Tag Archives: music

Artificial Art – A Follow-Up

In the blog post “Artificial art (Artificial Intelligence)” major concerns in regards to AI, specifically with art and entertainment were presented: As Artificial Intelligence advances, what will happen to our philosophies on what it means to be human? How will we react when the uniqueness attributed to being human is tested? Will this concern be fulfilled, or are we just over worrying? I think the concern will be fulfilled: in many ways, I think it’s already being fulfilled. It’s subtle, but that’s how disruption always begins. When the question related to humanity becomes more potent, I think there will be two main categories of reaction:

1) We will submit.

My gut tells me that there will be some people who will accept the idea that we are not the center of the universe, and will be so overwhelmingly humbled by it that they will submit completely. These people will either fall into complete despair or absolute joy. Here’s what I mean: Some people will take this idea, say to themselves, “We are not special… we are no different than robots” and stop there. This is a very dark place to be in; these are the people who will feel hopeless. Who can blame them? This is a soul-crushing realization! Of course, assuming there is a soul. With the advancement of AI, I think the validity of the soul will be put into question. If there is no soul, at that point, we are just bodies, right? Chemistry and biology all formed into one blob left to sit and think about how we were wrong about how “special” we are.  I think this mentality is normal when something universally accepted, even if it’s not outwardly spoken, gets tested and seemingly fails.  German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote on topics very similar to this.  He made the observation that “God is dead,” and that “we have killed him.”  This quote was referring to Nietzsche’s observation that people weren’t believing in God like they used to anymore.  This meant that something that acted a huge foundation in their thinking (religion) was gone, and the philosopher knew that something had to replace it or else people would fall into despair.  I think our views on the “irreplaceability” of humanity might fall into a very similar situation as did religion at the time.

Nietzsche’s solution to the problem mentioned above was to believe in the ‘overman‘ – a being above humans that could be achieved through constantly overcoming one’s self.  This is partially what sparked the common self-help movement, and its influence is very present today.  Like I’ve been mentioning before; we hold ourselves in a very high regard.  However, when/if AI knocks us off of our high horse, I think there might be a group of people who will come to the same conclusion as the first group mentioned above, but look to something else for hope. These people, I think, will look towards the very thing Nietzsche said was dead. They will say, “Since ‘me’ isn’t all that special, it’s not about me anymore, it’s about ____.” You can fill in the blank with whatever you want, but I think it will be something religious/spiritual.

2) We will fight

I also believe there will be people who will refuse to submit to the idea that humans aren’t special. They will continue to try and accomplish the overman! I mean, come on… we’re humans! Look at all we’ve done! These people will say, “I will NOT let some robot make a bigger impact on the world than me.” It’s a very narcissistic viewpoint, but my intuition tells me many people will feel this way. These people won’t be at peace or despair; they will be in a constant state of work and improvement. They will constantly be overcoming themselves while trying to keep up with the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence. A positive element of this mindset is that the human will stays alive. On the other side of the coin, there’s the reality that this goal, to prove ourselves worthy, never ends.

Melomics Music Composition

When considering art, one must at some point or another question it’s origin and what makes it so special.  Some people believe art comes from something beyond our comprehension; a higher power of some sort.  Others believe that art at its core is a very human thing.  No matter what you believe, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to disrupt your current philosophy and force you to reflect on what it all means.

In 2014, Melomics released 0music – an album composed by an artificial intelligence named Melomics109 without any human intervention whatsoever.  You can watch and listen to one of the songs from the album here.  Now, the music isn’t anything special; it’s no Mozart or Beatles.  However, it’s lack musical greatness doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the step taken.  As we’ve all learned from studying disruption innovation, most disruptive innovations start out unimpressive; that’s why most people don’t pay attention until it’s too late.  As a musician who has studied disruptive innovation, this scares me.  I’m scared of the potential that an AI can reach not just musically, but across every genre of art.  There are even instances where AIs are writing film scripts.  Again, they’re terrible, but that’s not the point.  The point is that it’s a step and a giant one.

