Democratization of Music is Jumping to Video

Music is experiencing a renaissance powered by technology innovations that have democratized both creation and monetization. While music creation may include a large amount of AI in the future, we are not referring to AI itself as a creator in the renaissance. Instead we are referring to the variety and acceleration of music as an art form. From K-Pop imports to global Hip Hop culture to viral rebirths to an endless sea of genres, music culture is abundant thanks in large part to innovations in democratization.

Technology-enabled democratization of music production started with samplers in the 80s and then by the 90’s moved into digital production software with the popularization of ProTools and FruityLoops.  Evolving still further, in the 2000’s  a proliferation of high quality digital audio workstations (DAWs) provided a new generation of digitally native artists the ability to record and master music at studio quality with their laptop. Drake’s friend and go-to beatmaker/producer Noah ’40’ Shebib refers the democratization of music production in a GQ article from 2011.  In the article, 40 describes creation of Drake’s final mixtape, So Far Gone,

“So Far Gone, that record was produced and recorded in the hotel room at the Beverly Wilshire, which is where I released, mid, and mastered So Far Gone.”

📷 from the OVO blog.

So Far Gone went to #5 on Billboard and catapulted Drake onto the YMCMB Record Label with hits like ‘Best I Ever Had’ and ‘Successful’.

By the late 2000s, technology-enabled democratization of music migrated into monetization. The democratization of monetization was ushered in by iTunes, which started replacing the CD. But the market behavior in the iTunes phase was still similar to the CD age, with iTunes doing little to recommend music and fans paying by piece for access to music (through ownership).

This was the first cycle of democratization of monetization (downloads) and in this cycle digital distribution was brought to market by pioneers such as The Orchard and TuneCore. From the start, digital distributors were easily accessible and very affordable, and as a result, completely disrupted the legacy of music as a consumer packaged good.

Finally, when Apple Music (fka Beats), Rdio (rip) and Spotify ushered in the “all-you-can-eat” monthly subscription music monetization was entirely democratized from creation to consumption. Fans are now enabled to “try before they buy” because there is no an incremental hit on the wallet to try a song or artist. Not surprisingly from the 2010s to today, we have witnessed an exponential rise in music releases alongside every back catalog song released on the streaming platforms. There has never been a better time to be listening to music.

The next chapter of technology powered democratization of music is underway: video streaming for music entertainment. Multimedia entertainment (television and movies) has undergone democratization just like audio powered entertainment, with both production and monetization transformed from the 20th century analog paradigms. Lucky for music fans, the renaissance in music culture will be seen (not just heard). There are many use cases for video streaming in music entertainment, but the most exciting application when it comes to the renaissance of music culture is around music videos.

This is because of two factors.First, like with audio production, video production has also been democratized by technology. This dovetails with audio democratization to enable more music artists to make more music videos. Secondly, thanks to the interplay of audio and video innovation, entirely new styles of music video entertainment are emerging.

The video for John Butler Trio’s song ‘Call Me’ is a great example of a new style of music video. The video concept is straightforward, showcasing the artist immersed in personal inspiration.  There is no performance of music nor any performance or even close-ups of the artist, instead just a one-take shot from a skillfully operated drone camera. The drone hoovers above the artist, John Butler, who finishes up a skateboarding session with a big (ok, really big) jump into a nearby river. With a superb touch of slow motion, this seemingly simple video jumps off the screen and into your heart. Everything in the 21st century, even the renaissance in music, seems to enter our heart through smart screens.

Watch the video ‘Call Me’ by John Butler Trio: