Predicting The Future Of Music

Futurism is always a pecarious area to venture into, particularly with reference to the music economy. Although pundits may present themselves as having unique insight into how things will develop, Buddha begs to differ: “Whatever you think the future will be, it will always be something different…”

Roll On The Old Times

Andrew Dubber posted his experience of the “Is This It” music conference in Helsinki, providing an amusing and somewhat disturbing insight into the current mindset of major label executives.

Here are some of the ‘genius’ A&R tips that he recorded, ranging from bandwagon-jumping to nespotism:

“As soon as you find that a subgenre brand is trending upwards, you should sign an artist in that subgenre…”

“Sign a band whose name is as insulting as possible in as many languages as possible”.

“Hire the kids of A&R people – they’re the best A&R people.”

“Consult a psychic for your next A&R tips.”

Ignore The Future And It Will Go Away

I don’t think that predicting the future is a de facto exercise in futility, and that is not the point being made by the Buddha quote above. It is an exercise in hubris, however, to present oneself as having any sort of definitive insight into the future.

This point is nicely illustrated by the following anecdote told by Danny Hillis, computer philosopher and designer, who pioneered the concept of parallel computing, and became vice president of R&D at the Walt Disney Company in the 1990’s.

“I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else asked, ‘Where are they all going to go? It’s not like you need a computer in every doorknob!”

Years later, Hillis went back to the same hotel. He noticed that the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors. There was indeed a computer in every doorknob, as well as sensors, and actuators, and other hardware to make the software sing.

Keeping Up With The Future Of Your Music

It’s very important for musicians (or anyone else, for that matter) to be aware of how their environment is changing, and to learn how to adapt to those changes.

For some interesting insights into how musicians’ options have expanded in the digital age, David Byrne’s Survival Guide is well worth a read.


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