Given its symbiotic relationship with technology, it's safe to say that music is an evolutionary art and science. As technology continues to develop, many artists use programs, gadgets, and applications to introduce new ways and structures into their crafts. Oftentimes, these advancements have become pivotal influences in a musician's career. Here at TechLifestyle, we give you a round-up of some salient technological developments that played crucial roles in the music industry.
With the development of new media, music also found its way to the television screens, making it a visual commodity as well. Musicians started to promote their music not only on radio but also through film.
At first, music videos are only filmed performances. Creative and conceptualized music videos are pioneered by The Beatles in its motion picture "A Hard Day's Night." The Beatles used music videos as a tool to promote its albums.
With the debut of MTV (or Music Television), music videos started to become more mainstream. Many artists became famous for their music videos. For example, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" further catapulted him to stardom and earned him a place in pop culture.
Musicians also used visual animation as a creative outlet. This especially rings true for the Gorillaz. Spearheaded by English musician Damon Albarn and designer Jamie Hewlett, with collaboration from different artists, the Gorillaz became popular as a "virtual band," with its music videos set in a fictional universe rendered through cartoons.
Today, music videos can also be viewed online. To cite, YouTube has made it easier for the public to watch music videos anytime, anywhere.
The internet has made music more democratic. In just a click, viewers and fans can listen to their favorite artists' songs, watch various interviews of bands and performing artists, among others. For some, it can even pave the way for possible fame.
Justin Bieber's claim to stardom is a notable example.
A few years ago, Bieber was just an ordinary high school student in Ontario, Canada. A self-taught musician, his mother, Patricia Mallette, was fond of posting amateur videos of Bieber singing different covers of various artists in YouTube. Scooter Braun, who used to be a marketing executive for So So Def Recordings, stumbled upon Bieber's videos online in 2008.
After getting Mallette's permission, Bieber and Braun flew to Atlanta, Georgia to do some recordings. Eventually, Bieber sang for the artist Usher. And, through this, Bieber was able to meet and secure contacts in the music industry.
The rest, as they would say, is superstar history. A quick look into the career trajectories of Greyson Chance, Cody Simpson, Marie Digby, and Charice can easily attest to the internet's power to bring star wattage to someone, given the right timing and ample media exposure.
These days, the internet serves as a springboard for artists like Bieber to help gain attention from the public. Musicians, both well-known and up-and-coming, often go online to easily jumpstart their endeavors to a wider audience. If anything, the web has become another gauging tool for artists.
And, in some cases, the internet can even break language barriers, as illustrated by Psy in his hit "Gangnam Style."
While not everybody knows how to speak and understand Korean, this fact didn't stop "Gangnam Style" from going viral. There was a time when "Gangnam Style" would be heard frequently everywhere, and everybody can just follow Psy's dance moves-from kids to adults. The music video of "Gangnam Style" reportedly hit one billion views in YouTube, which is considered record-breaking.
During the '60s, electronic keyboards and synthesizers came and brought new changes to how music is produced and played. Synthesizers gave musicians new and various sounds to experiment with. As the trend of using synthesizers continued, the music scene started to adapt to these changes.
At first, many rock musicians refused to incorporate synthesizers to their sounds. Eventually, though, many musicians started to explore the use of synthesizers, leading to new key players in the music industry.
One of them is Depeche Mode, a three-piece British band that became one of the world's most influential groups to utilize synth rock. To quote the Rolling Stone magazine, "Depeche Mode's stark, synthetic sound and moody, provocative lyrics buck classic pop convention, to the extent that techno music innovators in Detroit and London regularly cite the band as a major inspiration. But for decades now, Depeche Mode also inspired countless alternative rock, indie, and even metal bands-possibly because the hooks that distinguish their most popular songs are among their era's most ingratiating."
The French duo Daft Punk (composed of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter) also championed electronic music. Daft Punk became significant in French house music, with its career reaching high pitch during the '90s. Daft Punk also became known for incorporating visual elements into its musical productions. These include animations and wearing costumes, including the famed robot masks they don during live performances.
While some argue that technology has affected genuine musicianship (just like what the naysayers of auto-tune are), it's undeniable that technology has always shaped the music industry globally, just like the star magnitude of The Beatles.
As an iconic rock group, The Beatles not only revolutionized the music scene but also pioneered the use of electronic music in its records. The quartet used new innovations in recording technology, such as distortion effect on guitars, which is evident in the intro of their song "Revolution." Today, the distortion's heavy and hard sound is a staple among rock bands worldwide.
Other innovations used by The Beatles are phase shifting, stereo effects, compression, and equalization, which are mostly basic techniques used today.
Jimi Hendrix, another Hall of Famer and regarded by Rolling Stone Magazine as the greatest guitarist of all time, introduced new innovations in music technology. He is the first guitar player to incorporate the once-hated guitar feedback to his music. Hendrix also used a guitar effect called "wah-wah" that produces a "wah" sound.
Other musicians also took advantage of the new technologies then that helped music evolve and gave way to new genres such as electropop, synth rock, and dance-punk.
One of the most famous inventions happened in 1997. It was when the Antares Audio Technologies developed audio processing software that alters and corrects the pitch of a vocal or instrumental track. Shortly after its creation, auto-tune found its way to the music scene.
It was Cher who popularized the auto-tune technology with her song "Believe." The song paved its way to the music industry and after the first auto-tuned track was released commercially, many artists followed and incorporated auto-tune into their records. Artists like T-Pain, Kanye West, and Snoop Dog are known to use auto-tune.
However, auto-tune was also met with negative criticisms. The Time Magazine once regarded it as one of the worst inventions ever.
According to Time.com, "It's a technology that can make bad singers sound good and really bad singers sound like robots. And it gives singers who sound like Kanye West or Cher the misplaced confidence that they too can croon. Thanks a lot, computers."