New technological developments on one side and challenges of the current pandemics on the other side, force everyone to adapt to be able to survive. That includes the music industry.
Over twenty years ago, the music industry was terrified by the internet and its capabilities to allow spreading and downloading music for free (… does anyone still remember Napster?). As fighting such development and suing some of its loyal customers didn’t help at all, the industry hasn’t have any other choice than to adjust and find new ways how to run the music business.
The result surpassed all expectations and after years of shrinking, the music industry is flourishing away. Music has truly become available like water — as futurists Gerd Leonhard and David Kusek forecasted in their The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution in 2005. Just look at subscriber numbers advertised by streaming services like Spotify, AppleMusic, YouTube, Amazon, Pandora or Deezer.
The part of the music industry dealing with the recorded music has recovered healthily.
On the other hand musicians, who couldn’t make enough income from selling their music recordings, put more emphasis on live concerts. The live music scene and music festivals had been doing pretty well.
Then …. the COVID-19 hit badly.
And everything came to a standstill.
As a result, many artistic activities have moved online, with various levels of success. The truth is, that the live contact between an artist and the audience is almost impossible to replicate in the online or virtual domain.
But until there exist an audience willing to participate and pay for the interaction with their favourite artists, the evolution cannot be stopped. Therefore I have decided to have a look at just three interesting new ideas bringing music in front of an online audience. What do Apple Music TV, Turntable.fm/Turntable.org and Sessions Live have to offer? Let’s find out!
Apple Music TV is a kind of odd thing. It looks like it tries to replicate the concept of the MTV (originally Music Television), which launched forty years ago on August 1, 1981. But Apple doesn’t seem to ‘push’ this channel much. You can find it on your Mac or iOS device, when you open the Apple Music app and click on Browse tab. There you can find it among many other channels.
Apple Music TV is a free 24-hour curated livestream music video channel available in some English speaking countries. It may be attractive for viewers, who are into the current popular music. Or to be more precise, the company’s announcement says that it will include “exclusive new music videos and premiers, special curated music video blocks, and live shows and events as well as chart countdowns and guests.”
The truth is, that there is not much that I could find interesting or appealing music-wise on this channel. Although I have tried a few times to watch and listen to it. Simply – I am not ‘that’ demographics.
Turntable.fm is another ‘reincarnation’ of an older concept, originally introduced ten years ago. It is a collaborative music streaming site, where you can create a virtual room and become a D-Jay. Others can join, represented as various avatars, and listen to your songs selections. There is also an interactive chat, where participants exchange their opinions and enjoy listening together. They can vote you up, or vote you out of the booth, so that someone else can try to play their music selections. There are dozens of rooms offering many flavours of popular music. And there are also many DJ spots available after signing up.
Turntable.org is a similar concept resurrected also by some of the original founders. Its main focus are people listening through their mobile devices.
One advantage of these two apps in comparison with the Apple Music Tv is a possibility to include and play your own music, if you are a producer. As each room specializes on a specific sub-genre, there is a good chance to find like-minded listeners and build your audience and followers.
Obviously, there are many others trying their luck in the social music listening, and maybe even competing with heavy-weights like Spotify or Apple. You can try apps like JQBX, Vertigo Music, EarBuds, and many others.
If previous concepts use various forms of recorded music, the following one is different. Sessions Live combines live music with interactive gaming technology. What is interesting here is, that its founders have clearly learned a thing or two from the adult channels. The kind of engagement and the way in which they bring together performers and the audience, and especially — how they monetize this relationship. This is no surprise, as the online adult entertainment has been driving innovation in the technology for a long time, as confirms this BBC article, or this research paper.
Sessions Live has been launched quite recently by Tim Westergren, former founder of the Pandora Music service (now owned by Sirius XM). Here is how the service is described on their website:
We believe music brings people together. That’s why we’re building a destination for live music that benefits both Artists and fans. By combining live music with interactive gaming technology, fans can interact and connect in real-time with Global Touring Artists. Live music comes alive on Sessions.
There are thousands of music artists on the website already. That includes known names like Soul Asylum, Barenaked Ladies, Hank Williams Jr. , En Vogue, or Why Don’t We, who sell their virtual concerts and tickets to the global online audience through this channel.
But there are also hundreds less known, and even more unknown musicians of various experience and musical abilities, who try their luck on Sessions Live. Participants from the audience can interact among themselves, and with performers, vote for them and even buy tickets and remunerate them for their performance. This is truly a virtual busking, where you can chose from many music genres and performers from every corner of the Earth. And yes, you can even ask for your favourite song. The only condition is, that there is Internet connection available there.
Obviously, with an online gathering spot like this, you can find every possible level and quality of music and musical performance. On one side, this could be a very easy way for A&R managers to find very interesting promising artists and even check how the audience reacts to them and how they react in various situations. Artists can also build their audience here what could be a good starting point for their music careers. On the other side, this is also a showcase of oversized egos, who would be better if they had spent more time rehearsing, before going in front of the audience.
I think that Sessions Live is an interesting concept and will see how it will evolve in the near future. A lot will depend on how will its competition react. Because beside ‘big guys’ like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, or Instagram, there are also others like LiveXLive, or StageIt, who try to perfect their respective concepts and figure out, how to monetize and make profit from the online live music world.
One thing is clear for me though — there is still no such technology, that can replace a person-to-person interaction among musicians. The joy of playing a music instrument and singing yourself is indispensable. And it gets just multiplied when it is experienced with others, whether on a large stage, or in a tiny private backyard. The social aspect of musicking is what brings joy and happiness.
Hopefully, the pandemics will go away and we will soon be able to get back to the normal life and joyful musicking. And the best of this online technology developments can stay with us as additional ways to perform and enjoy music.
Photo: Screengrab from Sessions Live