Tag: future of music

20 Predictions for the Music Business in 10 Years

Ted Gioia photo in Out of The Box banner

The ideas below came to me in a dream. Some of them seem a little unusual—I should probably apologize for that. I had a couple glasses of a very fine Barolo from the Monforte region of northern Italy before falling asleep, so maybe that played a factor. But I’m determined to share what I heard exactly as it was told to me in my sleep.

Ten years from now. . .

1. A major Silicon Valley company will announce that it has created the ‘next Beethoven’ with quantum computing technology.

2. A legitimate musical counterculture will arise, with a cadre of new artists achieving superstar status while rejecting the roles of influencer and content provider. The motto “music comes first” will be a key part of their marketing message. The movement will have a name, but that word doesn’t exist yet.

3. YouTube fans will fondly recall the days when they only had to sit through two short commercials before watching a music video.

4. Web platforms will have destroyed record labels—which will no longer play a meaningful role in building the careers of new artists.

5. A reality TV show will launch a very popular song competition. But only children under the age of 8 will be allowed to vote. The success of the show will create a popular new genre known as TDM (Toddler Dance Music). It will even get its own Grammy category.

6. Musicians will find ways to capture 80-90% of the revenue from their music. This is already happening at Bandcamp, but the trend will spread rapidly. A whole host of other platforms will emerge that give most of the money to the artist and only keep a small percentage for themselves.

7. AI-driven Robots will increasingly replace DJs at dance clubs. Club owners will insist that the algorithm is better at pleasing customers than a human being.

8. The President of the United States will launch a curated playlist on a major music platform. At first music industry insiders will ridicule it, but change their tune after 40 million people sign up as subscribers. All proceeds will go to support animal rights organizations.

9. A song composed entirely by artificial intelligence will reach the number one spot on the Billboard chart. The music video (also AI-created) will be a major contributor to its success.

10. Trombone sales will skyrocket after the instrument is implicated in a high-profile celebrity scandal.

11. Before a hot new album by a major star is released, each track will be auctioned off as a separate non-fungible token. A prominent hedge fund manager who is famous for his large portfolio of music NFTs will become personal financial advisor to many leading rappers and pop stars. His nickname on Wall Street will be DJ Blockchain.

12. Individuals who can identify rising talent will set up their web channels, and fill the role once played by the A&R department at a record label. But there’s one big difference: they can do everything themselves without a huge corporation behind them. If these talent scouts have a web channel with a few million subscribers, they will have more clout than Sony (which, by the way, currently has a pathetic 40 thousand subscribers to its YouTube channel) or most other labels. They can sign artists, showcase them online, and build their audience—acting as sole operators, but with the influence of a big business.

13. A hit song by a K-Pop band will still be in the top 40 after four years.

14. Streamed music events will generate more income than live concerts.

15. The only child of the CEO of Google/Alphabet will date a musician with no discernible talent, but who now suddenly shows up everywhere on search engine results and even wins a prominent music industry award.

16. Spotify threatens to delist every track that doesn’t get at least one thousand streams per year, unless the artist pays a stiff annual fee.

17. Record labels won’t disappear, but will live mostly off the income from their publishing catalogs (which they are in a mad frenzy to acquire right now) and the old music in their archives. They will start to fear impending copyright expirations that threaten much of their cash flow, and try (unsuccessfully) to get legislators to extend IP protection for music.

18. The most discussed movie soundtrack of the year will feature complete silence—except for 12 seconds of music at a dramatic point in the story.

19. New music industry power players will emerge in Asia and other non English-speaking regions. New York, London, and Los Angeles will still be centers of activity, but hardly as dominant as they once were. The savvier music companies will be in a mad scramble to expand their presence in Seoul, Kinshasa, Jakarta, etc.

20. The TV audience for the Grammy Awards will fall to a new low. Instead, the music event with the highest TV ratings that year will be a live broadcast of the 90th birthday concert of a famous rock/pop star.

