A Future Where Everyone Is A Music Maker – How Apps Will Change Cultural Creation [INTERVIEW]
Recently, I spoke with Suzanne Lainson, who is a marketing strategist who has worked with sports, tech, and music companies, and currently writes about the future of the music industry for the Brands Pus Music blog. In this interview, she talks about the future of music apps and how they'll shape music culture.
Hypebot: What do you believe the cultural implications are for a future where everyone is a music maker?
Suzanne Lainson: Overall, it's good for society. It gets more people involved. My ex-husband was a musician (part-time his whole live and full time for several years). He was always jamming with someone. In addition to his bar gigs, he also had people over to our house every week to play music for fun.
Some could actually play and others were just handed a wash bucket bass, a jug, or a shaker so they could join in. It was the same no matter where we lived: Nebraska, Ohio, Wyoming, Colorado. I saw how music could become a participatory social event incorporating all skill levels.
These days I also see how digital tools are enhancing creativity in a variety of fields. With music, for example, digital tools have (1) allowed people with talent and training to do more by themselves, and (2) have allowed those who can't stay in tune or play an instrument to make hit records.
I think the hardware and software will continue to advance so that anyone will be able to press a few buttons and create a song good enough to share with friends and family.
Technology will either fill in the gaps to cover up shortcomings or will act as a guide to show the untrained, unskilled, and untalented how to make listenable music.
But with that, as more people think of themselves as music creators, it will be harder for "professional" musicians to claim they have unique skills. (For example, look how reality TV has transformed the concept of celebrity. Now everyone assumes, and often correctly so, that if they can just get on TV, they will become famous, at least for a little while.)
Of course, there will always be a few musical geniuses, but just as karaoke knocked out live music in some bars, homemade music will supplant some "professionally-made" music. (Actually it already has, which is why we've had waves of garage and indie bands.) As this trend continues, we'll be surrounded by lots of people doing some music, but very few people with enough paying fans to make a living at music. This is okay, though. If everyone can make music, it is a better world.
Hypebot: The last decade in the music industry focused on consumption; will the next focus on production?
Suzanne Lainson:Yes, though I don't think most people will think in those terms. The direct-to-fan concept is based on the idea that there will be paying music consumers. But that suggests fans are waiting to buy something from a music creator. In contrast, if we give everyone the tools to feel creative, I think that is where they will go. Making your own music is more participatory and more fulfilling than simply listening to someone else making music.
Hypebot: Is the sharing of a musical production – as well as the context – what makes a song meaningful?
Suzanne Lainson: Sharing is important. Listening used to be more social. Getting into a car with your friends and turning on the radio and listening to a song together created far more memories than listening to it by yourself through headphones.
Here's another form of sharing: Some of my most successful musician friends grew up directing praise-and-worship programs at churches. They learned how to write music teens could relate to and then to find ways to get those teens to participate in the services.
And yet another form of sharing: What creates bonds among musicians is writing, playing, and performing together. It's like a group orgasm for them.
Are there new forms of sharing on the horizon? Well, there are YouTube videos where clips from individual performances are linked to make it look like the musicians have performed together. While these musicians may get some satisfaction in seeing the final product, it's usually not a true collaboration. A higher level of sharing comes from websites that allow musicians to remotely work on music together.
But I don't see these sites really taking off yet. Maybe what we'll need is to go back to a form of jam session, where people play together in person. But there's no reason why the jam sessions can't be done with iPhones and iPads rather than voices or musical instruments. For that matter, these impromptu music sessions could even randomly happen wherever people are collecting. I'd like to see music making expand to public places like parks. It would be cool to have installations that anyone, from little kids to grandparents, could play to make music together.
Hypebot: Do music production apps enable a fan to become a more active participant in their cultural lives?
Suzanne Lainson: Well, by breaking down barriers of entry, it encourages people to at least dabble in music. And I think that has to be rewarding. Look at what Xtranormal has done for homemade animated movies. With this technology, you don't have to know how to draw or animate in order to create a movie that can go viral on YouTube. The same will happen with music.