An essay by Anna Haaraoja
History of Music Production
In the late 1870s, the invention of the barrel organ and the phonograph started a new era of how music could be consumed. These early inventions lead to the development of gramophone and vinyl records that are still being used. One by one inventions such as audiotapes, microphones, and loudspeakers laid the foundations of modern music production. (Hörmann, 2016.)
Nothing has affected the history of humankind more than World Wars I and II. During and after these years of war, technology leaped. Starting from the years of war until 1970s multitrack recorder and C-cassette, along with analog mixing-consoles, EQ’s and compressors were invented.
Music producers during this time had fewer options and choices to be made because the gear was insanely expensive. This made using and learning the equipment more straight forward compared to the situation today, where there are plugins as many as there’re stars in the sky. (Hörmann, 2016.) The digital era that started in the 1980s brought digital mixers, audio transferring and midi with it, which along with the invention of home use computers lead to the invention of editing software, audio interface, and plugins. (Hörmann, 2016.)
Present Day of Music Production
Due to the rapid development of technology, the prices of gear and gadgets have decreased. Also, the distribution of music has become increasingly digital, which means having a record label isn’t a necessity anymore for an artist to put their music out there. Record labels have overseen marketing and promoting until recent years, but a personal social network and a social media presence have gained more and more importance.
These changes in the near past have made the producing music available to a greater audience and made music-making easy. Nurturing the social media presence has reduced the money needed for promoting but it has increased the responsibility of one person, who usually is the artist themselves. Sharing files has become a norm which makes producing agile and not dependant on time zones or location.
The Future of Music Production
Now that we have set the context to the music production today, it’s time to speculate what the future would bring. The phases of music production are pre-production, recordings, mixing and mastering. With the tools that music producers have at their disposal, these phases are likely to overlap. It’s also likely that the players in the band might never meet, or some parts, if not all, would be composed by artificial intelligence, AI. Let’s take two examples of future processes that result in an album. The first example is a process that is entirely made by human contribution and second is where the whole process is done by an AI.
In this first example, the band lives in different locations. The example band has three members and they have met via their social network online. All the members are capable to compose, arrange and they are familiar with their DAW of choice. They would also have the possibility to record at their home. The work would then be shared between members of the band depending on their skill set, one example being that one sings the leading vocals, second plays accompaniment with instruments of their choice and third takes the role of virtual instruments.
In this example case, the pre-production would also take place while recording already, meaning that this one act would include also composing. This outcome would then be delivered to other band members, and they can add their input to the product. Weekly meetings using for example Discord, or any other software that has a screen sharing feature in them, will inspire the band to make mutual decisions, just like in face to face meetings. One person would oversee the final mix which could be the master too, or it could be delivered to another band member who has, for example, an optimal listening environment for mastering. This way mixing and mastering would be intertwined.
AI as a Music Producer
AI program that can do an album by the pool of samples it’s given is a certain future of music production. The algorithm is programmed by a human being and it’s only a question that the person writing the code also gets the copyright of the sounds that their program is creating. The copyright law applies only if there’s a human contribution in the process of making music. The EU copyright protection presents four different scenarios and their outcomes in the following way:
- A work created by AI in collaboration with a human.
- The work is protected by copyrights, and the copyright holder is the human.
- A work created by AI, selected by a human. Copyrights usually belong to human but this depends on the case. This leaves this situation uncertain.
- A work created by AI by use of brute force
This approach makes AI create content endlessly in random order. The out-come will eventually become something meaningful piece of art. This means that those works are not protected by copyright laws.
- A work entirely generated and selected by AI
Works generated purely by AI are not protected by copyright law. (EU copyright protection, 2017.) AI can be a great tool in music-making and do the dull stuff while humans can concentrate on their creative process. The answer to the AI, future and copyrights issue is to make sure, that one makes their creative process heard and seen in the final process to ensure one’s copyrights.
AI can be a great tool in music-making and do the dull stuff while humans can concentrate on their creative process. The answer to the AI, future and copyrights issue is to make sure, that one makes their creative process heard and seen in the final process to ensure one’s copyrights.
References used in the making of this blog post
Candidate 183, 2017. EU copyright protection of works created by artificial intelligence systems.
Master’s thesis. The University of Bergen. Read 8.12.2019.
Hörmann, C. 2016. Music production history – The 5 most important eras. Blog post. Read: