How have new technologies impacted on the careers of popular music artists?

How have new technologies impacted on the careers of popular music artists?

As we are now in the ‘Digital Age’, the way that music is produced and consumed is vastly different from even 10 years ago, thanks to the new technology it has brought. The artists and the industry have been forced to change (one, more reluctantly than the other) to confront the vast cultural, political and economic change that this age has brought. I will be looking at how the artist has been affected by these changes.

Producing/Creating Music

It used to be that you had to book time in an expensive studio if you wanted to put anything onto any kind of format, this is no longer the case. Anyone with a computer, can go down to the local music store, buy an interface for £100, return home, download the latest version of Cubase or Logic for ‘free’ along with a couple of plug-ins, and be able to record a decent sounding track. The ‘Digital Age’ has bred the bedroom artist. A space of no boundaries, free creativity and actually in the end, not sounding the same as scratching a blackboard with your nails because ‘the mastering cost extra’. As creating and producing music is now so easily accessible, everyone who believes that they have a slight amount of talent can make a body of work. This is the democratisation of creativity in which there is no reliance on pleasing the gate keepers so that it can be recorded and put to the people. Music now ‘flows like water’, as a certain Mr. Bowie once said it would. But then what is the value of water? And how do you distinguish the good from the bad? This is has been addressed in another part of the ‘Digital Age’.

The Rise of the Blog

The internet has brought about a new form of communication between people. The main format that has affected music and the artist, is the rise of the ‘Blog’. This is where anyone can become a critic and a non reliance on journalists form the old era where only a select few’s opinion held any water. Now anyone can express an opinion and even the most obscure music from the depths of the insane mind, can get a mention and build up a following, even if it would have been considered crap. The problem with this is that the training and the awareness that was previously associated with the occupation of the critic, is no longer needed and expressed coherently, leading to some misinformed opinions. But there is hope for the journalist, through observation, it has got to a point where people have stopped wanting to trail the saturated internet, searching for good music, they look to informed opinions that tell them what is good. The ‘Blog’ I believe will continue as a main source of new music, but it will go back to only a select few being trusted with their opinions and are the taste makers of the next generation. Are people getting bored with the democratisation of the opinion?

Marketing and Promotion

The internet has allowed the artist to market and promote themselves on a worldwide scale at little to no expense. The artist is now able to reach a variety of markets to sell their music that wouldn’t have been possible before without a large budget for advertising on all of the formats. For instance, an interesting example is an artist called Alicia Jane Turner, who recorded a cover version of “Bigger Than Us” by White Lies (See it here), posted it onto YouTube and looking at her demographic, she has a lot of interest and views from Germany. Before the internet, she would not have been able to promote herself on a world-wide scale and reach her possible audience in Germany.

Worth of Music

A possible downside to the internet, is that now so much music is available, it is no longer considered a valuable asset. There are many contributing factors to this, the main one I feel is the downloading of illegal content for free. What value does something have when you can get it for free? It used to be (before my time) that you would have to pay around £15-£20 for a record, and you would love and cherish it, as it was considered precious, it had worth which can cynically be related to the monetary value. Therefore, as it is well advertised, the music recording industry is on a downward spiral after not keeping up with technological advances, which seems to be a recognisable personality flaw of the industry as a whole (Appetite for Self Destruction by Steve Knopper). It has a nostalgic mentality that sees it get comfortable with a certain format and not want to change, even though it is out of their control. It has come close to death a few times, but I imagine the major labels will not be able to sustain the lack of money in recorded music and become a distinct breed, back to the small independents that have been able to move with the times. The 360 deal is a good example of this advancement. I think that recorded music is no longer the greatest way of making money from a career for an artist, and live revenue (as you can’t download the experience) is the way forward. Recorded music, should be used as a promotional tool, which has been seen already,.

Conclusion

Overall, new technologies have affected the careers of artists as it is untouched land, and requires them to be more creative than ever, to be distinctive and form a source of revenue from a music career.

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