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Music 4.5 The New Creative Tech: “Making money still remains the key issue”

Music 4.5 The New Creative Tech – held on 30 November 2016 in London – brought together academics, technologists, entrepreneurs and innovators in virtual, augmented and mixed realities and artificial intelligence. Applications, platforms and business models around these technologies and how they are and might be used by artists and the music industry were presented and debated, but the over-arching question remained: where is the money to be made?

Opportunities versus monetization

dsc_0934“Virtual and augmented realities are tipped to become next mass medium,” said Tom Slater, a 3D Audio Technology Expert. However, the technologies and how they are applied have yet to go mainstream in the music industry (and indeed elsewhere). The music industry’s reluctance to embrace technology was mentioned several times throughout the afternoon.

“Technology and music have never been comfortable bedfellows,” said Paul Crick, Music Industry Lead at IBM. “Music is slower to adopt tech than the Amish, which I always feel is a bit unfair to the Amish.”

However, on display during the first half of the seminar were the ways in which these technologies are already being successfully applied and utilized.

A virtual reality platform for music

Steven Hancock showcased MelodyVR, of which he is co-founder. “Two years ago we realized that everyone – Google, Apple, etc – was investing billions in hardware for VR, but no one was creating any content,” he said. “Now we’re launching the world’s first distribution for music VR platform.”

dsc_0986The business model involves MelodyVR producing the content together with the artist and record label without charging but thereby becoming a joint rights-owner. The monetisation of the content follows the iTunes model – users will be able to buy a track from £.69 to £.99. But more than that, the platform will enable accessibility to concerts that might not otherwise be viable for a number of fans. “Geography, pricing, popularity – there are a lot of reasons why not all fans can get to the shows they want,” said Hancock. “We’re providing the opportunity for fans to access live music, sometimes even getting them virtually onstage.”

Leveraging AI for music creation

Dave Hodder, Head of Product Innovation at Focusrite Audio Engineering gave a live demo of Circuit – a hardware and connected device / community exploring AI to gather and understand content – which is currently in development.

“Circuit is a self contained music making device and groove box, which will help creators who are making music,” he explained. Users will be able to create patterns for a track, then use the machine-learning capacities of AI to explore similar and related patterns in other recordings. “Instead of deriving music from your own creations, the AI will look at other artists’ works,” he said. “AI will change the way people make music.”

Binaural audio in art and performance

Artist and Ph.D Tom Slater demonstrated his work with Call & Response (C&R), which provides a venue for the exhibition and performance of sonic artworks. These works are performed in a cuboid with speakers placed throughout the surround to create an authentic listening experience.

An expansion of this concept was illustrated by Iain Tweedale, Head of Online & Learning at BBC Wales, where the UK corporation is exploring varying possibilities for creating dynamic binaural sounds within the VR experience, interactive content at live performances, a 360 immersive audio and video experience of BBC content such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, with the ultimate goal of “creating a digital service that reaches millions of people.”

But, he also asked, “where’s the money?”

Blockchain, monetisation, licensing and data

dsc_0998The second half of the afternoon focused on this very issue, and many themes from past Music 4.5 seminars reappeared, namely blockchain, monetisation, licensing, and data.

“Don’t get excited about a technology that doesn’t solve problems for the real people that use them and create with them,” said Matthew Hawn, Head of Product & Customer Experience at Audio Network. “Otherwise we’re just making toys.”

“The gold is in the data”

Audio Network collaborates with 750 composers to make music for creative companies. Its first action was to make sure its licensing was sound. “It’s important it is to look forward,” he said. “We knew this world was exploding and that the licensing had to make sense.”

Paul Crick went further, suggesting that access to and a method for processing the data was key. “The gold is in the data,” he said. “It’s where the money is. Before you can deal with licensing, how are you going to access the data?”

Mathematician Martin Gould, CEO and Founder of Sonalytic explained how his “next generation audio identification engine” uses AI to identify audio fingerprints within multi-layered mixed tracks, including heavily obfuscated tracks, derivative works, samples and loops.

“What is the limit of a meaningful piece of music? What does this mean for revenue?” he said. “It means that music usage can be tracked at a granular level of detail.”

dsc_1066This kicked off a discussion about copyright, with Matthew Hawn asking: “Is copyright the right vehicle when you are breaking it down to a ten-second piece of music and then splitting and sharing revenues from that?”

With Paul Crick emphasizing that with the new opportunities afforded by the new technologies, “legal minds need to figure out new legal precedents”.

“Existing approaches to copyright could stifle creativity”

While this creates new opportunities for artists to monetize their music, Gould was critical of current rules around copyright.

“Artists can only monetize if industry and legal frameworks evolve to support more timely and detailed rights-distribution systems,” he said. “Existing approaches to copyright could stifle creativity.”

“Life isn’t an algorithm”

Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of Holition, provided much-appreciated perspective on technology as an enabler, not a driver. “Life isn’t an algorithm,” he said. “The real advantage of predictive and artificial intelligence is that it will allow brands to recognize that everyone is an individual.”

“Let’s not let technology get in the way of us being human,” he added.

Our next Music 4.5 will take place in London in February 2017 and will be asking: what the record label of the future might look like? With so many artists self-publishing and self-promoting, what should labels do to remain relevant and cutting edge? What new revenue streams and business models should be considered? And what is the role of promotion when paid-for consumption isn’t the  norm? What if they do nothing? 

We’re also returning to New York with Music 4.5 The Value Gap: Free vs Paid on 29 March 2017. View the agenda and book your tickets here