There are multiple reasons why this scares me.  I’m scared of an obstacle that I think humanity will face and has faced repeatedly in history.  It’s the same obstacle we faced when we learned that the sun did not revolve around the earth.  When AI achieves a level of artistic creativity that leaves us in awe, I think we will all question how special humans really are.  As of right now, art is very much a reflection of our experiences, and often times an extension of who we are.  When we like a song, we feel connected to the artist – it’s all very grounded in relationships.  How will that change when something that isn’t human does the creating?  What is there to connect with?  I’m also scared because humans are very creative.  We love it! If we didn’t, then there wouldn’t constantly be new innovations, music, movies, etc.  What are we going to do when we don’t have to create anymore because we have machines doing it for us? How will we adapt?  Lastly, to refer back to the question from the beginning of this post: “Who do we owe this tree to?”  I think the evolution of AI will make answering this question even more complicated. 

The Fight Against Piracy

According to Universal Music’s Olivier Robert-Murphy, brands can help fight music piracy. He explains how now brands see musicians as more than performers and people that are creative and whom they can form broader partnerships with.

Some examples of these were Will.i.am with Intel and Lady Gaga with Polaroid. Intel hired Will.i.am as Creative Director. He helped Intel develop new technologies, music and in technology advocacy. The main goal was to improve the optimal sound experience the way that the artists intended it to be heard by their customers when playing through headphones or speakers. Lady Gaga was named Creative Director for a special line of Polaroid Imaging products. Polaroid was interested in her due to her fashion forward aesthetic and close connection to her fans. They worked on merging the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film along with the digital era.

will                                                  lady


Robert-Murphy said that now brands form partnerships with these musicians and they are able to give customers the same experience as free, but even better. The more people that like this option the more people that they can recruit to subscribe as well. This will help customers realize it is more than just the content of the song and it is more about the whole experience, including the technology and brands and branding are helping musicians and helping spread awareness.



Willi.am with Intel:


Lady Gaga with Polaroid:


A SWOT Analysis of the Music Industry

(My first post can be found here.)

While some parts of the Music Industry are caught in a downward spiral, streaming services along with the new Direct to Fan platform have done well in adapting to the disruptive technologies in our society today.  So where does the Music Industry stand as a whole? In order to answer this question we must do what all businesses do when they need to see where they stand, and that is we conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats,) Analysis for the Music Industry.



Streaming music sales in the US beat CDs for the first time

Adele Is Said to Reject Streaming for ‘25’

Apple to end Beats Music on November 30

That’s Business, Man: Why Jay Z’s Tidal Is a Complete Disaster

Recording Studios Face Uncertain Future

“Free and Easy” Disruption Dismantles Music

When you look at the sudden free fall of the music industry due to disruptive technologies, you can’t help but empathize with an industry that was completely blindsided and not equipped by any means to handle such a sudden alteratiaccon in the way music is made, bought, and distributed.  The question we find ourselves asking is, “What drove this change in the industry?” Music torrent sites like Napster, streaming services such as Spotify, and music production applications like GarageBand are all examples of these disruptive technologies, but I would describe them as the effect of disruption and not necessarily the cause of it.  I think the main ingredient of the music industries spiraling downfall is the consumer. Like all disruptive technologies, the music industries disruption is based on the fundamental question “How can we make the consumer’s life easier?”

“Free” and “easy” are the words driving the changes in the music industry.  Why pay for music when I can get it for free? Why drive to a store and purchase my favorite artist’s album when I can do that with just a few clicks of the mouse? It was these concepts that anyone could get music for free through file sharing that drove Napster to such prominence that wounded record sales to such an extent that they never fully recovered. Napster of course would not have been able to thrive without the internet and file sharing capabilities that were becoming a big presence in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Not only did Napster give society the chance to obtain artists’ albums for free, but also it popularized the idea of downloading music on your computer without the hassle of going to the store and purchasing music.  It’s no coincidence that Apple’s iTunes really took off after Napster disbanded in 2002.  Society became enamored with the ease through which you could purchase a song and add it to your MP3 player with just a few simple clicks of a mouse.  With Napster no longer an option to illegally obtain music for free, other peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Limewire and BitTorrent began to emerge, along with Youtube to MP3 websites after 2005, to satisfy the consumer’s need to not have to pay for music.

