Why I Started Newsletter About Audio-First Tech

Recently, I started a newsletter about tech, music, and audio that I’m calling Audio-First. Earlier this year, my thoughts on AirPods got some fanfare. And as a tech analyst by day and a guitarist & music fanatic by night, I felt like I have a lot to say about the space. So I’ve started a series of essays and rants beamed straight to your inbox.

In an effort to eat my own dog food, I’m also going full-meta and will send the posts out with accompanying audio. I figured if I’m hyping audio as a medium, it’d only be right.

You can sign up here. And below is the newsletter charter explaining why I think this area is worthy of attention.

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The Charter

Hello audio nerds! Thanks for tuning into the inaugural edition of Audio-First. In this series, I plan on exploring all of the dynamism happening across audio and music.

It’s no secret that for startups and creators riding this wave there’s an unprecedented opportunity. This is because most of the tailwinds are less than 5 years old. In 2016, music streaming overtook physical sales and downloads. 65% of today’s active podcast listeners got started in the past 3 years. Voice assistants are ubiquitous in our homes and smartphones, even if they’re underwhelming. Meanwhile, hip-hop surpassed rock as the most popular genre in America just 2 years ago. Bad Bunny, an artist with less than three years in the music business, just sold out MSG this year.

With all these tectonic shifts in audio, there are also new fault lines. There’s a whole new conversation on the economic value of art. There’s an inescapable loudness. In public spaces, I’m in my own world, perhaps to a detriment. I want Audio-First to explore the dark side as well. 

Now as far as I know, “audio-first” isn’t a common term. But it neatly encapsulates this category of technology putting audio front and center. Originally, I bit the term from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s blog post of the same name. It’s mostly a PR piece explaining why Spotify made big-ticket acquisitions of Gimlet and Anchor. But Ek’s post nicely lays out the opportunity for “audio-first” products:

Consumers spend roughly the same amount of time on video as they do on audio. Video is about a trillion dollar market. And the music and radio industry is worth around a hundred billion dollars. I always come back to the same question: Are our eyes really worth 10 times more than our ears? I firmly believe this is not the case.

Audio feels undervalued, especially given all this new infrastructure.

Fortunately, audio has some big advantages going for it. First, it has unrivaled surface area in our lives. Starting from the oral tradition all the way to the Fortnite headset, it’s the glue of human interaction. Secondly, as Alex Danco laid out in a must-read post, audio has incredible “heat”, meaning it’s information-dense, precise, and high-resolution. Lastly, it’s all here and now. We’re not waiting on another iPhone moment. It’s already happened.

For Audio-First, there’s a ton of angles I can take. I’m probably most qualified to comment on the startup market (which I am currently mapping out for an upcoming edition). But as a music lover and guitar player, I plan to explore trends in music as well. More to come.

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