Roughly 15 years ago, when music started shifting to digital, things started to change in all areas of music. In distribution we lost audio quality, in production, music producers and engineers began using the same software. Digital ideas produced with digital technology, it was inside this structure where EDM got its boost. This computing power afforded a producer the ability to engineer his/her own sound. And the engineer, who was great at adjusting sound with electronics, the ability to make his/her own music. The greatest thing about this new technology is it made recording budgets feasible and do-it-yourself projects possible.
It is a fact that artists are recording more on the road, and this is a great thing for music fans. Direct-to-fan, the stage has forever been the place where artists perform. Away from the fan, the studio has forever been the place where artists retreat to record. The studio brings isolation. This isolation cuts one off from the kind of knowledge on which life depends. “Retreat into isolation and one loses all contact with the sources of power.” -Robert Greene In a world where we are distanced by technology, human interaction will continue to be craved. The live show is interactive and so is the new market for music. That is, studio recordings have experimented with all sorts of production effects, and auto-tune is a great piece of technology, but it’s not the human voice.
It’s obvious everything is becoming digital, and touring is the major revenue stream, but I do not think that means humans will start paying for concerts sung by Siri. If the recording market is shrinking and live performance growing, that means the shift in music will begin to benefit top performers. The EDM genre is doing great right now, but if you do not believe it is in a bubble then your idea of live performance metrics need some updating. These performance evaluations are not taught by Universities, they are only quantifiable at the live show. Live was never meant to be a playback of a recording. The live show is based around a playlist of hit songs or singles.
Some recording artists have a hard time translating live, and many signed acts turn out to be lackluster performers. Is this because everyone is trying to deduce a hit from a youtube recording? The average music fan spends roughly $46 per year on recorded music. Compare that to the average ticket price and swelling number of concerts/festivals. Labels of the past have not been interested in live metrics because the focus was on recorded sales, but today the live show is the major revenue stream. With 360 deals cutting in to the artist’s all encompassing career, a label of the future will not be able to take a percentage from where they do not first invest.
The digitalization of music will continue to divide the role (17:17–17:45) of the engineer and producer. In such a way that an engineer will be rewarded for his/her ability to navigate the ever growing software products for music and the producer rewarded for his/her ability to harness live performance metrics, and translate them to the interactive, direct-to-fan market.
The future of music is live, don’t let anyone tell you different. If it is not live, it’s a rerun.