Technological Innovation in the Music Industry
By: Blayne Stone | Sunday, March 26th, 2017
“And they [algorithms] compose music and pick which pop songs should be recorded based on which chord progressions and riffs were hits in the past.”
– Sue Halpern, How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over, 2015
Does technology push the music industry forward? or does it hinder it by providing the means for an over saturated market concerned with quantity and consistency rather than quality and solidity?
It is a common question, the new way or the old way? which one is better? A reoccurring argument within many industries and the music industry is no different. As a musician and someone who works in many capacities in the music industry I consider myself dependant on technology. Technology in the music industry can be radical. That is to say artists and companies who do not adapt to technological innovation in the music industry get left behind. The internet has created a new means of distribution in the music industry. Thus disrupting the previous distribution model and making it obsolete. However there is still revival of old technologies within the music industry. For example, the resurgence of vinyl records for distribution or the use of old classic synths for the creation of content.
I use technology to stay connected to the global village of the music industry. I can book and promote shows all online in addition to building a network of clients and a rapport with musicians from all over the world all from my bedroom. I have been blessed with the opportunity to produce beats for artists like MC Skywalker from Geneva and Rian Guiney from Ireland. My work has crossed the Atlantic and I physically have never left North America. I have created long lasting working relationships with people at home and abroad all through technology.
“Since everything is digital now, there’s not really a need for expensive equipment, or someone who knows to use it. It’s also more efficient: instead of months in the studio, it’s more like a week or two.”
– Jihan Lee, Tech and the Music Industry: the Evolution Continues, 2015
It is easier than ever now in days to create music. I know from personal experience. My bedroom studio cost me roughly $3000. With a small investment I now have the tools to create quality music. With services such as soundcloud, bandcamp, and spotify artist now have an easy way to distribute their music at very little or no cost. That is, the barriers to entry for musicians entering the music industry is at a unprecedented low.
One may argue that the market then becomes over saturated or that technology may take over in the creation of music through algorithms and pattern recognition of popular music. I believe that musicians and people within the music industry use technology simply as a tool of efficiency. The creation of music will not be overtook by technology as music has a human touch and authenticity that is vital to its success. That is to say, the soul within a piece of music is what makes it sell. The idea of a song evoking an emotion is what drives the music industry. Without creative authenticity then the music becomes mundane and no one will have desire to listen to it more than once.
Technological innovation can leave the traditional musician (a musician who knows theory) frustrated with the fact that they have put in their 10,000 hours to becomes a master of their instrument and their virtuosity as an artist is being challenged by and measured against what technology is capable of doing. For example, I do not know how to play the flute; however, I can include the flute in my work as I have a library of various virtual instruments. I understand the frustration of the traditional musician as I study theory and play real instruments; however, there should not be resentment to the artist who only uses virtual instruments because technology is not going anywhere and it is enabling the progression of music industry as a whole. Technological innovation should be embraced.
The music industry is unique and the future is very hard to predict. No one would have expected the resurgence of vinyl records over the past few years but it happened. Even as more sophisticated technology is being developed; fans, listeners, and artists can still be found reverting back to the old ways. The new is not better than the old; however, it is more accessible.
The way artists make money now is very different. Although a large portion of the artist’s career resides online, to make their art lucrative they must leave the virtual world and enter the real world to gain a real connection with their listeners. Your online presence gives you the tool to reach a global village of potential fans.
“With live streaming technologies coming to the fore and the amount of festivals worldwide expanding year on year, there is now more financial value in artists performing, than selling their music through traditional channels.”
– Nathan Meyer, The future of the music industry, 2016
Every facet of the music industry will continue to grow and innovate with technology. My prediction is that festivals will continue to get bigger and the festival owners will find themselves having to make decisions that will shake the whole music industry. I believe they will begin to play a role in artist development. I also argue that the means of creating music will continue to become more sophisticated and keep going down in price. Thus, creating an even lower barrier to entry for artists. In my opinion this is a good thing, the more art the better.
“The industry has turned into one the most exciting around due to its natural desire for creativity, entrepreneurial aspects and desire to succeed. Due to the growth within new platforms, services and start-ups there has been a surge of opportunity given back to the artists as well as all participants throughout the industry.”
– Nathan Meyer, The future of the music industry, 2016
“The medium is the message”
– Marshall McLuhan
Technological innovation in mediums has changed the way we consume music. Back in the day people had to go to music stores and record shops to attain their music. Generally only buying an album or two at a time. Now in days, I can stream several albums a day for free. That is the reason why HMV and many other successful music industry firms are going out of business. The most lucrative part of their business model, selling records, does not yield the same results as it once did. The way the message is transmitted to us has sent a wave rippling through the music industry dismantling it and forcing it to begin a new. In the past you would have to buy a record and hope it wasn’t a flop. Today I can go on the internet and read, listen, or watch several reviews for various sources about an album I can listen to for free. Technological innovation has created a global village of creation, commentary, and entertainment in the music industry and I argue that the technological innovation is a great thing for the industry. Music will always have soul and I am optimistic and excited to see how technology will continue to grow and reform the music industry in the future.
Thank you for reading.
Stayed tuned for my next blog post further the discussion of technology and the music industry.