Genres Won’t Go Away But They Won’t Be The Same

Vanessa Ague Out of the Box

[Ed. note: Last month, we launched a new series of articles under the banner “Out of the Box.” For this series, which follows New Music USA’s tenth anniversary this past November and marks the start of our second decade, we are asking a group of deep musical thinkers to ponder what the landscape for new music will be ten years from now. We aim for this series to spark important discussions in our community as well as to raise important journalistic voices from all around the country. The first installment of this series is a provocative essay by University of Florida-based musicologist and bassoonist Dr. Imani Mosley. Our second contributor is Brooklyn-based violinist and arts journalist Vanessa Ague.-FJO]

When I think about music 10 years into the future, the one thing that jumps out in my mind most is the perennial question of genre: How we define it and how it’ll change. Will there be any genres in 10 years? What will post-genre and cross-genre and everything in-between look like? Which new genres will emerge and take over the musical landscape? To me, genre and its evolution is one of the most fascinating aspects of music and music history. They’re imperfect descriptors, yet we cling to them. They’re constantly morphing, yet they stick to certain boundaries that contain them. People want to identify with a genre, or against a genre, and that becomes a defining part of their character. Genre encompasses more than the words that describe them. But will we someday land on words that finally feel right?

I’ve been considering this question even more lately, as I recently completed a Master’s capstone that touched on them. (Parts of this essay draw from that research and writing.) My writing is often dictated by genre, as are record store shelves and digital sales, for better and for worse. I personally find myself more and more drawn to the “post-genre” and “genre-blending” music—or, music that defies categorization yet is categorized in imperfect ways. As I think about the next ten years of music making, I hope we’ll grapple with how we define, use, and think about these signifiers. Some of the most compelling music made today, in my opinion, is born out of a conglomeration of genres and styles, and in the next 10 years, my idealistic dream would be for us to shift to talking about music in a way that foregrounds appreciation of the sound and the people who make it instead of boxes that don’t always fit.

Our struggle to find the perfect genre tags aren’t anything new, and neither is crossing over from one genre to another, or mixing them together into one. The trend of genre mixing perhaps most famously came to the fore in New York in the mid-20th century, and The Velvet Underground is one of the best known genre and medium-bending groups from those days. Their early albums, like 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, united La Monte Young and Tony Conrad’s drone composition with singer-songwriter structures; the sound became a mix of long-held tones with chugging four-four rhythms and hazy speak-sung vocals. The band’s legacy has been long-lasting: They’ve inspired many other alternative rock bands to extend boundaries, from ambient pioneer Brian Eno to shoegaze band Galaxie 500 to indie rock darlings The Strokes.

More recently, we’ve had the community of the internet to power our genre discovery. In the 2000s and 2010s, the internet would make more genres than ever before, from all over the world, available to anyone who wanted to listen. On the internet, all kinds of music became available to everyone and anyone and sounds from across the globe became easy to access. On sites like Limewire, and later what.cd, redacted, and soulseek, the music-obsessed could download as many MP3s as they wanted, taking in every single sound and throwing it back in the art they’d make later on. Today’s streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music tried to follow suit, providing a constant stream of new music for listeners and makers (though none of these platforms support artists financially, which is another, separate issue I hope we address in the next 10 years). With such easy discovery, it’s no wonder mixing and matching in music has continued to proliferate and the barriers between genres have come down. Access has allowed us possibility.

Much of our music discovery today is centered around genre. Streaming sites make playlists geared towards specific genres and their algorithms recommend similar artists. In 10 years, I don’t see this type of recommendation changing—but I do think those algorithms will need to continue to expand and get more detailed. There are general playlists for umbrella genres like pop and experimental, but will more playlists show up that cover subgenres? Will algorithms begin to detect the smallest shifts in sound, linking together artists from completely different parts of the musical landscape? This certainly happens occasionally—Spotify in particular touts itself as a bastion for this kind of discovery—but I wonder if it’ll start to happen more as our genre barriers continue to dissolve. And, with radio and podcasting on the rise, I wonder if in 10 years we’ll see those formats become major agents for discovery again, too.

Musically, I don’t see the impulse to mix genres and form new ones changing anytime soon. A lot of today’s genre blending seems to mix old trends that have come around in popularity again with new ones (like mixing minimalism with modern electronic dance music). More past trends and styles will be resurrected and repurposed in the next 10 years. Perhaps there will be music that mixes baroque composition with field recordings, or medieval chant with ambient—perhaps there already is. There will probably be more shoegaze-y drone and electronic dance and hyperpop variants, which are genres that seem to dominate the recent conversation around experimental music. Whatever sounds do appear, though, will likely be those that glean influence from past sounds to make something current, building on past innovation to drive it into new directions.