As technology increased its capabilities, so did the ease through which music could be created, distributed, and bought.  Why pay $1.29 per song on iTunes when you can pay a monthly fee on Spotify or to stream music on Pandora radio?  Nowadays the area of the music industry that is feeling the powerful influence of disruptive technologies are recording studios.  Popular Recording studios such as this one in Soho in Manhattan may soon go by the wayside with the lack of use by artists. But this begs the question, “why pay incredibly high rates to use a recording studio when GarageBand and other recording services are available right on your own computer?”  It is very likely that we could soon see more recording studios and even record labels become a thing of the past. http://www.fastcompany.com/3032642/why-the-music-industrys-next-big-disruption-is-in-the-recording-studio

So what is to come for the music industry? What new products are going to make life easier for consumers to have access to their favorite artists? A new platform of music streaming called Direct-to-Fan has made it possible for independent artists to bypass record labels and sell their music or merchandise directly to their fans through websites such as Musicglue.com  or Nimbit.com.  The logic here is, if you’re an artist, why give record labels and music/merchandise distributors a significant cut of your revenues, when it would be much cheaper to use one of the aforementioned websites?  Another new product consumers are beginning to use is Periscope.  Periscope is a live streaming app that allows the user to view live videos that other users are uploading and the user can upload their own live stream.  Periscope has come under fire as some users are using the service to stream live concerts or sporting events, which violates broadcasting copyright law.  Once again the consumer is finding new ways to avoid paying expensive ticket prices for events that they can watch for free from the comfort of their own home.

The question the music industry is asking itself, was there a way its collapse could have been prevented? Is there anything that can be done to stop this downward spiral?  According to this article there is still something that can be done to prevent further collapse but this Forbes article does a great job explaining why the music industry is “beyond all recognition” thanks to disruption. Finally this video also gives a brief description about the causes of disruption in the music industry.




Piracy: Negative or Positive?

Most people understand that piracy is something that harms the music industry. When something has a copyright and you download it, leeching, from another source for free, you are pirating and this is illegal. Seeding, or sharing this illegally received content is also a violation of a copyright. The RIAA acknowledge that piracy is an ongoing problem and that it has caused revenues to the music industry to drop, due to the rapid increase in technology since around 2000.

The chart from MusicBuinessWorldwide.com shows the decrease of the global recorded music income from 1999-2014.

One of the ways that the industry has tried to make up for the $12 billion loss is to due the individuals that they can find that are illegally obtaining and distributing music. The second way is to lay off workers that the industry to stay on top of their financial standing. So far there have been layoffs that have led to around 71,000 people without jobs.

The increasing cost of music is a factor in why people have started to illegally download music. Although the availability of sharing websites have contributed to a large part of why people have chosen to pirate music.

The difference between sharing that is legal and sharing that is illegal is if what you are sharing has a copyright. Most problems occur because some people that are downloading and sharing these filed don’t recognize when something is copyrighted or not. A good way to know is if it could be purchased somewhere else. There are many websites that give useful information for people that have questions pertaining to illegal vs. legal sharing as well as copyright information. One good example is computerhope.com.

On the other hand, there are some people that believe that piracy is not always a bad thing.

Two faculty members from Foster School of Business that had done research and come up with some interesting results. They created an economic model, from an in depth study of software, game, and entertainment producers and this exposed information that led them to believe that piracy has some sort of positive effect as well. Lahiri, one of the faculty members, says that it is because piracy injects competition into the market and this is good for customers. This could lead to better products at lower prices. They have also discovered that the world’s most substantial producers of digital goods has increased their innovation instead of it disappearing. Companies are investing in the quality of their work to offset piracy. They acknowledge that piracy is not a good thing and they do not encourage it but they believe that consumers and society actually benefit when there is a small amount of piracy.

Although this is not the most common way to look at it this is the first of ideas that piracy may not be all bad. In the end, pirates take away from a firm’s revenue and make them compete with their own content.

