Innovation

How mobile tech will turn consumers into social music-makers

A music industry panel looks toward a world where music-making on mobile is as common as snapping and sharing a photo.

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Image: Erin Carson

Mobile technology brings a great number of conveniences into the pockets of hundreds of millions of people. It may soon have the ability to turn them into music makers and not just listeners.

On Wednesday, a music industry panel at the day-two keynote of the Advanced Audio and Application Exchange conference in Boston, Massachusetts discussed the evolving relationship between mobile, music, and social, and what might happen when the barriers of creating music disappear.

As an example, panel participant Jeffery Smith, CEO and co-founder of Smule talked about the difference between the average person's interaction with pitch-correcting software Auto-Tune (merely hearing it on records) and getting to experience it through an app like I am T-Pain, which lets users Auto-Tune themselves on their mobile devices.

As the ability to easily and quickly make music on mobile devices spreads, Smule said "music has the potential to be a dominant social network, and maybe it was the original social network."

Part of the thinking here is the broader expectations of how people consume and interact with content, brought about by mobile.

Pete Brown, developer experience and evangelism at Microsoft, said much the way mobile tech has made photography widely used among average consumers, music could evolve to where there will be a need for "an immediacy from the creative side of the their mind going to the device, to the public."

Jack Joseph Puig, producer/engineer and director of creative innovation at Waves Audio talked about how in decades past, the available technology defined the sound of the era, and those sounds — think analog recording, or specific microphones, or consoles — became sought after. He said perhaps the sound of music made on iPhones or Android devices will have a sound derived from the internal microphones and the construction of the device itself. All it might take is a Lady Gaga-level musician to use mobile production, to turn it into an en vogue approach on the professional level.

Along those lines, Smith referenced a study from Stanford University in 2009 which found that participants had grown to prefer the sound of MP3 to the lossless audio of CDs or vinyl.

Part of what has to happen first, though, is the technology has to get out of the way of the consumer.

"Customers don't want to think about it. If it doesn't work, they'll stop using it, " said Doug Peeler, who does audio architecture and strategy for Dell. This idea is what Smith called making the technology imperceptible, and he said that might be one distinguishing feature of the mobile wave in music, even if tech changing music isn't a new theme.

"Technology and music have always co-existed," Puig said.

How all this gets monetized remains to be seen, however. Though if or when mobile music making ascends to the highest levels of the recording industry, that will inevitably change.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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