The Future of Music
Back in January I attended Sam Lessin’s fantastic futurists meetup where he brings in guests to speculate on the impact the next 30 years will have business/life/etc. In January his subject was The Future of Music and his guest was Lyor Cohen whose track record as a music exec is simply amazing – a true pioneer. You know you’ve been to a good meetup when you leave with lots of ideas (or as I’m beginning to think of them “blog fodder”) and this was a great one.
I was surprised to find that what actually excited me most wasn’t thinking about the evolving business models (I usually love to nerd out on that stuff) but rather thinking about how the lives of frustrated musicians and dedicated music lovers will be different from mine. Perhaps this shouldn’t have been too surprising – I was a piano lesson flunkie with a weak ear and questionable sense of rhythm. I looked on enviously while friends in high school played in bands while I mastered hanging out in record stores. Further, the meetup happened on the heels of a Christmas where our three year-old son Jake had requested a “rockin’ guitar” and where I also splurged on Beatles Rock Band. Ultimately this all left me pondering how music 30 years from now will look different in a few areas. Here are my questions, what do you think?
1. Jake will enjoy a life of computer-assisted music learning – how much better will he be than his tone-deaf parents? How much better will the naturally talented be?
Sure, Rock Band is far from a precise educational tool but at minimum it’s teaching basic percussion. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg – I just downloaded a frickin’ accordion app onto my iPad – the software and hardware is increasingly affordable and ubiquitous. Will this mean that Jake will escape the family curse of mouthing the words to Happy Birthday? I sure hope so. Will it mean that Rachmaninoff will become the default for any musician in the Union Square subway? I’d give a buck to hear it.
2. His entire life will be scrobbled. What can we learn from that?
At home we have our Sonos scrobbled and all of our portable devices are scrobbled too. You can see on the right column of this page the last five tracks that I’ve deliberately played. You can probably discern from that my mood and possibly activity (hint: if I’m trying to crank through work it usually involves Ben Kweller or Blur). Assuming the connectivity/record continues Jake will have a nearly lifelong record of music he’s played. Will this yield any insights on the formation of his tastes or personality? Beyond today’s mild social networking that occurs via declared interests on music sites is there the possibility that scrobbled lives could be open to scrutiny less benign? We’ve already seen that one can determine sexual orientation through one’s friends on Facebook – what will music preferences reveal? Is Hunch already working on something? What about the NSA? If I play too much Billy Bragg will Jake end up on some watchlist?
3. Will he be listening to a cover of a cover of a cover?
We all know that pop music innovation reached its apex in the glorious decade of the 80s. Ok, well maybe not entirely but it’s tough to argue that music hasn’t really been reinvented in the aughts and that kids today are listening to a lot of music/nicking styles from their parents’ era. Heck, even the WSJ says all band names are taken. Overall, I’m happy with this as not only do I dress like a rock star (or at least the dudes in Vampire Weekend) but it also will give me an ability to connect with my kids that didn’t always exist for my generation and our parents. But will this have any broader impact and bring generations closer? What will the impact be on musicians and their industry?