What will music consumption/creation look like in 20 years?

Comparing the current time with the cd/napster era 15-20 years ago. In music technology and practice, as well as the way people obtain and listen to music.

How do you think this situation might change? Speculate.

I am very impressed with the algoritmes in youtube, spotify and others. They will likely continue to improve a whole lot in twenty years. In being able to automaticaly serve the listener new music to exactly their taste. This along with the continued ‘democratization’ of music technology and trend of more probalistic and generative musicmaking tools, could spread out music more and more to indie and amateur musicians.

I would like to see the campfire style of delivering music grow. Where people lived in smaller groups that were homogenized to an extent, and had one or more, more or less skilled musician who performed this craft for his small group of people. This would be nice if people got more connected in smaller groups that have a stronger bond. Through the internet.

When it comes to the music itself, I would hope to see the individiazation grow. Where an artist or amateur could more and more effortlesly create a personal piece. People are haranguing all parameters of the sound through the software in their machines. I’m sure it will become more detailed and immediate to control all facets of the sound and arrangement.

Imagine similar leaps, like the invention of sampling and sequencing. What kind of leaps could there be ahead? Awesome!


Reminds me of:

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To be honest, I am part optimistic, part pessimistic. The latter part is mostly related to the technology surrouning music.
I hope we can get out of the “taste bubble” again and not forget that music needs to be listened to, not consumed. Sorry if I am directly referencing your terminology here, I’m aware that the word probably means something else to you than it does to me.
To me consuming music has more to do with a more superificial, utilitarian approach. Need some music to relax? Fire up that relax play list; need something to work out? Choose the more energetic one, etc.
The topic of listening to music (and listenting in general) is very important to me and it seems to me that there’s still a lot of learning potential there for the next 20 years.


Yes, that is the playlist thing.

It does make me happy when I go through the artists in my spotify and look at the ‘other people are listening to’ tab, to find new idiosyncratic bands. Yesterday I was listening to The Tuts and 10 minutes later I found 3 other feminist punk bands (Childbirth, Skinny Girl Diet and Tacocat).

Music should speak to the inner of the listener. Not to the senses.

That’s a very thoughtful thing to say. about listening. It reminds of the way I actualy found this forum. Through a mention in an interview with Ezra Buchla: https://www.tangiblewaves.com/blog/interview-with-ezra-buchla-part-2

“And at the same time you’re saying, here is a machine that you can buy and make your own ambient music that sounds just like it [was made by a professional]. It is a strange and ego driven world where you’re trying to have both. And people are pushing their own creations out there at this breakneck pace that to me discourages reflection and listening with presence. And this is what I appreciate most in some aspects of ambient or minimalist music. That it’s ephemeral, that it exists in time and is a conscious experience of time and not just the clicking of the next Youtube link.”

Music creation might become more like instagram and photography.

That’s what I think about when you say the superficial utilitarian approach to music, playcating to the senses. Instead of a deep unknown.

Like asmr, there is a way to play on the lower levels of joy with sound. Just the same as cheap subliminal sexual tones in film and tv. Or violent tones.

There definitely is a way to use music to put everyone to sleep, in a bad way. But now my love for dystopian tech stories might be running away with my imagination.

Whatever there will be, will be as normal to a lot of people as sampling and sequencing is to us now. Obsessing over the incrimental, or even debatable improvements of hardware. The future is never futuristic when you’re in it, only ever so slightly now and then.

But I love me fellow little ones who speak to eachother through sound. And listen to the other. :heavy_heart_exclamation:


I feel like you presented two separate future music visions in your original post. One is robotic. Generative playlists of generative music to put us to sleep or to energize our work. Utilitarian and impersonal.

The other is a networked campfire. I mentioned NINJAM as an example of this already happening.

Actually, both are present day scenarios. I find the first mildly interesting as another manifestation of the collapse of the market for music as art, but ultimately uninspiring. The second one is the most interesting development in music tech in my lifetime, in my opinion, and I’m surprised there isn’t a lot more active interest in it.