Will the music industry respond to future genre shifts? Today, buying, selling, awarding, and discovering music is tied to arbitrary genre tags. Many of them feel like dusty conventions we haven’t brushed off yet. In the utopian future I imagine, these tags will be determined by the album we hear, an attempt to discuss and share music from a place of how it actually sounds. After all, genre is a way of describing what we hear so that it can be contextualized and understood. Genre isn’t going to go away for this reason—it helps us categorize and understand the world of music. But can it become more malleable? With the continued breaking and reassembling of genres, the industry as a whole needs to become more open-minded about changing how we talk about, understand, and think about musical categorization. I wonder if in the future, we’ll have entirely new, as-of-yet to be discovered genre tags that actually encompass the meaning of the music outside of a convention established years ago, supported by record labels and venues and marketers who start to adopt new tools and language to talk about the music they present. Maybe those new genres will be a better representation of the artists and the art.

I don’t know if we’ll ever have the perfect solution to categorizing music, the box to box genre boxes back into. But I do know this: As the next 10 years continue, we’re going to hear new kinds of music that question our assumptions of what genre is and what it means, just like the past 10 years and the 10 before that. I hope we look for solutions that stay true to the sounds and to the artists who make them.

Pursuing the Ir Rational

Replica of a human brain.

[Ed. note: It has been 13 years since we talked with Elliott Sharp for NewMusicBox. Since then, he has continued to create and perform music in the same seemingly infinite range of styles at the same staggering pace. Later this week, he will appear with the band Fourth Blood Moon in Lugano, Switzerland (Oct 25), Turin, Italy (Oct 26), Venice (Oct 27) and Vienna (Oct 28). Then it’s on to duo and solo appearances in Bologna (Oct 30) and Milan (Oct 31) followed by a tour of Japan where he will perform solo, with a big band, and in a duo with Carl Stone in Tokyo (Nov 19-22) as well as in duos with Yasuhiro Usui in Chiba (Nov 23) and Jim O’Rourke in Kofu (Nov 24). Amidst all his musical activities, Sharp managed to find the time to write a memoir/manifesto titled IrRational Music which was released earlier this year by Terra Nova Press. The following text originally appeared as the final chapter in that book and is reprinted here with permission.]

The cover of Ellliott Sharp's book IrRational Music

Recorded music has been sorely devalued of late but now I find the concert experience to be charged up, hotter than ever.

The process continues, asymptotic. The channels of my activities seem to be more clearly defined than ever before but by design they must allow for quick change, parallel realities, translation of state. They strive to balance the conceptual and the concrete, the abstract and the material, the direct narrative and the nonlinear, art and survival. Recorded music has been sorely devalued of late but now I find the concert experience to be charged up, hotter than ever. “IrRational Music” is still the best way to describe what I do in all of these channels. I can’t separate its pursuit from my desire not just to make art, but to understand how and why I do what I do and thereby find newer and deeper ways to do it. As my understanding of the Inner Ear grows, I ask if it can be separated from the Mind itself.

We believe that our minds define our selves, not just in the everchanging present, but delving back into our complete past and projecting forward into our still-incomplete future. Minds transmit and receive data in a feedback loop, constantly updating our state of being and inputting new information into our perceptual systems, a process essential to our survival (and perhaps the source of our consciousness). The search for the nature of this Mind of ours has been a puzzle and inspiration for both reflection and generation, extending back to the dawn of self-awareness. A signal is sent out, then received again at its source, but with the ever-so-tiny delay caused by the gap in the synapse. The receptor recognizes the original signal, perhaps with some hormonal stamp. In this transaction, this recognition, awareness of self could form, then consciousness.

With daily discoveries stretching boundaries, our minds have become plastic, mutable in function, digesting and accepting new definitions and generalizations. We may find these elements contradictory; we may find them enlightening and clarifying. With every advance in knowledge of the physical and chemical workings of the brain, humans remain—in a paradox worthy of Zeno—woefully distant from complete knowledge of the nature of their own consciousness. Gödelian concepts apply as well to our self-awareness: with self-perception nested in self-perception, are we doomed to perpetuate self-deception? Can we break out of the frame and actually know Mind? As we verge on a time when Turing tests will be aced by AI toddlers, how will we recognize the Mind of the Other when we’re still not absolutely clear as to its nature in ourselves?

Our very anthropocentrism has limited our outlook.

