Today, listening to content that musicians never modified in some way by technology has become rare to. Technology plays an important role in the creation, distribution, and consumption of music.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry conducted a global study that estimated that we spent an average of 18 hours per week listening to music in 2021. This figure is hardly surprising, since we can access music during nearly every part of our day.
Let's go back in time to discover the origins of music and explore music and tech trends!
The music market: a winding road
From prehistory to the present day
In the past, it was impossible to record musical performances. Melody and singing were then an art to appreciate at live events.
Then came a major innovation—musical recordings. Two important dates can be noted:
- 1860: the first sound engraving on a paper roll by French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, who recorded “Au Clair de la Lune.”
- 1877: U.S. inventor Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder, which can record and reproduce sound
These innovations made it possible to record, reproduce, and modify audio.
Just a century later, in the 1950s, the first electronic instruments began to appear. Synthesizers (piano keyboards that can artificially create electronic sounds and imitate acoustic ones) experienced a peak of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s with:
- The emergence of the musical genre "synthpop,” in which the synthesizer was the main instrument
- The creation of FM synthesis, a process of sound synthesis using frequency modulation bought by Yamaha, which then launched the first synthesizers using FM synthesis, the "DX7" and the "DX9," in 1983.
Digital programming thus began to introduce itself little by little in the melodies of the great artists of the time: Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Madonna...
The crisis of the record and the birth of the music streaming
In 2007, due in part to the meteoric rise of the Internet and download platforms, there was a drop of 10% in the worldwide sale of records. By gathering almost all the world's musical culture in one place and by making it free, the latter have slowly killed the notion of the album at the same time.
In response to this crisis, streaming platforms such as Spotify (2006), Deezer (2007) or, much later, Apple Music (2015) were created. In exchange for a subscription fee, they provide listeners with thousands and thousands of on-demand tracks, among other features. Subsequently, subscription-based audio streaming has exploded and has now become the main source of revenue for the music industry:
- Music streaming (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music…): 23% of market share
- Video streaming (YouTube, Dailymotion): 22%
- Radio: 16%
- Short videos (TikTok, Triller): 11%
- Music purchases (downloads, CDs, DVDs, vinyl): 9%
Music and COVID-19: between pandemic and health restrictions
With canceled festivals, postponed concerts and album releases, studio closures, and travel restrictions, the whole music industry seemed to be out of steam. Yet thanks to the explosion of streaming, recorded music has held its own with growth of 7,4% and a turnover of 21.6 billion dollars in 2020.
A milestone in the early days of the pandemic was the "ONE WORLD: TOGETHER AT HOME" initiative, launched by NGO Global Citizen and singer Lady Gaga—a global live broadcast on April 18th, 2020, in over 50 countries.
What is the goal? To support healthcare workers, with the participation of 70 international artists (Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, and many more).
What was the result? Nearly $128 million in pledges!
Other artists such as Travis Scott, Ariana Grande, and DJ Marshmello managed to sweep away the negative aspects health restrictions imposed by performing online concerts in the game Fortnite, with 12.3 million, 1 million, and 603,000 viewers respectively.
Music between confinements and Internet users... Even unknown artists got involved! During the confinement, Internet users gathered on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Twitch lives. And for the curious, check out the Twitch channel dedicated to live music concerts.
Finally, the pandemic has prompted the music sector to rethink the way it operates and distributes music. By using new technologies and the trends that followed, it has enabled any type of artist to step up and perform in front of an audience—and for this audience to perpetuate the social link that unites us even in times of crisis.
What has the digital revolution brought to music?
The digital revolution has totally changed the way we produce, consume, listen to, and store music.
New ways of consuming music
Nowadays, subscriptions to streaming platforms have totally altered the way we consume music. No more need to buy multiple CDs to access our favorite artists' albums: unlimited music is available with one click (and one subscription 😉).
It's important to note that data analysis also plays a huge role in these new ways of consuming music.
From the listeners' point of view
Thanks to all the data streaming platforms collect, it’s now possible to access personalized suggestions and recommendations. Modeling current and potential tastes of listeners allows platforms to introduce each user—as unique as they are—to their next favorite genres, artists, and music.
- Spotify, with its "Discover weekly" playlist, a weekly compilation of fresh tracks according to listening profile
- Deezer, with "Flow Moods,” personalized playlists to match your mood
- End-of-year playlists proposed by these two platforms, which offer a real retrospective on the past year: the most listened artists, genres and songs, the number of hours of listening...