Is piracy all bad or does it create healthy competition?

Apple Had a Great Year

On their fourth quarter earnings call yesterday afternoon, Apple showed that they are still dominant when it comes to technology and music in 2015. Apple has been a leader and innovator in music and technology for years by creating new products, perfecting others, and even joining new markets (streaming). This year, though, has been a record setting year for the company.

According to Billboard.com, revenue was reported at $51.5 billion and net profit was $11.1 billion. This fiscal year for Apple saw revenue growth by 28 percent to 234 billion. Annual net income increased by 35.1 percent to $53.4 billion. Although Apple is not the largest company in the world, the numbers show that they are a powerful entity and are only growing as time goes on. Fortune named the company number 1 on their “Top 10 Most Profitable Companies of the Fortune 50” list this past June.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also briefly talked about Apple Music during the call. He spoke about Apple Music and the number of subscribers using the service, now at 15 million individual and family accounts. In addition to this, there are 6.5 million paying customers. This is about a third of the number who pay for the market leader in streaming, Spotify.

One fact that was not surprising, but definitely worrisome, was that the iPhone accounted for 63% share of revenue. This is obviously a large portion of the company’s revenue. As previously mentioned, Apple does a great job at innovating and adapting to a changing environment. Just five months ago, Apple removed the iPod off their homepage menu bar, a product that sat on the bar for 13 years. iPod sales have been declining for years, and Apple adapted by removing the product from the homepage and replacing it with a Music button. How will Apple adapt to their iPhone taking 63% share?

What will Apple do going forward? How will they adapt? A classic line is, “Once you’re at the top, there is nowhere to go but down.” We’ll see what happens.


Pandora and Music Labels Finally Agree?

Since its conception in January, 2000, music labels and Spotify have been at odds. Even last week, Pandora announced it would pay $90 million to settle a lawsuit over royalties for artists who recorded music before 1972. Because of a legal loophole, Pandora was able to play songs on the internet radio services without paying royalties to artists. While Pandora has been at odds with labels, they agree with labels about one thing.

They hate Spotify.

Spotify and other streaming services of its kind have been growing, effecting the music industry in different ways every year. According to Nielsen’s 2014 Report, only 257 million albums, CD or digital, were sold. This was an 11 percent drop from 289 million the previous year. Streaming, however, has 78.6 billion audio streams with 85.3 billion video views. This is an exponential increase from the previous year. The numbers clearly show that consumers are leaning more towards streaming their music, instead of buying digital tracks or albums.

While labels and artists hated Pandora for royalties, they all agree that Spotify’s music service gives consumers too many options. While Pandora allows its listeners to listen to virtually any song, these songs are picked by the service. In addition to this, Pandora breaks up these songs with advertisements. On the other hand, Spotify let listeners listen to ANYTHING they want for AS LONG as they want. Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews said during Thursday’s earnings call, “I think one of the challenges for the industry, I think, and for Spotify is how many of those teens are actually paying for it? And an on-demand model is meant to be paid for and subscribed to.”

McAndrews brings up a point. According to Spotify, there are sixty million overall active users of the service, with fifteen million paying users. Spotify offers a “freemium” option that has advertisements, but users are still allowed to listen to anything they want anytime. This freedom is hurting Pandora, and bringing up not only licensing issues, but questions about streaming in the future. In addition to this, Spotify still isn’t even a profitable. In 2011, Spotify brought in revenue of $236 million, with a net loss of $57 million.

Spotify isn’t the only company facing net loss. Pandora is too, with a net loss of $20 million in 2012. How do these companies effectively pay artists, but still make a profit? Many say that we should get rid of streaming services all together. Others say we should all just “suck it up” and agree to pay $10 a month, helping the industry go and supporting artists, with no “freemium” option.

Peter Kafka of Re/code translated Pandora’s earning’s call, and their issue with Spotify, in a great way. “Look, it would be bad if our free, not-on-demand service had to compete with free on-demand services forever. But those things are as bad for the music industry as they are for us, so we bet (we hope!) they’re going to go away.”

While it’s obvious these services aren’t going away, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.