What Makes A Good Product?

In the end, it seems to be all about making life better.

I’ve done some thinking about what good products permeate my life, and the lives of those around me, and from what I learned in this module’s lectures and readings.

Put simply, a good product should alleviates problems and create gains. Excellent products make the entire experience pleasurable and easy. Innovation is when a product creates benefits we didn’t know were possible and/or changes the way the world works.

Spotify is an app I use every single day and have so since mid-2010, so it’s one that I think we can examine for a measurement of what it takes to be an excellent app.

Side Note: I highly recommend everything by Vulfpeck.

First, let’s think about the problem it alleviates: I have access to what feels like the largest music catalogue in the world. In fact, users of Spotify might often forget that all of the music in the world isn’t on Spotify. And it’s important that I emphasized feels like, because that’s an example of one of the intangible benefits of Spotify: now, I feel as if I can listen to literally anything. While this might sound like a gain, in a certain perspective, it’s a problem solved.

I, like many in my oft-despised millennial age group, remember a time when iPods were the future-edge of music listening. The only drawback was that I would have to sacrifice songs when I ran out of room on my iPod. That or get a new one. Now, this is about as first-world as a problem can get, but as a musician and a lover-of-music, I’m always searching for new music — whether to entertain myself or to find new inspiration — and more often than not, I would run out of space, even on my final iPod which was nearly 5 gigs of memory (if I remember correctly). When Spotify arrived, this problem vanished, and the ability to sync music (read: temporarily download to my phone) alleviated the issue of using too much data.

Again, the alleviation of a problem and the creation of gains is nearly synonymous with Spotify. But I think the app also carries with it the marks of an excellent app and of innovation. Spotify is a pleasure to use, and after using it for many years, I actively look forward to my end of year list, discovering new music recommended every week, and being able to peruse new music releases every Friday. It’s cool to get insight into my own listening trends, even if that data is definitely sold to a shady international corporation probably.

But we cannot ignore the fact that Spotify has changed the entire music industry, probably forever. Or at least until the next innovation in music distribution and the music listening/sharing/discovering experience. All it takes is being added to one of Spotify’s curated playlists and you’ve got a legit shot at making it as an artist. The rise and fall of working musicians and even pop-superstars hinges on getting traction on Spotify. And while that is a huge disruptor to the music industry, its also a sea change for the very modern profession of musician.

Think of it this way: “If you’re a musician, why should I listen to you versus the greatest music every recorded? The Beatles entire catalogue? Led Zeppelin? Mozart? Muddy Waters? Dave Brubeck? Bill Evans? Miles Davis? Daft Punk? Kanye West? Childish Gambino?” Obviously I’m just making my own list of stuff I like and think of in high regard, but what this means is that now it’s about being objectively the best, in terms of songwriting, in terms of recording quality, and in terms of the always-hard-to-measure, vibe.

All of this now, because in 2006, two Swedish 25 year-olds named Daniel and Martin convinced major players and labels in the music industry to license them their entire catalogues in a bid to eliminate music piracy, which had cut the profits of the industry almost in half after peaking at 24 billion in 1999. Solve a problem well enough and you’ll recreate the world I suppose.

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