Music yet to come.
Soundtracks have become commonplace. Semi-permanent embedded transducers provide a constant, activity and mood based, endless audio stream, woven and flowing seamlessly through real and augmented experiences. Wearables are now bi-directional, not just systems monitoring us but predicting, and managing, our mental and physical state. These leverage audio as an effective, unregulated, pharmaceutical-free method of effecting systemic change.
Mass music is no longer delivered as a monolithic One Size absolute. A composer may write a central theme, but on playback the track is customised to the listener’s personal to-the-second tastes and needs. Long-running culture and legal arguments over whether artists should share writing credits with AI systems have disappeared into the fringes of academia and fandom, with the majority assuming that pieces were co-written at best, if not ghost-written in their entirety. Although lyrics are, by default, transcoded into your preferred language, there is a new scene, Pidgin, which randomly cycles the translations of a track creating new vocals with each listen. There is also an underground genre dedicated to tracks that encode aspects of the composer’s mental state, but there is currently a push for this to be regulated after a number of young fans supposedly suffered fugue states after repeated listening.
The simultaneous democratisation and industrialisation of composition was not without controversy, with a number of wealthy, but increasingly elderly, artists of previous generations moving to sue distributors and manufacturers in order to maintain “artistic control and integrity” of their work. This was a protracted and problematic legal process, compounded by the fact that several of the larger services ignored injunctions limiting the continued distribution of tracks. Eventually, as their traditional rights earnings began to dwindle, the cases were abandoned one by one, lost to closed-door settlements, so there has yet to be any real formal ruling on the issue. Naturally Amazon, who currently own the largest music catalogue in the world, called the lifting of the final injunction “a triumph for our shared history of music culture, and the future of creativity”.
As two people never hear exactly the same piece, sharing music has become a deeply personal act in some subcultures. More generally hijacking another person’s audio experience is considered something of a violation. Still, as subscription fees for the higher-resolution services are quite high, family packs, featuring a cheaper underlying shared personality model, tend to be liberally abused, particularly by students. There is also a black-market that trades in low quality, but slowly increasing fidelity, recordings of celebrity personal streams. These “unapproved” use-cases carry strong warnings of headaches, as well as other minor complications.
The cloud vanished long ago, or at least evaporated into a fluctuant spread of meshed devices that surround everything. This mesh evolves so fast that marketeers are still struggling to brand it. Latency is a big problem for those with cheaper devices. Low-end equipment has a disproportionately large secure enclave which is dynamically rented out to nearby infrastructure systems, thereby subsidising the user’s fees. Conversely, richer individuals, able to pay higher upfront fees for their hardware and services, make money for this same utility, while enjoying uninterrupted bandwidth.