How has Technology Helped Music?

Written by Marie Boulton, 10th November 2017


Keiron's Prodigy top displaying how he feels about having his picture taken and Tom in the background wearing his SlipKnot T-shirt - both bought from actual gigs! Keirons being just over 23 years old!!
Baber wearing his sisters oversized Iron Maiden Top...
Me in my Primark mens XS Ramones T-Shirt...

Today is national ‘Wear your band t-shirt to work’ day! 6 music has returned for its tenth year of persuading people all around the country to don a tee of their favourite band and show their colleagues that there’s a little bit more to them than just their job.

The suspense of this day has been building up in the office; Keiron the only member of the team who’s owned a pair of decks, has never been so enthusiastic about the ‘event’ and I purchased my first band t-shirt on Monday.

According to Steve Lamacq, buying a t-shirt without having actually seen the band live is against ‘band tee etiquette’ but in true rock n roll style, I’m smashing my guitar against the wall and screaming “I don’t care”.

Radio has a storied history. Back when it began to evolve into mass media entertainment, the medium was devoted to a range of genres including comedy, drama and new programs; sports reporting and of course, music. We’ve got a few sports fans in the office (though I dare say they keep who they support to themselves because there’s never any ‘sport talk’). And there’s always a bit of chat about the new T.V programme we’re watching (we’ve all bulk watched and finished Stranger Things 2). But the biggest conversation starter for us (apart from website talk and cake chat!) is music.

I had a bit of a shock when I started working here to find that my music taste – old rock ‘n’ roll, bit of 80’s pop and some Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – was completely different to the bosses, whose new favourite is Arcade Fire. Keiron and Baber are really into what I can only describe as random sounds (they call it ‘electronic music’) and the other choices range from everything from modern pop to old school punk.

Music and technology has long been intertwined; without technology, music would never be what it is today. Starting with the incredible creation that changed the world as we know it; the Stereo Belt (click here to see the timeline of portable, personal music). Having access to portable personal music at all times made the music business boom. Suddenly everyone was wandering round with head phones on (notice ‘on’ not ‘in’!) and more and more singers and bands started coming out of the woodwork. And it’s only gone from strength to strength since then.

“Dave Mustaine used the web to reach out to his fans—but that brought its own complications. When he first ventured into his site’s chatroom, none of the fans believed he was who he said he was. Once they realized it was him, they wouldn’t leave him alone.” —Rolling Stones

Innovation drives music as does it drive technology. But tech has been instrumental (pun unintended) in the evolution of music and not just because of the invention of the Walkman. Technology has changed the accessibility of music; from an artists and consumers point of view. With the invention of the internet and high speed-data transfer, we now have some incredible new options of working with music. The Arctic Monkey’s owe their success to the social media platform, MySpace. They uploaded their music and videos and communicated with their fans through it. It got them recognised by a music producer and the rest is history.

 “The moment I realized that multimedia could revolutionize the way we could market our music came when a co-worker named Dave Goldberg showed me the first music video made with Macromedia Director—an interactive multimedia authoring tool. When I saw that video, I knew I had to hunt down the programmer. His name was Doug Textor, and he agreed to meet me for breakfast. I told him that I had all these ideas for using the computer to promote our bands but I didn’t know if it was technically possible yet. He said it was, although I don’t think he knew exactly what it entailed, but neither did anyone else at the time.” – Robin Sloan Bechtel

Back in the early 90’s when the first music website was created – Megadeth Arizona – along with it came the first ‘chatrooms’, where fans could talk to other fans AND to band members, ‘digital postcards’ were invented, giving fans an opportunity to send a postcard to a friend. Goodbye print marketing, hello digital! Both the idea and execution of a chatroom and the ‘digital postcard’ gave birth to the idea of social media. A place where people of similar interests could come together and interact with one another. Genius! The Megadeth website opened the doors to all different kinds of businesses – not just music. When the site hit mainstream, it got the attention of Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz, who was excited by the idea of screen savers – Capitol Records, who had been instrumental in the Megadeth website, came up with the idea of putting wings on Starbucks coffee bags and making them fly.

This years met gala’s theme was Manus x Machina, Will.i.am (in true Will.i.am way) built into his tuxedo jacket was an AI-powered virtual assistant named AneedA. Embedded in the collar of the jacket, facilitating AneedA’s functionality, is Qualcomm gear enabling cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, a battery, a microphone and a speaker. The intelligence of the system is powered by Nuance’s speech recognition, proprietary machine learning technology built by Tel Aviv-based Sensiya (now owned by Will.i.am’s brand iam+), and the computational knowledge engine from Wolfram Alpha.

In more modern times, Will.i.am’s tech start-up, I.am+, announced on 10th July this year, that it is entering into the world of AI – artificial intelligence – with a new voice assistant for powering customer service bots. Called ‘Omega’ and described as being similar to Amazons Alexa and Apple’s Siri, the AI tool marks the departure for the 5-year-old company, which has primarily focused on consumer products like wireless headphones.

"Music producer Will.i.am has made another foray into the design world, with a pair of wireless headphones inspired by the shape of vinyl records. The i.am+ Buttons headphones are backed with magnetic metallic discs which, when not in use, join to form a necklace" - www.dezeen.co.uk

Given Will.i.am’s background, it makes sense that his new AI works best with music. It features an unlimited streaming service with a library of more than 20 million songs. At your command, it will find songs, add them to playlists, book tickets to shows and find the latest news about your favourite artists. It’s difficult to forget that Will.i.am is also one of the founding investors of ‘Beats Headphones’ and was instrumental in its inception and success. But this isn’t all about our favourite Black Eyed Pea, it’s about music and technology.

But before you think that technology did all the work in making music what it is today, consider that it might actually have been music that helped tech get where it is.

So, today, we’re all donning our band tee’s remembering that without tech and without music, we wouldn’t all be here today. Well, we might be, but with one of these…

This article was written whilst listening to:

BBC Radio 6

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