Business Unusual

The best way to listen to music is to hire it

Once upon a time if you wanted to listen to music, you had to make it yourself or attend a live performance.

Adding electricity to music transformed it, not only as more could hear the performance, but radio allowed it to reach more people than ever.

Buying your own copy of if have included LP, seven singles, 8 track tapes, cassettes, CDs and now mp3s.

Music piracy became an issue with the arrival of magnetic tape with cassettes setting a new peak in personal copies lovingly called "mix tapes". These were created by making copies of existing cassettes or recording it from the radio.

CDs ended that until computers developed the ability to burn a new CD.

The internet set a new peak in piracy with early services like Napster allowing you copy someone else’s digital mp3 track and send it over the internet to anywhere.

The music industry initially looking forward to the huge reach of the new medium soon became very protective as they vainly tried to stem the losses of sales to illegal copying.

But the sales had an unexpected positive effect. So many more people were listening to music that whenever a band performed live, the concerts were likely to attract sell-out crowds.

Even international tours would see millions of fans all round the world willing to pay. Artists' incomes are now skewed to what is made on tour rather than from sales or royalties.

Royalties came about as radio broadcasters would pay various rates for using the music. Collection agencies would then look to divide up the money to the copyright holders and, where applicable, performers.

This would return as a popular model to counter surging piracy.

The record labels sought tougher laws for those who illegally copied and distributed music while also looking to find a way to make it harder to copy. Data and the internet are made to be replicated and distributed so a new option was sought.

Streaming options grew out of radio stations broadcasting their programs online. It was not a major leap to create a library of music and give fans access to stream as they wished for a subscription or in exchange for having ads included in the stream.

Of the many pioneers, the most established now are Spotify, Apple Music, Google, Amazon and Tidal.

Most offer as monthly subscription for access to huge music libraries of over 20 million tracks. Despite the variety the demand is still for the hitmakers' latest tunes and there is still issues about who have negotiated access to what. The principal issue is the share of the revenue that the artists receive. Tidal was created to specifically benefit artists.

There appears to be some stability at the moment with reliable, high quality and relatively affordable access having managed the rampant piracy of the past and shift by artists to use sales for promotion and tours for profit. Spotify reports that piracy has fallen in most of the regions they operate and it is fair to assume the same is true for other areas.

While these platforms have made legal access easier - and streaming certainly has reduced the need for pirating music - it has not solved the actual problem: how to fairly compensate artists for their work. YouTube’s most watched videos are songs - including the most watched video, Psy’s Gangnam Style which has 2.8-billion plays. There is little need to pirate music when it is freely available, although the criticism of YouTube is that it too pays too little to the artists.

Musicians have reason to complain, although advances in technology have made becoming a musician much easier. Get a PC, watch videos to learn how to mix and edit, you don’t even need to know how to play an instrument to begin creating music. If your voice is not great, there is something that could fix even the most mediocre voice.

This has lead to more musicians publishing music than at anytime in our history, but there is a new competitor - neural networks. Currently AI music is meant to enhance the creativity of artists and to help generate royalty free music to make your home video’s more impressive, but it will not take too long before a robot composition would be as good as 80% of the best musicians.

Using the Beatles as inspiration, Flow machines and Sony used machine learning to create something that sounds like the Beatles but is not the Beatles. An artist added the arrangement and lyrics and created a credible AI generated song part of an album that will be released later this year.

It is not just music that can be generated, the company fed Bob Dylan’s lyrics into the machine and had it generate lyrics too. By having a machine generate hundreds of options using many different styles the skill becomes finding the one that stands out. That much is true for any music, but as the styles blend it may become difficult to notice the difference. Ed Sheeran is super successful but has had two challenges to say his music is copied from earlier work.

A parody band demonstrate how many pop songs are based on similar arrangements and chords and for a final illustration of how we really do have trending music themes, note how many songs you know that use the millennial whoop.

Even sound effects, once needing someone to imagine what a laser blaster would sound like when fired, then find a real world source of a sound that would be credible, can be recreated by a machine with a few suggestions. (The Star Wars laser blaster sound is a tensioned telephone pole cable being struck.)

Humanity has been reusing music though for as long as we have been making it. CBC’s excellent history of the Dies Irae illustrates this.

What does the future hold?

Almost everything that can be traded might benefit from the blockchain. The option to track and trigger payments based on use is something the blockchain does well and may well allow each artist to get exactly the share for every play irrespective of where or on what it was played.

No need for collection agents or music labels managing artists funds, that is the theory though and as the music industry has proven in the past, it is not a fan of change. Blockchain is still proving itself and there is a lot to negotiate before it can be implemented, but it does suggest that for all the disruption technology can introduce, it can also supply the new long term solutions.

702 welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the 702 community a safe and welcoming space for all.

702 reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

702 is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Update: Amazon gets wider, Uber gets a flat and Bitcoin is losing currency

Update: Amazon gets wider, Uber gets a flat and Bitcoin is losing currency

A mid-year update on the companies we have profiled on Business Unusual.

Minecraft, a game that could one day get your child a job

Minecraft, a game that could one day get your child a job

There is a lot of great educational software, but these games are not only good for children.

Dynamic pricing - a buzzword that may see you pay more

Dynamic pricing - a buzzword that may see you pay more

Your shopping habits may reduce your chances of getting the best deals.

Real radical economic transformation

Real radical economic transformation

Could the overused and undefined phrase hold real meaning for South Africa and the rest of the continent?

Two high tech weapons, one guaranteed to kill and one guaranteed it won't

Two high tech weapons, one guaranteed to kill and one guaranteed it won't

Technology promises to make everything better, but can it reduce accidental firing and ensure ethical kills?

The tools that were supposed to make life easier could be putting us at risk

The tools that were supposed to make life easier could be putting us at risk

A phone, a PC, a TV, a car - odds are you have one and odds are you have no idea how they work.

Popular articles
Home Affairs to follow up on special dispensation permit for Zimbabweans in SA

Home Affairs to follow up on special dispensation permit for Zimbabweans in SA

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says her department will respond to all Zimbabweans under special dispensation.

So what exactly is radical economic transformation?

So what exactly is radical economic transformation?

Wits associate professor of economics Christopher Malikane speaks to Azania Mosaka about the term that is being bandied about.

Meet self-made millionaire (net worth – R400m!) property mogul Sisa Ngebulana

Meet self-made millionaire (net worth – R400m!) property mogul Sisa Ngebulana

How did Ngebulana build his empire? The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviewed him for his weekly “ShapeShifter” feature.

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

"Recognise that it’s not the end, it’s the beginning." Expert advise for school-leavers who want to improve their results.

'The university degree is dead'

'The university degree is dead'

Flux Trends founder Dion Chang gives five reasons why he believes getting a degree is past its sell by date.

5 advantages of leasing instead of owning a car (lower monthly payments!)

5 advantages of leasing instead of owning a car (lower monthly payments!)

Want (or need) a new car? Dale Scorer (a wealth manager at AlphaWealth) reckons you should consider leasing.

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

WIN R2000! But only if you can prove you're a whiz of the MTN Biz Quiz by answering the following three questions...

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Is social trend Blesserfinder, where girls are allegedly matching up with rich 'benefactors' in exchange for sex, a real thing?