From the audience’s perspective, it can be easy to think that the music industry doesn’t change a whole lot. Sure, there are shifts from one popular musician to another and the occasional change of primary medium, but apart from that, there’s not too much movement. Those of us who are deeply embedded in the industry, hustling to make a living from something we love, know that reality is quite different. The music business is in an almost constant state of flux, and that’s a huge challenge.
One of the great things today is that many industry gatekeepers have been removed; it is certainly not necessary to have big studio support in order to have a successful career as a musician. Thanks in part to the rise of our digital age, opening creative people to worldwide audiences, and making information about running a business more accessible, we have seen the rise of the musicpreneur, utilizing crowdfunding, designing their own merchandise, and striking out on their own.
This independence can be enhanced by the Internet of Musical Things (IoMusT). Much like the Internet of Things (IoT), it is an ecosystem of connected objects that work together, in this case, to enhance the experiences of both audiences and musicians. We’re going to take a look at how the IoMusT is affecting musicpreneurs today, what are its most interesting uses, and where the challenges lie.
For live musicians, the IoMusT offers some interesting possibilities to enhance performance. Wearables are popular at the moment, many of us have a Fitbit or smartwatch, and musicians have begun contributing ideas to this part of the industry. One of the interesting entries into the market is the Soundbrenner Pulse, which is a wrist-mounted device that sends a haptic feedback rhythm through the player’s skin at a specified tempo — helping all musicians wearing one to keep in time with one another as they play. It can be controlled via an app on a smartphone, controlled by a member of the band, tour management, or even at the engineer’s desk.
But it isn’t just the simple mechanics of performance that the IoMusT is helping. Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming an integral part of this ecosystem, lending machine intelligence to the otherwise passive collection and sharing of information. While it’s useful to have an experienced live engineer on tour, keeping minimal personnel is a reality for many musicians — IoMusT devices such as the Sonibal SmatEQ are bridging the gap. These are devices that plug into mixing boards and listen for changes in sound, using AI to learn about ideal levels, and adjusting them automatically accordingly.
Being a traveling musician often means you’re having to conduct your business from the road. We often talk about the essential items to take with us while traveling — and, let’s face it, music tech is likely to be part of your compulsory entertainment to keep you sane. But there are IoT devices that can help keep your business agile; mobile credit card readers are a useful method to make it easier for fans to buy merchandise, and when connected to an eCommerce app, you can easily keep track of your inventory via your smartphone.
Data and Decision Making
It might sound cold and calculating, but data has become one of our most valuable assets today. Whether an industry executive, or a musician going it alone, understanding how to collect, analyze, and react to data is a vital business skill. It can help you make more informed decisions and identify areas for exploration or even exploitation.
One of the things to understand about the IoMusT is that this ecosystem of connected devices collects, records, and shares a vast amount of data. As a result, it is helping to shape businesses at their core. People ask digital assistants to play specific music, which may also be connected to a streaming account such as Spotify, which in turn might play tracks through a variety of connected devices throughout their home and on their wearables. Immediately, devices are collecting data on what genres are popular among certain demographics, what activities they undertake when listening to specific music, and what devices they favor.
This information can be used to help musicians, entrepreneurs, and industry executives gain an insight into trends — while we all probably agree that creativity comes before money, it can be really useful to know what kinds of hooks grab people, the instruments they connect with, the lyrical subjects they enjoy. It can help musicians make better decisions on brands they could partner with for a greater impact, and even something as simple as the approaches to social media certain demographics appreciate. Data can also be a tool to help the music industry make more meaningful connections with listeners.
It’s all well and good to say that the IoMusT can provide opportunities to those in the music industry. However, it’s just as important to understand the potential risks of utilizing — even relying upon — connected devices as part of your business. The rise of the IoT, in general, has proven to provide new opportunities for cybercriminals, making cyber security more important now than ever. It’s not just the medical and financial industries that have to be wary of ransomware. If hackers gained control of connected instruments and backing tracks, there is the potential for serious and costly disruption to a show until a ransom is paid.
The IMusT is also pretty reliant upon storing and sharing data via the cloud. Yes, this is convenient, but imagine how it could affect your strategy and sales if a cybercriminal were to gain access to new tracks and release them to the public. Some hackers hunt for inadequately secured IoT devices and perform a buffer overflow attack — which is essentially overloading the network as data is being transferred between devices so that they can insert new commands or gain illicit access. It’s important, therefore, to at the very least regularly renew device and network passwords.
Also, while AI could be an incredible business and creative tool, it’s worth remembering that it poses a significant cybersecurity risk. Deep learning tools can be used to alter security protocols in your system, and the fact that we most often use AI as a method to automate our actions, the damage may go undetected for some time. Therefore, if you’re going to engage with AI — and there are distinct positives in doing so — also obtain expert advice on protecting your systems while you use it.
The possibilities offered by new technology can be both exciting and daunting. On one hand, it can provide us with tools to enhance our creativity in both the artistic and business sides of music. On the other, there’s a lot to learn, and we must be prepared for the risks involved. The IoMusT is still in relative infancy, amidst a growing ecosystem of connected devices; but the more we explore, the more we can understand how to use it effectively and safely.