The alarm rings, you get up, jump in the shower and perhaps hit the play button on your iPhone for the playlist you just created the night before. After a little breakfast, you’re out the door on the way to work. Your phone is jacked in, and you pick up listening where you left off. The mourning drag leads you towards your local coffee shop to grab that coveted cup of energy. While standing in line, that new song you heard the other day is playing in the background. You grab your phone and Shazam it right away. In thirty seconds, you discover it’s a new song by one of your favorite artists off their new album. You have links to download it on iTunes, share it with all your friends and find out which venues they will be playing at on their upcoming summer tour. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it should! Access and info to music has reached the point where it is all possible.
Just under two years ago, I was in the midst of writing my senior thesis about the effects of technology on the music industry. My entire last chapter focused on the future of music technology and the places it would take us. I described the scenario above as what the future landscape of music would resemble. This post is a follow up to that chapter, so that we can see how far technology has come in just a few short years.
I argued for the emergence of a music utility model, in which music consumption would resemble that of utility consumption: a monthly payment in exchange for unlimited access to an extensive music library. Services such as Rhapsody pioneered the model but others, mainly Spotify, popularized it among young adults. Spotify, however, brought more to the table than just a new way to consume music, it offered new ways to access what I call the celestial library (a collection of every song ever recorded). The ability to listen to a song at home, walk out to your car and pick up where you left off on their mobile app was only wishful thinking two years ago. Beyond that, integration with Facebook allowed for an entirely new social experience in music, allowing friends to share tracks and playlists with their network in the time it takes to click a button. The music discovery process is now socially shared in a very effortless manor.
Music discovery, and technology that drives it, such as music recognition software, was another key analysis of the chapter. I predicted that applications like Shazam would have the ability to recognize songs from just humming the melody and then provide you with extensive information ranging from tour dates, where to buy tickets, and other artists similar to them. While humming technology is yet to be realized, Shazam does provide the ability to access the other features. Discovery in other aspects is expanding into new areas as well. The recent addition of apps into Spotify allows for new and innovative approaches to music discovery, only limited to ones creativity. Creativity is the driving force behind all these innovations, and it’s definitely the most important in the highly exciting sector of live music.
Two years ago, innovations in live music included exploring live concert streaming since broadband networks were capable of handling the bandwidth. Beyond this, it was how creative lightshows and video imaging on stage could reach. Today, musicians have taken a step further on both fronts. One of my personal favorite bands, Incubus, is a leader on these fronts. Incubus’s current tour has aimed to broadcast every show of theirs live online to their fans around the world. To add value, they keep them all updated via their website and mobile app, where live songs are uploaded after shows from around the world and pictures chronicle the bands tour from city to city. Another not-so-well-known electronica artist from Brazil, Amon Tobin, is pushing technological advancement in the visual arena with groundbreaking shows such as his ISAM tour with the use of 3D projection technology (See video here: Amon Tobin ISAM Live. No, really, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before!).
Just eleven years ago, we were a society thriving on CD’s and awestruck as the first iPod was born. Today, we can access music essentially anywhere in the world on mobile phones and some kids have never laid a finger on a CD. The features and technology outlined in this article have advanced in just a few short years. Imagine the exciting possibilities the next five years holds for music? Is it farfetched to assume we will be attending concerts with 3D glasses, or that software will emerge that encompasses the features of Spotify, Shazam and aspects of live concert streaming for key musicians? No! I think it is not only a possibility but just a matter of time before it becomes reality. The possibilities are only limited by human creativity.