As technology has developed over the last 50 years, so too has the way in which we listen to music. At one stage, music listening would involve going out to your local record store, picking up a vinyl record, and then placing it on a record player, where the stylus would read the grooves and convert an electric signal into sound waves.
Sounds like a chore, right? Well, today, technology has allowed us to find and listen to any song at the click of a button. Not only this, but new tech has been behind every positive advancement in the music industry, including the way in which it is made, the reason it is made, and how it is consumed.
The Quality Of Music
Let’s start by looking at the quality of music. The development of gaming technology is a good example of how better technology can equal better-sounding music, as well as the ability to achieve it.
Where at one time, popular games like The House Of The Dead or Mortal Kombat II would rely on a standard, chiptune soundtrack – designed to fit within 1MB of hardware space – newer, more technologically proficient platforms have been able to implement entire soundtracks.
Take Tomb Raider Survivor, with its cinematic, soaring strings, or the Ori series, with its gentle, piano-based structure. Even in the mobile gaming world, music in games like Book Of The Dead are able to have entire cinematic soundtracks in a simple mobile experience.
As technology gets better, the boundaries of music quality and the ability to achieve, store and distribute can get wider.
The Consumption Of Music
Another way technology has changed music is through how we listen to it. As mentioned before, music is now available at the click of a button, and this is mainly due to the introduction of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. Despite teething problems with DRM and syncing issues, online streaming providers are now fully in control of how music is dispatched and, to a certain extent, what we listen to.
This is in no small part due to the introduction of playlists – specifically, playlists that are generated based on a user’s own data. In 2023, users have an endless bank of quality music, ranging from mainstream artists, movie composers, game soundtracks, the list goes on and on. This accessibility has also boosted the independent music scene, with Spotify constantly improving relationships with artists and giving them the platform to release tracks. In the first quarter of 2023, it was revealed that 11 million artists were utilising Spotify, with a total of over 100 million songs existing in the database as a whole.
Not only is the way we consume music getting easier, but the range of music we can choose from is getting more and more broad.
The Future Of Music
Technology is always changing, which means that music is going to continue to change too. One of the latest developments that has got people talking is AI. While the conception of AI can aid in the technological process of creating music, as well as the quality of the music itself, one of the most seismic ways AI will change things is by recognising and dictating the kind of music you want to hear.
For instance, as of today, AI assistants can examine your streaming service data, the times in which you listened to certain songs, the mood of those songs, and the melodies, and then come up with your own personal radio that will play songs it knows you will like.
Not only this, but AI could end up creating songs for you. AI music generators like Soundraw and Soundful are already in existence, and as the technology improves, the ability to create personalised music will improve too. This means that, in the future, you could potentially ask AI to write and play you a song, and it would do so. When exactly this will happen and whether consumers would actually want this to happen is another question, of course. As of right now, however, it is clear that the more technology changes, the more likely it is that music will change too.