Music has always been intrinsically linked to the proliferation of technology, especially within the past sixty or so years: the amplifier led to rock and roll, the synthesizer led to hip-hop, and mixing software led to the rise of EDM. As the popularity of each of these genres during their respective peak years would indicate, developments in sound, recording, and other relevant technologies have a profound impact on the direction that music takes in a society. One might argue that the effects of a particular technology’s impact, and the type of music it makes possible, should be considered in an effort to determine whether that impact is ultimately for the best. Towards that end, new innovations in music technology are making it easier for artists to produce their music at faster rates. The music itself does not lend itself to live performances – it is synthesized and perfected on the computer and does not necessarily require a physical performance by the artist. Nevertheless, there are numerous festivals every year that attract thousands upon thousands of fans. The reason for this is that concerts and performances have become more of a shared experience between the people of the audience and the artists themselves, rather than the dynamic of yesteryear, which involved a more passive audience who would idly view, and listen to, the performance on stage. Artists and promoters of modern music have taken advantage of recently developed technologies in order to create and promote their music to large audiences—including them in the performance like never before.
Video streaming technology has been used for sporting events, political speeches, and other ceremonies for quite some time now. However, until very recently, nobody had ever thought to use that technology for concerts. People were afraid that streaming concerts would cannibalize their ticket sales since people could just tune in from home instead of spending, at times, hundreds of dollars to see them live. In fact, just the opposite has happened. “FOMO — or “fear of missing out” — is leading millions around the world to tune into a concert the same way they would watch a sporting event.” When millions tune into live concerts and events, it serves as an advertisement for future events—which greatly increases the sales of tickets. However, since people do not need to physically go to concerts anymore in order to view and listen to a live performance, concerts are becoming less about the performance itself and more about the shared experience. People want to share that experience with fellow genre fans rather than their television, which in effect suggests that modern concerts offer an opportunity for fans to establish a vast network of like-minded peers. EDM artists may take a particular liking to this model of performing and promoting their music since the genre is based on the relative anonymity of the artist—they choose to focus on the music experience. As one of the early pioneers of the genre, Dmitri Hegemann said, “We knew that the concept of the artist who drew all the attention from the audience was dead. Techno was all about anonymity. The artist became part of the public.” When patrons come to these concerts and festivals, they do not come solely to listen to the music – they come for the social experience that it entails.
To help enhance this social experience, new technologies called “wearables” have recently been making their way onto the music scene. In the future, we can expect to see bracelets or other articles of clothing that allow us to connect to others at the same concert. EDM is currently popular because its fans typically love to share their experience with their friends. Eventbrite says “EDM fans talk 30 percent more about concerts compared to other music fans, indicating their desire to share about the live experience.” To capitalize on this behavior, a company called Cantora is releasing a wireless, faceless bracelet called “Nada” in 2015, which will make the use of social media at said music festivals and concerts easier. Similar technologies are slated to come out in the next few years as well, including gloves that would be able to control music and lighting, which are being researched and developed right now, as well as other devices to help improve the sensory experience of listening to music. Music has always been a very sensory experience, but new technologies are taking that to a whole other level.
The world of music is an ever-changing body—one which reflects its society, people, and culture through its beautiful art form. The technologies of any given historical era have always had a large impact on both the genres of music and the style of musical performance; the present era is no exception. With the focus of live performances shifting towards the social interaction of patrons, we can expect emergent technologies to revolutionize the music world. There are new devices to help enhance our sensory experiences and new tools to help us connect with all our fellow fans, and even our favorite artists, from all over the world. But we should also anticipate some of the other effects these new technologies might have on live music. New products that enhance our senses will, of course, cater to sensory pleasure and perhaps even sensory overload—possibly at the expense of deeper, more lasting emotional connections. Technologies that allow for us to connect with each other socially at live performances might lead to less interaction between the performer and fans. However, as Dmitri Hegemann said, that dynamic is “dead”. Music and performances have undergone numerous shifts and stylistic changes throughout history, and no major shift has ever been stopped on account of whether or not its effects would ultimately be “ideal”. We are witnessing the next step in music’s evolution; strap on your “Nada” bracelet and enjoy the ride.