appear to be very little traction for a number of years before the industry hits the elbow of the Moore’s Law curve, at which point growth can spike upward at an exponential rate. COVID-19 was clearly a catalyst to advance the forthcoming explosion of the Hearables Revolution and fuel the accelerating growth of the digital wellness market.
Music, however, just might become the greatest amplifier yet for the exponential future of wellness.
In return, health may carry the torch for the next evolution of the music industry.
Learn more about the many ways music can enhance your wellbeing, performance, and happiness in the new bestselling book: Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through The Power of Music.
ExO Insight is a written word publication for exponential insights from thought leaders including members of our OpenExO community. We tell stories of transformation while hoping to inspire and drive change in the world for positive impact. If you don't want to miss an article, be sure to subscribe here.
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