Updated: Jun 21
With legacy artists like King George, Reba, and others gaining traction on terrestrial radio stations, and streams, we might think country music is pivoting towards more traditional amalgamations. Though, I am hopeful, we may also want to take into consideration the recent maneuverings in the industry for a sneak peak at what's in store in the future, and its potential effects on how music is made, and heard..
A credible conversation about the future of music is challenging to have without acknowledging the inroads information systems have made in almost every aspect of music. Most recently, the transition from CDs-to-digital downloads-to-streams have all but taken over how we listen to music. Fact: streaming accounts for over 70% of all music revenues! Cloud based listening platforms like Spotify, and Apple Music have revolutionized the way we listen to music, but the way we make music has also been impacted. And some would say even more so. But first, let's take a look at how this degradation, I mean evolution actually got started.
Ferranti Mark 1 computer
Believe it or not, the first music recorded on a computer dates back to 1951! It was God Save The Queen by Baa Baa Black Sheep, and played on the Ferranti Mark shown below..
Fast forward, we can spend a considerable amount of time going over the Midi craze, programmed drums, sound loops, beats, and vocal tuners, all created, and leveraged to make music recording more cost effective, and efficient arguably, but let's not.
Moving forward, it looks like artificial intelligence is the next disruptive technology in music. One particular piece of software The Open AI Music Generator has already done the impossible-compose music.
The way it works, you give the AI a data set (songs), it learns the patterns of the notes, chord progression, and so forth. The AI, in turn, creates a song based on what it learned (Machine Learning). AI music innovations have been in jazz, rock, and classical music for some time now. However, a couple of months ago, the folks at Recursive Neural Networks decided to give country music a whirl.
The result was a comedic spin on all the euphemisms, idioms, and cliche's beat to death in our beloved genre with the song "You Can't Take My Door". It's purposely funny, Neural Networks declared on their Kickstarter page "For now all we ask is that you spread the good news about the impending musical apocalypse.." They clearly have a great sense of humor, and by the way, the project received 117% funding. Though, this was done tongue in cheek, the record labels have taken notice.
As recently as March 2019, Warner Bros signed an algorithm to a record deal. And other labels have followed suit. Additionally, the Digital Audio Workstation has grown into a 3.1Bn global industry with the digitization of instruments experiencing steady growth due to its cost effectiveness, scale, and precision. Also, electric guitar sales have been taking a nose dive since 2008. To further exacerbate the dichotomous state of the music business, the major labels have not been able to rebound since Napster. And though streaming services were once thought to be the Music Business Knight in Shining Armor, with payouts of cents on the dollar, it's doubtful that is the case. Not to mention the on-going battle on paying the increased royalty rate to songwriters that was just passed.
Clearly, the labels are looking to get more bang for their buck, and that is why, we will continue to hear technology leveraged in all genres including country music. For our part, country music saw an increase of 23% in sales over 2017's numbers, and over 50.88 billion streams! Do you remember, I stated the electric guitar has steadily declined in sales? Not the case with acoustic guitar sales which has grown by14.6% to 1.51 million units sold in a 10 year span. However, we only have 8.7% of the market share, where Hip Hop has over 21%. Country Music is almost a niche!
It starts to make sense why so many country artists have collaborated with artists in other genres to boost sales, and visibility. The future of country music lies squarely on the ears, and shoulders of the fans. Authentic expressions of love, loss, and Jesus abound. If, you have any doubt listen to powersevenradio.com or my show on Tuesdays at 7:00 PM (EST). I've been impressed by debut artists like Donice Morace, and Lauren Morrow that clearly planted their musical seeds in solid country soil. I'm also eagerly anticipating releases from Chris Knight and Dave Seeger both hardcore troubadours.
The fans have the final say, and as much as we like to poke fun at the "interesting" morphs happening in country music, the concert goers are showing up for Luke Bryan, and Garth Brooks.
Forbes ranked both as the top earners in the genre. Money talks, and the labels, radio, and the media will take notice, if the fans support their favorite artists by buying their music, sharing YouTube videos of the artist across social media, and attending their shows.
I have to admit with school, my two teens, work, and the radio show, I barely have time to see every single band that comes through Florida. But I've made it a point to go see my favorite artists, buy all of their music, and share my love for them across mediated channels. It's one of the reasons why Stone Cold Country exists.. I'm hoping that in some small way, I am helping to bring attention to artists that are creating/performing quality music, and providing some historical information on how it all got started. It's a small seed that I'm planting in an already growing global garden.
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