Think of the last album you bought, and compare it to the your first record. If you’re like me the first album you bought was a favorite from the radio (The Simpsons Sing The Blues), whereas the last album I bought (Bitte Orca by The Dirty Projectors) was a recommendation from a friend. It’s not just the music formats that have changed, but what we listen to and the experience with music that is transforming online.
In the past the music industry has relied on taste makers such as DJs, critics, and marketers to help introduce new music to would be record buyers (or downloaders). However over the last decade Opinion Leaders, those most influential individuals in your social network, have played the most important role; think of these people as your friend who is usually the first to introduce you to a band that you go on to love.
Online these opinion leaders have started popular music blogs, their influence measured by their expertise within genres and their appeal within their blogging audience. Offline these taste-makers usually have the largest music collection among your friends, and they make frequent recommendations that are just for you. Opinion leaders are the arbiters of new music in a marketplace no longer limited by the label-centered distribution, serving agenda setting roles with their personalized recommendations that mirrors the shift from mass-media driven popular music (radio, Rolling Stone, MTV) to online distribution meant for niche fans and private listening (iPods and YouTube).