What a year it’s been.
I’ve been deeply immersed in the music industry for a long time, and as I look back at the past year, I believe that 2018 may have been the most exhilarating period of technological innovation and adoption to date.
As an industry tech consultant and development veteran, I expect the rapid advancements to speed up even more in the coming year, with artists and companies continuing to push the boundaries of music management, creation, presentation, and fan engagement.
Looking ahead to 2019, I believe we’ll see the following music tech trends moving to the forefront across the entire industry:
Music Recognition Technology
The music industry faces a massive challenge when it comes to monitoring and tracking where and how often a song is being played. Without effective Music Recognition Technology (MRT) artists, publishers, and other rights owners lose their royalties each time music is played in a club, bar or any other venue. And, of course, this is a very serious problem, with some estimating that 25–35% of mechanical licenses in the U.S. are unrecognized on streaming platforms alone. Fortunately, a range of experts around the world are working diligently to solve this major issue through MRT innovations and implementation.
Automatic music recognition isn’t new. In fact, Broadcast Data Systems (BDS) was widely-deployed by the early 1990s for recognizing songs played on U.S. radio stations. However, even though the core algorithm for recognizing music has existed for decades, a large percentage of venues are still not adequately equipped with MRT. The good news is that many companies such as DJ Monitor heading up the technology side. And of course, once the music is effectively recognized, the data is sent to the performance rights organizations (PRO) that handle payment distribution. Paris-based Yacast is another tech company working in this space, as well as SoundHound Inc.’s Houndify, Google’s Sound Search, and others.
AI usage is proliferating throughout the music industry in two ways: for predictive analytics and composing music. On the predictive analytics side, experts are now using AI to predict the musical tastes of users based on song duration. Researchers determined that people will cancel the playback of songs they dislike and will listen all the way through songs they enjoy, which can be used to provide a base dataset to train a machine learning-powered recommendation engine.
Machines being used to compose music is certainly a controversial concept. Can something as personal and emotional as music be created by AI with positive results? Although the answer depends on who you ask, many tech brands are experimenting with this idea, including Sony and IBM, using musical components like mood, cadence, and style to compose new songs. An example of an AI composition program is The Flow Machine Project, led by Francois Pachet at Sony Computer Science Laboratories and Pierre and Marie Curie University. With the aim of “designing and implementing the next generation of authoring tools,” The Flow Machine Project can be used by songwriters to create a base from which to expand upon or even to completely compose a track. The Ai program was used to write “Daddy’s Car” in the style of The Beatles, and the results are definitely interesting, as can be heard here:
AR, VR & Holograms
You’ve certainly read statistics about the fact that millennials prefer to spend their money and time on experiences rather than on objects, and the industry is taking note. At the same time, experiences need to have true value to gain traction with younger audiences. Industry players are experimenting with various ways to use AR, VR, and holograms to create exciting experiences for consumers in the world of music. AR can be used to bring a video to an audience and make the listener part of the video. And how about using AR to bring a concert to fans in their own environment? The possibilities are virtually limitless, and I expect to see massive innovations in this sector in the coming year.
VR and music are a natural fit, and although 360-degree videos have garnered some attention and interest, they’re just the beginning of what’s to come. Imagine if artists added an extra date on their tours to perform from their studio for millions of people wearing high-end headsets in the comfort of their own homes?
Hologram tours are a real thing, with concert-goers able to see their favorite musicians from the past in a live setting. From the controversial debut of the Tupac Shakur hologram at Coachella in 2012, things are now starting to ramp up, with an upcoming hologram-based Roy Orbison tour in the United States. While the specifics of presentation may have a long way to go, it appears that both industry players and fans are interested in this concept, and I imagine that we’ll see big moves in this sector in 2019.
Many innovations are being worked on in the field of music wearables. One fascinating example is BodyRocks, a company that creates wearable technology that translates audio signals into physical vibrations onto the body. It’s a very interesting concept that seeks not to make you feel like you’re standing next to a giant speaker rumbling the floor at a concert, but instead to develop an immersive physical experience from listening to music. And what about sunglasses? Music software experts Echo Music have designed IP6 waterproof bone-conduction sunglasses that play music and radio without completely cutting off the world around the user. Without the need for any wires, bone conduction technology transmits sound waves to the skull via vibrations. Additionally, Echo Music’s product includes an advanced sound-leak reduction system to prevent others from being subjected to hearing the user’s music.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s possible. The industry is intertwining with music technology at an accelerated rate with no signs of slowing down. As we approach a new year, we can look forward to continued innovations that enhance music management, creation, and fan engagement, while improving the ability to market and personalize the experience of music listening for everyone in profoundly fresh ways.
What are your thoughts about 2019 music tech trends? Please share your opinions in the comments below.