Reinvention: When music and audio technology intersect
The music industry is changing. It is shedding its old skin and embracing innovation. The music business is becoming more and more dependent on technology now. The different mediums and devices through which we consume our music has revolutionized the industry. New technology replaces the old, and the drive to create the next big thing changed the way how we consume or deliver music.
Let’s look at how technology is impacting the sonic journey.
Serious audiophiles of today do not agree to anything below high-res audio, whether as a part of their home audio system or when on the move. Until recently, there was no standard criteria for High-Resolution Audio, but that changed and today high-res audio is supposed to be near-perfect in quality and sounds closer to what was recorded in the recording studio than any other medium. High-Resolution Audio faithfully recreates the studio master tracks. When one listens to a Hi-Fi recording, all the nuances of the original performance are heard almost exactly as the musicians and composers intended it to be heard. Therefore, the details of each instrument such as the sound of the plucking of the acoustic guitar, the grains in the vocals, the attack and velocity dynamics of the bass guitar player, the crispness and timbre of the air flowing through a flute or a trumpet, and the various sounds from the drum kit become immediately apparent.
For a budding musician, this information becomes critical in understanding how to play an instrument or how to modulate his or her voice. Today’s musicians have the luxury of recording each instrument separately, thus getting far more control over their music. These days with the advent of powerful recording and mixing software, and digital signal processing, recording is much simpler. So simple that a kid in a garage with a software such as Garage Band can create a decent sounding recording.
The bedroom itself has now become the recording studio, and monetarily, it takes a fraction of what it used to take to make a decent production. Even in the studio, the devices that are used, viz. mics, pre-amps, consoles, processing gear, monitoring etc. have become portable, compact and available in software form. What used to be racks and racks of gear has now been simplified by digital signal processing and software that is even capable of, say, emulating sound from an old tape recorder (complete with the white noise, hiss and pop) or even some of the old vintage mics, tube amplifiers, etc. At the touch of a button, the engineer can now create and recall presets, use virtual processing and record cuts that can be further refined before mastering. The task has become easier but with the bewilderingly large array of options now available, the artist’s only limitation now is creativity.
With the ever-evolving and demanding consumers, recording process is not the only area that has changed. Consumers also put prime emphasis on portability and convenience. Most music now is not even stored on devices, as consumers prefer to buy subscription services and stream from the cloud, saving on storage space requirements. Listening to music is also a personal thing now and listening devices include smartphones, portable media players and tablets; which are most often hooked up to earphones or Bluetooth loudspeakers. Even at home, the trend is to have devices that are high in audio quality and are both wire and hassle free.
Just as technology has transformed the music recording and listening process, music-making has also changed considerably. Genres such as electronic music that include electronic dance music (EDM) and other forms of electronica such as ambient, techno, dubstep, trance and downtempo sometimes don’t use any musical instruments at all. Today, we also see many musicians turning into producers. With the easy availability of websites and apps such as YouTube or SoundCloud, musicians can now release music, market it to his or her target audience and even make money, from downloads.
Whether this is good or bad is certainly debatable, as some of the record labels and promoters were equally instrumental in creating the rock stars of yesteryears. What has definitely happened for the better is that smaller or lesser known artists have now got a shot at fame and fortune by creating great online content. As a result, we are witnessing the rise of several YouTube stars who have gone on to become mainstream sensations.
The tech experts have already stormed the industry, today the music business is far more receptive to technological advancements than it has ever been.