Authored by Ori Winokur, Head of Music at Artlist
Throughout history, musicians and artists have been suspicious of new innovations in media and technology. Upon the invention of the first home vinyl record player, concert musicians went on strike fearing that people wouldn’t buy tickets to live concerts because they were now able to listen at home. Decades later when Napster launched, artists and labels tried to demolish the new technology thinking it would destroy the music business. In reality, this caused a 15 year gap in which a whole generation of music lovers stopped paying for recorded music until the arrival of digital streaming which is, in essence, the exact same innovation Napster had 15 years earlier.
As a judge told the big label representatives in the Napster trial: “The cat has left the bag... you can’t stop progress”. Looking back, indeed it seems that progress never really stops, and artists that choose not to progress with the rest, are left behind. The interesting thing is that one aspect never changes - artists make music and use the available medium to distribute their music to audiences hoping to get heard.
Art is made to be consumed, to touch people’s minds and hearts. The medium is just a facilitator to achieve this goal.
So, why are artists always suspicious of every new medium or innovation?
Well, one thing is the romanticism of the medium. When artists made records in the ‘60s they fantasized about how they would be played on a record player. They aimed for that experience and sound, so when digital CDs came in, that romance was lost.
The other side, of course, is the fear that they will lose the ability to monetize their art, as a new medium changes consumer behavior and sometimes the entire market.
Our current era, however, brings new complexities to the table. With technology now an integral part of our everyday lives, and with progress heading in new and far-out directions, a new layer of concern enters these discussions: moral integrity.
This is something we can clearly see with the current protest against Spotify algorithms, designed to use voice recognition to analyze feelings. Tech innovators see it as a fantastic new tool to help offer great playlists for streaming audiences. Artists, however, see it as a violation of privacy.
Technology is making a giant leap into the human emotional and biological domain. This will certainly create situations of great philosophical conflict. As we know, we cannot stop progress. My only thought is - we can at least try to point it in the right direction. Try to look at the tremendous things innovation can bring; when it comes to medical science, it’s easy to understand where new tech can benefit health.
But how do voice recognition and emotional analysis algorithms benefit the music industry?
Well, they can help connect more people to more music.
Personalization is a new tool that can fix the problem of a music market that is overflowing with content. With over 50 thousand songs released to streaming platforms daily, so much great art gets lost in the masses.
While we must guard the line so that this new tech and enormous amounts of data won’t be abused or sent to the wrong hands, I believe artists have a big role in making sure that new innovations keep progressing forward to help the greater good. Similar to how streaming platforms brought in a new model for music consumption, we can find revolutionary music licensing platforms offering subscription-based licenses for video creators.
Although many artists are suspicious at first glance, once they join these kinds of catalogues, it becomes their best source of income, a new and innovative way to monetize and promote their content, and a means to enjoy full creative freedom and independence.
Beyond what you can see at the forefront of digital platforms, we are constantly busy building various tech tools designed to help independent artists flourish and to enable more content to be made and heard.
Whether it is a digital music factory that facilitates our original productions worldwide, or using revolutionary tools to provide easy payments and clear data to our artist community, we believe in tech for good, and work with that mantra in mind every day.