The end of smartphones, VR gigs and more: industry insiders and experts on the tech and trends of the future.
Phil Moore: “getting rid of the phone”
VP, Northern & Southern EMEA at Deezer, the music streaming service. Deezer has 40 million licensed tracks, 16 million monthly active users and six million paid subscribers.
“Modern technology is staked around connected devices and wearables but that technology is always connected to the phone. What if you could get rid of the phone? What if you had little earbuds? At the moment, if I go out for a run I have a phone strapped to my arm and I either have really heavy Bluetooth headphones on or I have a blooming cable trying to garrotte me as I run past a bush. If you could ditch the phone and the cable and just have connected earphones that you could say, ‘Flow my running playlist’, suddenly you’re on a totally different plane of consuming music and technology. The general rule with tech is that it either answers a question the customer is asking or a question they didn’t know they had. When Steve Jobs invented the iPhone, everyone went on about the screen and the fact it was a really cool phone. All Jobsy did was see that people were walking around with an iPod and a mobile phone and say, ‘Why not have one thing that does both?’ It made life easier – and that’s when the public start to get excited about things.”
Jeff Smith: “disrupting the disruptors”
Head of Music, BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. Formerly in the same role at Radio 1, Controller of Capital FM and Director of Music Programming at Napster.
“I think the point is now that we should be disrupting the disruptors. You find with radio and music that there’s the idea that things are connected in a kind of chain: publishing, distribution, marketing. But now as an artist you can create your own future by accessing these services independently. You look at the way people are consuming podcasts like Serial; radio has been making content like that for years. I think a lot of us in the more traditional side of media have got to look at what these new guys are doing and make sure they don’t completely disrupt us out of business. The great thing about radio and TV is that we’ve got all this great content, the quality is up to standard, so it’s about making sure you’re finding the audience and knowing where it is. If the audience knows where it is, they’d come and get it. It’s something the BBC is very aware of. Realising what the disruptors are doing and trying to disrupt them is now the key thing for traditional media.”
Peter Robinson: “pop stars replaced by machines”
Creator and editor of popjustice.com, the award-winning pop music websites much loved by music fans and industry insiders alike. He has also written about music for Noisey, Q and a host of other publications.
“The disruption I’m most looking forward to with pop stars is one that’s already disrupted the world of instrument-playing musicians: their replacement by machines. As vocal synthesis becomes ever more natural – Adobe recently unveiled an incredible new piece of software that generates genuinely human-sounding speech from text – I want to see brand-new albums from long-dead pop stars. But I also want to see AI combined with Spotify algorithms to automatically generate all-new pop songs. If a computer can already teach itself to code, it can’t be far off automatically looking at the Spotify Global 100 and creating the next smash from scratch. Naturally it’ll upload the track and promote it over social too. It might result in everything sounding like the Chainsmokers, but everything already sounds like the Chainsmokers and this just means people can go out and get proper jobs.”
Eamonn Forde: “VR, AR and inside-industry disruption”
Music business technology journalist for The Guardian, The Big Issue and more; Reports Editor at music-tech consultancy Music Ally.
“Post-Napster, all music-industry disruption has come from outsiders – Spotify, YouTube – because, up until now record labels have been run by people scared of technology. If you mentioned an MP3 to a head of a label in 1999 they wouldn’t have had a clue what it was. Disruption happened because people were completely ignorant of the tech: they’d been hanging onto their jobs since the fifties. Now you’ve got a whole generation of digital natives coming in who are incredibly digitally literate. They know that disruption and technology does not stop, they constantly have to stay on top of it if they want to stay in a job. So I think we’ll see controlled disruption from inside the business. If you look at where most of the revenue is coming from today, it’s from live concerts, brand deals and product placements. The Forbes music rich list every year is led by the big acts who tour: Taylor Swift last year [with $170m] and it’ll be U2 this year. Live music has never had much disruption because there are a finite number of tickets, but the current buzz phrase around the industry is that they want to ‘add narrative’. You saw the start of it with Coldplay a couple of years ago, when they gave everyone wristbands that lit up, so the audience became part of these big emotional songs. But it’s when virtual reality and augmented reality come in, as creative outlets within live performances that things get really interesting. Already 360-degree cameras can capture every aspect of a performance for use in VR. And think of what an artist like Björk might do with VR and AR.”
Jeremy White: “the connected home”
Gear and Product Editor, Wired UK. Former editor at Financial Times: How To Spend It and Esquire.
“People don’t realise that streaming is now the recorded music industry’s biggest source of revenue – albums sales are down, downloads are down, but streaming has grown by 60 per cent in the last year. It means more artists are self-releasing and cutting out the middlemen. For example, Frank Ocean basically hoodwinked his label Def Jam into releasing a ‘visual album’ Endless on Apple Music as part of his contract and then self-released [actual new music album] Blonde, denying Def Jam their cut of the profits. You’re going to see that more and more. Over the past few years, the likes of Apple, Amazon and Tidal have signed up artists’ who work exclusively for their particular platform. The benefits are obvious: lots of promotion and it drives subscriptions. However, it also encourages piracy and I think you’ll stop seeing the industry doing this sort of thing. There are currently 100 million subscribers to paid streaming services. That’s a lot of people, but when you consider there are 325m people in the US alone, there’s plenty of room for growth. Now you’ve got the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home with connected speakers. You can just talk to these devices and say ‘Play the new album by Metallica’, or whatever you like. Streaming away from mobile technology in the connected home will be a big driver of change in the industry.”