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What’s next for Music Technology?

Technology vs Creativity

I'm not an expert in this, I always leave it for gurus, bloggers and podcasters to discuss subjects like this, but last week couple of things happened that triggered me to think about this more.

In a blue corner is a podcast that I listen every week in which the hosts discussed the future of music industry. One of the points they made was that creativity is gonna be the focus of music creation process and technology is gonna loose it's importance. On a red corner is a Future Fest I attended over weekend, where Imogen Heap was showcasing her Musical Gloves (watch her performing here). She would control the music and trigger sounds just with the gestures of her hands. You can see the contradiction here. One is saying, the technology is gone, the other - showing the new technology in action. Is it a niche, just a phase or future? Who's right?

The creativity

There's a thought that the future of music production is gonna be more about creativity rather than technology. It make sense. Songs has been produced and mixed to a fantastic quality in home studios by 20 year old students using a mouse and a keyboard. It's pretty the opposite from 40, 30 or even 15 years ago when the music was mixed and produced by very experienced sound engineers who where at least at age of 40. The costs of producing the songs has gone down dramatically. The music technology now is so open and easy accessible that it has become overpopulated with home music studios, who can produce excellent results. So obviously, the only thing that has left to improve is creativity and creativity is gonna be the main focus of the music production.

But there's something that makes me unsettled about this. It's logical, it makes sense, I can't point out what's exactly wrong with this opinion. But for some reason, it just doesn't sit well with me.

The technology

Universe always puts everything in its right place when it feels something has gone a bit off the course. It's always been like that, and it always will. And for me, it feels this is what's about to happen with the music industry. I feel we're just about to experience a reshuffle by engaging new technology. Which will undoubtedly swipe out the smaller home studios or the ones who doesn't pay attention and doesn't engage the changing times. This will bring in new technology and bring us back to the time when first DAW and NLE started to become a thing. It's gonna be the same. It's gonna be expensive, you'll need to have the skills to operate it and it will take at least 15-20 years before it becomes mainstream. History repeating. The world is round, it goes in cycles. And so does innovations. The from and shape changes, not the fact that technology is going away.

What's next?

You are fooling yourself if you think VR won't leave serious consequences on most of the new technology. Or that ambisonics and Atmos is just a phase. It's not. You need to have to look at it in the context of overall tendencies and for me it's obvious that immersive experience is where we're going. Did I mention that Imogen Heap has a music video in VR. You can be inside a music video and interact with elements around it. After having that experience, I can easily see this becoming a thing.

The rise of VR, AI, Ambisonics, 360 cameras and sound, Atmos... you don't even need a mixing desk to mix a number one song anymore. A mixing desk!! A mouse and keyboard will do. Could you believe this could be true 15 years ago? Now the Imogen Heap's musical gloves doesn't seem so niche anymore. And I have to say, her musical gloves somehow seems to fit well in the context of VR.

Don't be Bob

15 years ago Bob said that his analogue console has this ‘unique soft vintage’ sound that computers can't reproduce or replicate, and he won't ever move to mixing in the box, it will never be as good. Ask him today how's his business? Does he still think the same? Well, he has finally learned how to mix in the box and he has sold his analogue mixing desk on Craiglist, because the electricity bill and maintenance took 50% of his monthly income. Now he's sorted and ready to crack on, but the next day he hears about Atmos, VR and Musical Gloves. "Surely it's just a phase", Bob thinks to himself.... Don't be Bob.

It's up to you

The technology is not gonna go away. The form and shape will. I'm not even going to try to guess what exactly is gonna change, but just by listening to what people talk about and the latest trends in technology development, I can feel we're up for a change on how the music and sound in general is produced, created and consumed. And I'm not convinced that music creation will become just about creativity. To create a music with Imogen Heap's musical gloves or do an 3rd order ambisonics mix for 360 video doesn't seem so straightforward and simple to me. The creativity is gonna stay of course, but it's gonna be dictated by the technology. You'll still need to have the technical skills to implement it. Keep your eyes on the horizon.



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