Data allows music streaming platforms to better understand users as well as their tastes and personalities.
From the artists' point of view
Listeners aren’t the only ones who benefit from all data has to offer! Here is a non-exhaustive overview of what artists can measure thanks to data via streaming platforms like Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube:
- Number of listens (or views)
- Demographics (country/gender)
- Number of followers
- Statistics on each song (or video) published
All this is available for each period thanks to adjustable time filters!
A change in the way music is created
Over the years, technology has changed the essence of music. Now, every sound (from voice to instruments) goes through many algorithms and digital processing: amplification, sampling, noise reduction, frequency equalization, compression, reverberation, and much more.
These terms are well known to sound engineers who sculpt sound to have the most qualitative rendering possible, eliminating unwanted dissonance or noise. These behind-the-scenes artists also use their magic during concerts, festivals, and other performances—with microphones, amps, and even layout of the space itself. Audio engineers play on the acoustics of concert halls and create optimized spaces (in terms of reverberation, for example) to provide the best possible experience to the public.
Now, let's look at the budding and aspiring artists! Today, creating music and adding it to networks (SoundCloud, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok...) has never been easier. No need to have a label, a recording studio, or even be known to release a song. All you need is an Internet connection, an abundance of creativity, something to record, and you're almost there! Audio editing software (such as Audacity, Wavepad Audio Editing Software, Ocenaudio, AVS Audio Editor, Audio Cutter, and many others), and good recording equipment will contribute to better results.
We’re witnessing a real democratization of musical creation, which is increasingly shared with a purely artistic rather than commercial purpose. Today, artists compose, write, and post music for:
- To share with friends, family, and followers
- To pass on messages and share ideas, thoughts, and feelings
What does the future of music look like?
Using AI to create music: will artificial intelligence replace artists?
Even Artificial Intelligences create music!
With the help of an artificial intelligence, Belgian artist Stromae co-composed Hello Shadow in 2017. Stromae chose the best combination of AI-generated sounds, tunes, chords, and lyrics in order to achieve the most satisfying rendering possible.
Stromae is not the first to use artificial intelligence in the world of music! Created by the company Sony CSL in 2012, Flow Machines is an AI designed to analyze music that’s made available to it and create new content based on it. It’s particularly known for having generated:
- Daddy's car, song composed in the image of the Beatles (the AI examined each piece of their music before being able to create it)
- Hello World, the first album composed with an AI
If we had to mention one last musical innovation that we owe to artificial intelligence, it would be Spleeter from Deezer. The streaming platform has implemented a tool, developed with Python and Tensorflow, which allows it to separate all the elements within music: the voices and the different instruments.
It seems that artificial intelligence is indeed a real tool for music composition and analysis, rather than a threat to artists. It allows them to interpret user data via streaming platforms (such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and many others) and quickly generate music based on that data. The more data AI gets, the more it can understand users' musical tastes.
NFTs and music: a successful experiment?
What is an NFT?
NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) are virtual and cryptographic elements that are acquired and owned via the blockchain. Each token has a unique identification code with unique characteristics, thus making it authentic and irreplaceable.
NFTs and music: what’s the link?
As we saw in our article Video games and the gaming community: what trends for 2022, after having turned the video-game world upside down, NFTs are now making their way into the music market, allowing fans to literally own unreleased versions of songs or albums as well as personalized exclusive benefits. For example:
- DJ 3LAU is the first artist to have created an album entirely in NFTs. Dispatched in 33 NFTs, "Ultraviolet" sold at auction for $11.7 million in February 2021 and provided personalized benefits for each of the top 33 bidders, including a limited-edition vinyl, the creation of a custom track, and access to unreleased music.
- Kings of Leon is the first band to use blockchain to release the NFT version of its album in March 2021. Available on the usual streaming platforms in the usual format, it is the NFT version of "When You See Yourself" that has been released on YellowHeart. The latter offered exclusivities such as an animated cover and a limited-edition vinyl. The band also set up "golden tickets" that give any holder of these NFTs access to VIP treatment (backstage, driver, best seats at shows) as well as access to concerts on upcoming tours.
NFTs: a passing trend or a real revolution in the music industry?
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