Music is as old as the hills. It has always been and will always be an important part of civilization itself. However, just because music is as steady as an experienced drummer doesn’t mean the way we approach it remains the same over time.
From the need for a good calfskin for the tribal drum to the utter importance of the harpsichord for the Baroque era to a quality half stack for an electric guitarist, there’s no doubt that the tools that we use to create music have changed over the centuries. This has never been more applicable than the modern day, where cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence (AI) has come to play a pivotal role in the music industry.
AI’s Impact on Musicians
It’s important that we understand the role that things like AI can play in the music industry. While it’s easy to simply write it off as a threat to musicians and their creativity everywhere, the truth is, when properly applied, AI isn’t meant to replace artists, but rather help them with their work. In fact, early manifestations of AI have already been busy helping write songs and understand what listeners want since all the way back in the 1950s. Of course, the ability to help write songs has drastically increased since then, with modern AI capable of writing its own songs at this point, such as this music video “Life Support” by Taryn Southern, which was written and designed by AI.
The point is, AI doesn’t have to be a threat. At its core, machine learning is simply a tool that can help simulate any mental task. In an era dominated by big data, it can help musicians understand the boatload of info that is constantly swirling around them, process said information in order to understand what is worthy of their attention, and then be utilized to help their music reach the ears of those who actually want to hear it.
In other words, AI can enable you to find those faces in the crowd with fan potential that may have never heard of you otherwise. The music industry is inundated with artists at this point, so the use of a tool that can help an artist find their audience is about as valuable as it gets. This can be seen in action with streaming services like Spotify and Pandora that are applying increasingly complex algorithms to help connect listeners with artists they would enjoy, rather than forcing the artists to go out and find their crowd themselves.
But the impact doesn’t stop there. Algorithms are already being developed to help with that ever-mysterious “black art” of mastering recordings. While writing a song can be filled with passion, having a computer smooth a recording of that song into something worthy of Billboard’s Top 100 list can be a leg up that any smaller artist would love to have access to.
AI is certainly doing its part on the consumer end of the music industry as well. When it comes to the audiences themselves, there is a plethora of ways that tech is revolutionizing the listening experience.
One of the most clever examples of this is Childish Gambino’s incorporation of virtual reality (VR) into the vinyl release of “Awaken, My Love!” Donald Glover’s 2016 issue was released with a VR headset that allowed you to experience a recording of a live performance of the album by the artist. Needless to say, the cutting edge tech helped the release become a runaway success.
Even in the world of music streaming platforms, tech is having a radical impact. In 2017 Spotify announced the new use of “codes” that allowed listeners to simply scan a song’s album cover, information, etc. in order to find the artists without having to touch the search bar. You can see the codes tech in action here.
Music Education and Therapy
Another way that AI and tech, in general, have made a huge difference within music is through education. Music students have a host of different tools at their fingertips these days that allow them to stay connected, collaborate on projects, and even tune their instruments all at the tap of a touch screen.
iPads, in particular, have been growing the music education field. They are being heavily utilized in the classroom for things like autotuning, synthesizers, percussion and loops, teaching music theory and history, and even writing and recording music itself.
Even music therapy is being boosted by technological advances in the industry. Evidence of the impact that music can have in therapy settings is impressive, as it has been shown to help serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. And the tech evolution of the music industry, through machine learning and its accompanying tools like iPads and better streaming services, has only increased the ability for music therapists to be available, applicable, and impactful within their field.
We Live in an AI World
While it’s easy for a musician to cling to the old ways of doing things, the truth is, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. And “roses” is the key word here. This doesn’t need to be an acceptance of a harsh new reality.
Technology often comes across as a threat to an old way of life, but when properly utilized, even cutting edge tech like AI can be integrated into an existing system or industry with incredible effect. From the electrifying potential that AI has for the healthcare world to the promise that self-driving cars offer us, smart tech really can do wonders when we assimilate it into our lives and careers.
And this is just as true to the beloved music world that is held near and dear by so many artists. From studio recording to education, therapy, and everything in between, AI is poised to revolutionize the music industry for the better — if we’re willing to let it. This doesn’t mean we need to put our guitars, flutes, and oboes down. On the contrary, AI allows us to focus on the music itself, maximizing the effect that our craft has on both ourselves and others who come into contact with it.