Machine learning will play a big role in the future of music. I am not pessimistic to believe this will harm the creative endeavor of music. I think it will require a shift in conceptual modes of creating. The way I see it, sophistication will arise from the artistic choice of systems and designing a web of interactions. We use generative systems in modular all the time already!


It’s funny because I wondered that same question a few days ago but with a very different approach and a slightly longer time scale :

What will my music be like when it all collapsed in say 30 years ? And when energy, electricity, technology, internet, stops being a given for people under a certain level a wealth (that’ll be me). And when transportation won’t be as easy. So I guess campfire won’t be much of a problem to go back to as a concept because I’ll get back to my folk guitar and my transverse flute a lot.

I have a hard time (and am not particularly enthusiastic) figuring out the practical possibility for a future that would take “now” and expand it to no end. I’m more curious about what western civilization falling from it’s current state of relative comfort will imply for electronic art in general and music in particular.


i think a couple of decades out we’d be flooded with garbage AI music from the very same cloud services we use today. so i’m more interested in later:

  • scarcity of- and battle for emotional engagement
  • human attention as currency, all art is free (as in no money) because of surplus. the little that isn’t (as in costs money) is traded because of status/contacts etc, not on merit. a hyper-version of today.
  • viral content is norm and being immune actually costs units of currency or is illegal
  • it’s costly not to be in the mass-consumption cloud; some artists go down that route, obscurity as trade off and/or desired.
  • off-catalogue diggers trade links on backchannels.
  • taste police
  • taste resistance

Ever read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy?

In the morning they came up out of the ravine and took to the road again. He’d carved the boy a flute from a piece of roadside cane and he took it from his coat and gave it to him. The boy took it wordlessly. After a while he fell back and after a while the man could hear him playing. A formless music for the age to come. Or perhaps the last music on earth called up from out of the ashes of its ruin. The man turned and looked back at him. He was lost in concentration. The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.


Oh! I like this kind of question! Great thought exercise. Cliff Stoll once said that Kindergarten teachers make the most accurate predictions about the future. Anyone know any Kindergarten teachers? My own terrible egg-head engineer predictions/ramblings to follow. To simplify things, I am not factoring in nuclear winter or the effects of climate change.

From a consumption point of view, I think the digital music listening experience is going to be more interactive. It’ll be more than just hitting “play”. We already are seeing this emerging in film with movies like Bandersnatch. Brian Eno has been doing this for quite a while with things like Bloom. I imagine something will grow from the within the gaming industry. The notion of a static “track” where you are listening to the same exact song over and over again will sound like an archaic notion.

I imagine popular music will continue to have more and more of an electronic music sound palette, to the point where there is no acoustic reference. The “electronic” instrument will become more widely accepted at this point. Even now, Berklee allows you to have an electronic musical instrument as a principal. This has interesting social implications.

AI + Music is a bit of a sensationalized topic right now, but aspects of it will affect the way music is consumed/created. The larger theme automation, and that’s already been happening for decades with sampled instruments. If it does become an industry adopted thing, I do think AI Music will have a “sound”, the same way badly sequenced MIDI music has a sound.

I think more Music Automation will terraform the music scene in interesting ways. When the photograph was first invented, the demand for portrait artists plummeted. A whole art style crumbled. But! It gave rise to things like abstractionism and impressionism.

As the world becomes more technically literate, I think digital music making workflows will gradually shift from skeuomorphic workflows based on analog equipment to interfaces that more closely resemble “computer programming” to us. At that point, computer literacy will be at such a point where it won’t really be called programming. It will just be music creation. I think this will be done out of necessity to meet the demands of interactive content.

MIDI will still be around.


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.


This is something I am looking forward to. I often get into discussions with my 14-18 year old students who have the impression electronic instruments aren’t real instruments and electronic music is about pressing play.