We might say that our craniocentricism blinds us and deafens us. Certainly our very anthropocentrism has limited our outlook. Only in recent decades have modern Westerners (as opposed to their pre-Cartesian ancestors) graciously admitted that other creatures might indeed possess consciousness. The common belief has been that consciousness and memory reside in the brain, are solely a function of its chemistry. Are we so sure that Mind can be divorced from organs and muscles, from viscera, from our bubbling neurotransmitter stews that drift out into the very air around us? Witness the octopus! It might be said that every sight we see, every sound we make or hear, every move or shift, every pheromonal handshake, is part of the free-floating and expanding consensual reality that is Mind. Even though our hardware has been running for many thousands of years without a major update, our software is continually transforming to accomodate new modes of data transfer and processing, environments, definitions and frameworks.

It’s no longer a radical notion that our individual memories have been externalized in something very like a cloud. And if memories can be external to the person, then could Identity itself, the individual consciousness, also be externalized? Would a conscious entity with no physical locus conceive of itself in the same way as an embodied one? How would the perceptual systems function in a disembodied Mind? What are the possible input and output devices? What would the mechanism of internal feedback be? If a disembodied Mind is to interact with a physical world, then what would the interface feel like, both to that Mind and to anyone encountering it? What would music be to such an entity?

Both concepts and technologies of Artificial Intelligence have advanced in recent years to the point that interaction with AI’s is considered a normal part of daily life. But is the “I” in AI the same “I” that we think of as intelligence, the”I” that is truly a sense of self? Mechanical processes, even when happening millions of times per second, even with a heavy feedback component, are not the same as intelligence and certainly not the same as consciousness. Will a digital zero/one on/off mind feel the same, both internally and externally, as a slippery-slope chemical mind? Where is the all-important porosity that makes our intelligence what it is? Could it be embedded in a process of knowing and deciding that is based upon the continuous polling of tendencies, analogous to quantum states? Explicit expression, but with vast amounts of background processing contributing to the flux? A meat-machine hybrid brain (that concept so beloved of modern sci-fi)? I’m waiting for the day that an AI can experience synesthesia and express it. And what about AS, Artificial Stupidity—might that be closer to human consciousness? Will an AI ever compose music that rends your heart and soul, or is this reserved for those whose language can’t be boiled down to just two states? Is the transcendent mystery of art somehow linked to the roots of its generation?

Will music allow us to morph into fully realized beings able to meet an unfamiliar modality halfway?

There’s much in the air these days about how our local universe is undergoing a “singularity,” how humanity must prepare itself for massive transformations. I contend that we’ve already been deeply into the singularity for quite a few years. A singularity isn’t built in a flash or even a day! Whether this is seen as glorious or apocalyptic depends on the teller, and there are as many definitions of the nature of this singularity as there are tellers. The development of “self-awareness” in computers is often cited as a primary sign of this cusp-point. Contact with an alien civilization is another. How will humanity find a commonality of expression to communicate with an intelligence conceivably so different from our own that there is no recognition? Again, the question of interface and who controls it. What will the emergent power relationships be? In science fiction, the superior alien intelligence often adopts anthropic form and speaks English. Will a truly emergent AI condescend to speak to us as equals or might it demand true peer-to-peer contact and insist that humans rise to the occasion? Could music be the medium by which we measure cosmic intelligence and consciousness? Will music allow us to morph into fully realized beings able to meet an unfamiliar modality halfway? Can we learn to communicate, perhaps even sing songs using airborne molecular polymers, chains of regenerated RNA? Flashes of color? Qubit packets? Modulated sine waves? Will that achievement equal a willingness to let go of our traditional assumptions of mind grounded in physicality, of music grounded in sound? By abandoning these moorings, do we abandon the very core of our humanity? If that is indeed the case, then we might finally ask “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” and have reasonable expectations of getting a clear answer. Psychoacoustic chemical change remains the prime motive for my work: translation from the Inner Ear, source of the IrRational.

Fourth Blood Moon (Eric Mingus, John Edwards, Mark Sanders, and Elliott Sharp).

Fourth Blood Moon (Eric Mingus, John Edwards, Mark Sanders, and Elliott Sharp). The band will be performing this month in Lugano, Switzerland (Oct 25), Turin, Italy (Oct 26), Venice (Oct 27) and Vienna (Oct 28).