Whether we’re at work, home, or somewhere in between, melodies are with us—especially given the latest advances in music tech. From the productivity-boosting playlists we listen to during our workday and the stress-relieving tunes we stream on our commutes to the feel-good songs playing in stores and restaurants, the pervasiveness of music tech creates a soundtrack for our lives.
Technology’s pace of change also ensures that composing, playing, and delivering music is changing as quickly as the beat on a dance track. With that in mind, here are seven major developments in music tech sure to change the way we listen—and what we tune in to.
Before you get nervous picturing a bot taking the place of a dedicated musician painstakingly playing riffs to get a rhythm just right, take a beat. AI can compose music and melodies, but it needs humans to help it along the way. While Jukedeck AI promised such a sprint forward last year, 2017 saw the advancement of Amper, a startup that aims to act as a quick and affordable way to collaboratively create music for projects, like video campaigns.
Amper gets to work after the human user inputs parameters, like the genre of music and the length of the desired track. Composition times vary depending on the tune’s length. Users can then add or subtract certain instruments to further edit the piece. The good news for developers is that, according to TechCrunch, Amper just launched an API to compose music on a larger scale.
Holography is the science and practice of making holograms. Typically, a hologram is a photographic recording of a light field, rather than of an image formed by a lens, and it is used to display a fully three-dimensional image of the holographed subject, which is seen without the aid of special glasses or other intermediate optics.
Although she was created 10 years ago at the age of 16, Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku made her stage debut at London’s Barbican Center—still at the age of 16. How is that possible? Miku is a hologram. Before that, she was the creation of Crypton Future Media, a Japanese digital media company. Essentially, just two pieces of software give her voice and animation. Originally created for professional musicians, Miku quickly became a virtual celebrity who sang the music created by the crowd on the web. Although she lacks substance without her human fans pushing and projecting their musical wishes on her, Miku’s holographic presence “electrified” the audience at the concert, according to WIRED.
Streamlined streaming services
Nielsen reported that we officially stream music more than any other medium in the United States. With downloads falling out of fashion as more people opt to stream, Pandora just debuted its own streaming subscription service, aimed at snagging a bit of Spotify’s and Apple’s existing listener base. The difference—as it’s always been—is that Pandora taps its own data science to assist in discovery and curation.
Remember how you could simply upvote a song and Pandora’s algorithms would provide a playlist of pleasing tunes? That data science is pressed into production for Pandora’s latest offer, which founder Tim Westergren tells Fast Company is better for the listener than wading through 30 million songs with a search box. This competitive positioning makes it easier to see how Tidal, or another less functional streaming service, could potentially fold or be acquired this year.
Sonos has been in the speaker business for years but just recently launched Playbase, which is meant to accompany and amplify a television. The wide yet thin design is unusual in shape and function, because it’s aimed at providing sound for both music and movies—which have different audio requirements. Early reviews in Engadget suggest the mechanics and design have tackled that challenge masterfully.
VR music videos
Music videos shot in 360 degrees and built for virtual reality made a splash last year. Björk’s “Stonemilker” was one example of how music could translate into an immersive experience outside of a concert venue, thanks to more affordable technology from Sony, Google, and Samsung. As more artists jump on the bandwagon, fans of all genres can expect to see and hear continued exploration of the virtual, 3D presentation space.
Pay to play
It’s not exactly high tech, but after a decades-long battle with piracy and illegal downloads, people are ready to pay for an artist’s work on vinyl, as well as for promotional goodies through a web platform. Online music store and artists’ promotional site Bandcamp announced that it grew 35 percent last year, as fans paid artists $4.3 million dollars every month using the site, buying about 25,000 records a day.
Amazon sneaks in
Never doubt that the behemoth is bent on pushing into every vertical, including music. With the introduction of its Echo smart speaker system, Amazon also offers an inexpensive streaming music service with a price tag well below its competitors. Amazon is also getting into exclusive content territory, using its vast resources to make deals with major artists for both music and curatio