The future of music is about to get ‘digitally’ complicated…

Music was always faced with cultural shifts, events, and nothing could ever stop it, but the global pandemic. Now, musicians face an unsettling future and it is all due to Covid-19. Is it possible for the music industry to rise from the ashes and reform with the help of flourishing technologies and innovations?


The importance of LIVE music

Music is one of the greatest creations of mankind, an essential form of human expression. Some consider it as a form of escape from mundane life and agony. Music allows us to experience all of our emotions at once and can move us back in time to specific events in our lives. Often times we tie our experiences in the real world to specific songs, like a familiar fragrance.

One heightened way that individuals and communities interact with music is through live events. Although, listening on your phone, CD player or in the car all provides an accessible experience, it is solely a personal one. To fulfill all senses and make the experience a shared one, one must attend to a live performance. It stimulates the mind, physical coordination and expression through social interaction. After all we are social beings and everything we do is relationship based. We are all energy in one room when we come together. The sound then becomes an experience and an important life event.

Anti-Criminal Justice Act Protest in Hyde Park, November, 1994, Image: Matthew Smith

Music scene pre-Pandemic

Remember music festivals? The fresh air when you reach your hand to the sky in a crowd of thousands. You are enclosed by a warm layer of air below the chest from the heat of sweaty strangers bumping against you. Can you still picture the lights, people and the sound surrounding you all around?

Now that’s gone, and the most uncomfortable feeling is that we don’t know if it will ever come back. Unlike the 1994 criminal Justice Act featuring UK’s illegal rave scene or the community crisis presented in Footloose, seems like Corona will put an end to all. All we can do is rest home and indulge in our Spotify playlists or dig up some old vinyl, sipping on a hot beverage of our preference. But, what do we do in the meantime?

Do we just let the live scene die?

Before Corona, the live music industry was worth an astonishing $30 billion a year. Since, artists get their core income from live performances the situation is severe. The money they make from records is fed to music streaming giants like Sony, Universal and Warner. This highlights a very capitalistic structure and how much artists are undervalued. Spotify holds that income to raise awareness and grow audiences for live concerts. Now artists wonder how they will pay their bills, and the more niche and upcoming, the bigger the problem.

Coping mechanisms

Music can unite people and the pandemic has proven this once again. People all over the world held balcony concerts and sang in unison as they were locked inside. Apart from this we have seen plenty of support and artists sharing important messages on their socials. When it was announced that Ultra Festival was cancelled first time in 22 years and would be held digitally, people were greatly disappointed, both before and after. The digital concert was streamed live on SiriusXM a weekend marathon of DJ sets. The day after a Facebook event was made under the name, ‘They can't quarantine all of us’ and taken down soon after.

How does the future of music look?

There might be no live events until summer 2021, or even longer. When we come out of this, it will be different than what we have known before. Festivals, clubs and events may be smaller and more private. Travel will be restricted so things become more ‘local’. It is likely that live streaming becomes the ‘new norm’ and we are seeing more of it everyday. Some musicians are looking for meaning in all of this. DJ Thibalut Machet, a French DJ based in Berlin says he is trying to communicate in a more intimate way. It’s time for music personalities to connect with fans. DJ's need to make their sessions more ‘private’ and exclusive. Nevertheless, we are in an age where many online sources and entertainment are free and easily accessible. Musicians have to start thinking about how to make their live sets an experience, adding value to the digital.

French DJ Thibault Machet

In a recent documentary on Covid’s effects on EDM, ‘Honey Dijon’ says that she “comes from a time when clubbing was cultural”, she feels that live streaming is just “entertainment”. Online, you don’t hear the music as it should be heard, “sonically”. Some, however, are treating it as a means of connecting with their fans in new ways. DJ ‘Eats everything’ shares short clips on Instagram where he asks fans to pick a track list, or theme and then mixes it to stream live. Some DJs like ‘Blondie’ are using Twitch, an online platform for streaming. Fans interact during the stream and they dictate where the stream goes. It resembles a video game where power is given to the audience. This is something we didn’t have before.

"Online, you don’t hear the music as it should be heard, “sonically”.

Beyond live streaming; people are brainstorming ways around Covid. LA creative studio designed a pandemic-proof raving suit, but people don’t believe it will solve the problem. For now, none of the future solutions are physical. Tik Tok will direct music trends and serve as a platform for artists to interact with fans. It allows for involvement of user participation at a large scale. It gives the opportunity for songs to go viral and reach top 50 on Spotify. Collaborations with fashion and tech will advance, as music will look for new outlets for expression. Like the collaboration of Moschino x Sims. VR and AR technologies will merge with the music industry, for more ‘physical’ means of sharing content online. Everything digital will be heightened to achieve a closer sensation of a sonic field. The question for the future is; how will we adapt and solidify a sustainable foundation for music?


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Brands and Innovation         Amsterdam Fashion Institute