LG was kind enough to invite me to a dinner & discussion they were having here in NYC last week. The topic? Tech and its role in music. The people? Oh, just some of LG’s execs, a bunch of tech writers, and the band ARIZONA. No big deal.
If you’re not familiar, ARIZONA is the 142nd most streamed artist online, they average about 9 million unique listeners per month, and, oh, this is all in the course of a year–when they launched their debut album before being signed to a record label. Go check out their YouTube, you won’t be disappointed.
Dare you to listen and not at least bob in your seat. Dare you to watch and not feel ALL THE EMOTIONS.
Besides the band and esteemed writers, we had Frank Lee, the Director of PR at LG Mobile, who spearheaded the conversation. He firstly, thanked us all for coming and began to ask questions to individual guests ranging from old tech you used to listen to music on that’s now gone (MP3 CD’s were REVOLUTIONARY to me–120 songs instead of 12? Basically a freakin’ superpower), to deeper questions about how everyone’s relationships with music actually began.
It was one of the latter questions when asked to CJ Washington, tech writer at AskMen, that I found fascinating.
CJ grew up in a world where his family forbid him to listen to music and therefore never got him and his siblings the tech needed to play it, of course. It wasn’t until he finally got his hands on a Sony Walkman without his parents knowledge, that he was able to hide under the covers in his room and get a taste of the music his mother was so against him listening to. From that moment, CJ was hooked.
The most interesting part of this was the fact that because of that scarcity of music, CJ obsessed over it. Playing singles over and over, engrossed in the lyrics and sounds he was hearing on such rare occasions (sometimes pretending he was sick when the family would go to church just so he could stay home alone and blast the music).
And then, of course, there was the fear that it could all be taken away at any moment.
Trying to envision a world where parents would be able to keep music from their children now, however, is seriously difficult.
Thanks to technology, music is everywhere. From internet speeds capable of instantly streaming or downloading songs, to YouTube and Spotify where you can pay a flat fee to listen to as much music as you want, to the majority of people all having a portable music player within arms reach of them at all times in the form of a mobile phone . If you wanted to listen to music, chances are there’s someway of playing it very close by.
It’s not just about the access of music either, it’s about the breaking down of the barrier between artists’ music and the mass market.
During the dinner, I had the pleasure of sitting next to David Labuguen, the keyboardist for ARIZONA (seriously, you should check out their music on YouTube if you haven’t already). And when Mr. Lee concluded, I immediately turned to David with a curiosity that I personally had been itching to ask, “Tell me how you really feel about Spotify.”
He replied, “If it weren’t for Spotify, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”
And he brings up a good point. For all the hate Spotify gets from large artists saying it doesn’t pay them like it should (which is probably true and some form of agreement needs to be come to, but I digress), if it weren’t for Spotify and the fact that anyone can put their music on it–no record label required–bands like ARIZONA might have never been heard on such a massive scale.
Making a living on the internet and being a part of the YouTube community, I recognized a similarity in our industry that up until that moment I never saw. We’re living in a world with less gatekeepers.
The internet and streaming services like YouTube and Spotify (just two examples of the plethora this would pertain to) have, in some ways, democratized the distribution of art in its relative forms. Wait, here me out.
Where before to have a TV show, you would have had to try and shoot a pilot somehow and shop it around at the few networks that were available and it would have only happened at the whim of those very few execs. Now, you could take a video with your phone and upload it and potentially draw an audience.
Same thing with Spotify. You’d have had to produce a record somehow, then shop it around to record labels, where again, a small number of execs would have said yes or no and that would have been the end of it. Now, you can produce one song in your basement, upload it and see how it’s received.
Now, of course, I’m simplifying what it takes to be successful on these platforms, but the simple fact still remains: a middleman has been removed and greatly increasing the chances you’ll find an audience for your art.
Tech isn’t just enabling artists to showcase their talents and people to listen to music, it’s creating some interesting new ways to enjoy it, as well. From high end speakers made from beryllium (which has a rigidity 3x higher than titanium and yet a density 1.5x lower, making for some seriously capable tweeters), to new age record players that are machined from a solid block of metal that have no vibrations at all and allow you to listen to your record collection like you’ve never heard before.
There’s even some devices that are trying to create new genres of listening in my mind. LG was showing off one such device at the dinner called the LG Tone Studio. I did a video on it if you want to check that out, but basically it’s a way of getting personal surround sound (and, finally, a real use for the horse collar shape I normally despise).
All three members of the band were given one to wear for a while and all three unanimously agreed they loved using it (and at least one seemed to agree with me on the best use case: video games).
Let me know in the comments below what you guys think, always love to hear from you guys (especially on these types of topics). Don’t forget to follow me on social and/or signup for the weekly email newsletter and, as always, thanks for reading.