In recent years, music and technology have become irreversibly intertwined, with social media creating superstars and streaming services dethroning music moguls.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The industry will surely never be the same, and the effects of technology may be more significant than some realize. Here are six areas where technology is changing the music industry forever.
Streaming revolutionized the music industry on a level not seen since the iPod debuted. Spotify, the leading music streaming service, has seen incredible growth in the last five years alone, jumping from 18 million to 165 million Premium subscribers between 2015 and 2021. Streaming changed the idea of “ownership” of music, which changed how money is made on music.
The old model of paying to download individual songs is gone, and the power of colossal music labels is fading along with it. Music distribution on Spotify (and similar streaming platforms) is easy and accessible for literally anyone, regardless of fame or wealth. A teenager producing lo-fi music on their laptop can reach the same audience as a platinum-selling K-Pop superstar.
Professional-grade production software and recording tools are easily accessible to just about anyone. The power this puts into individual artists’ hands is shaking the music industry to its core. Down the road, it may shift how music labels conduct business and the services they offer. The key benefit of widespread distribution is no longer a factor for artists since the internet takes care of that in a matter of a few clicks.
Along with streaming, social media is shaping to be a tremendous force in music. TikTok, in particular, is highly influential. Songs and artists have the potential to “blow up” literally overnight if their music is featured in a popular TikTok trend. This has happened with even some of the most obscure songs imaginable, such as seemingly random tunes from children’s cartoons.
Emerging artists have a great new platform for gaining ground and interacting with their audience. YouTube, for example, was how phenomenon music superstar Justin Bieber was discovered. Similarly, the now-defunct Vine allowed Shawn Mendes to become a breakout star, with songs that now have billions of plays on Spotify.
YouTube and TikTok remain highly popular platforms for musicians to share their content and gain a following. All you need to become a professional musician nowadays is a phone and a half-decent microphone.
Few things have changed the music industry, like the smartphone. Initially, it allowed people to carry music around with them wherever they went. It has evolved into a private production suite capable of easily recording, editing, producing, marketing, and distributing music and music videos.
After the initial investment in the phone itself, all of this can be done practically for free. This has already changed the music industry irrevocably, and social media is becoming the next unstoppable force revolutionizing how we share and find music.
Ironically, technology hasn’t stopped the interest in live music. In fact, the live music industry has seen a growth in popularity over the last ten years, driving tens of billions of dollars in earnings in the U.S. alone. Social media is, at least partly, responsible for this. Part of the appeal of going to a concert is the opportunity to post exciting pictures of the experience online.
“Experiences” in music are changing, as well. Traditional live concerts are no longer the only live experience artists have to offer fans. The internet has enabled musicians to connect with audiences in real time in entirely new ways. For example, a band can live stream a concert online, viewable by people worldwide, where everyone has the best seat in the house.
Fans can message the artist directly through the stream’s chat, which is excellent for deluxe meet-and-greet experiences. Additionally, the artist can easily connect their merch shop to the stream and offer in-stream purchases, like special emojis.
This is extremely powerful for artists. It saves both musicians and their fans money by cutting out venue and travel costs and makes for a highly customizable experience with exciting artistic opportunities.
The production quality of these streams is expected to forever change the concert experience, both online and in-person, inspiring new feats of creativity and imagination from some of the world’s biggest names in music.
Algorithms are the unseen powerhouse of the music industry. They run streaming and social media platforms, determining what gets seen and listened to and what doesn’t. Arguably, algorithms have been more influential in music than any other technology in recent years. This allowed artists like Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes to gain so much traction so fast, and it has worked for other musicians since then.
While talent does play a factor in how popular a song is, the way an artist shares it and optimizes for social media and streaming algorithms can be the real determining factor in how much attention it generates.
Even on streaming, where shares and likes aren’t as influential (though still beneficial), users like to come to those services to discover new music. Algorithms do this by weeding out songs and artists similar to someone already listens to.
Additionally, AI and algorithms are beginning to become artists themselves. AI is being used to help produce music, and even holographic pop stars are making waves in Japan. It is still unclear what kind of impact AI will have down the road since many skeptics claim artificial intelligence could never understand emotions the way humans do. However, it is clear that this technology is already changing how we see and listen to music.
Technology has changed music forever and will continue to do so as long as it remains part of human life. Even the way pop music sounds has been altered by the noises that computers generate, giving rise to the “electronic” genre. Tech’s effect on music will reverberate through the industry, revolutionizing the balance between artists and powerful music labels. This opens the door for more niche, experimental music to reach the world. With the help of computers, social media, and even AI, almost anything is possible in tomorrow’s music scene.
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Last Updated on January 9, 2023.