Haha… so true :joy:


like most things on earth at the moment. economics will determine everything.
without an income from Art / Music, artists are forced to seek other income, which generally means less art.

whatever technological innovations occur in the short term future to change consumption habits… if the trend towards devaluing music continues, then sadly the planet will be left with a scenario where there are fewer and fewer artists able to really devote themselves to their art and thus, less innovative / interesting or advanced art.

on the flip side to that grim future, its never been a better time to be interested in creating music, especially electronic stuff, as the tools required to do so are cheaper and more available than ever… and far more innovative. and if you’re able to avoid the trapdoor of buying clip art generating tools and hammering out yet more of the same sounding stuff, you can really find yourself in a near utopian creative scenario where you’re limited only by your imagination.


I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the history of the electronic form of music and how it’s actually been rather ubiquitous for nearly the whole of the last century. At some point, transduction became the primary vehicle for experiencing the sound of music. And then when you consider how that technology came about (the telephone) and that it was meant to replace an essentially digital and already electrical form of information transmission (the telegraph), it might seem obvious that its evolution leans heavily into the ever-emergant contemporary state of electronic music–the electronic form of music in a state of self-awareness (as opposed the mere pursuit of fidelity in obfuscating the electronic quality of the music).

The social ramifications of this are immense, as this electronic form, I think, first gentrified the more folkish dimension of the music world (the beginning of the end of this was perhaps signaled in the punk movement), but at some point reached critical mass, the fallout of which has opened the door to a dimension of music production that was historically the monopoly of an upper echelon of society–the higher or at least more elaborate artform of the classical composer (for lack of a better way to put it) or merely wielding high levels of creative control over many voices and perhaps wide (though privileged) distribution of musical work.

I think we’re still finding out what it means for the uninitiated to seize the means of music production, and nowhere is that more intrinsically and increasingly prevalent than in electronic music. What I’d hope to see from this is mutually sustaining, hyper-globalized, networks of localized music scenes oriented around openly collaborative production of music (likely, though not limited to electronic predominance). I think this is already happening to a large extent, though in a rather nebulous stage of development.

What’s needed beyond that is something of the tone or spirit of an artistic movement which penetrates the veneer of emerging paradigms like automation and machine learning and hyper-connectivity. I think 65daysofstatic is covering a lot of ground lately in this regard, though I think it would have to go well beyond aesthetic motif.


One thing I’ve noticed lately is that song structure for 30-60 second tracks is necessarily different from rock radio song structure.

Just as a short story has a simpler arc than a novel, the 60 second Instagram post often has only one part. And it’s likely there is little change throughout the entire part.

Is it a song? It is undeniably music, but is it a song?


I don’t actually feel that things have changed significantly for the little guys. The breathless netlabel era of the 00s was eclipsed by the monolithic streaming status quo, and I’m not actually sure there’s a significant difference between putting something on bandcamp in 2019, a netlabel in 2009, a CDr in 1999, a tape in 1989… the price for publication fluctuates, and the reach of the medium fluctuates, but is it really significant?

I’m also really hopeful for the distribution of interactive and generative media as @PaulBatchelor has mentioned, but technology-wise we’re there and the mainstream medium is still the playlist, as owned by some large corporate rights-holder. Which is basically the same as it has ever been since recorded music has been published?

In 20 years I can’t help but expect that nothing will really change, and the interesting stuff will still lie in the margins, and the majority use case will be some medium controlled by rich stakeholders. Streaming will probably just be like air, and not called out as such, but the whole subscription thing does seem likely to continue to be a delivery mechanism into the near future, since it’s way lucrative for the big guys. They’ll adapt just as much as they need to, but the idea will be the same. Most music is consumed by paying some huge corporation for access to it.


the final transmission of information before heat death will probably be a midi message honestly.


I will remain sceptical here. What we have seen in last 3 hundred years is a global homogenisation of musical cultures. With the domination of mass production and mass media, we have lost the wonderful diversity of musical heritage in Europe to equal tempered tunings, standard instruments and rudimental rhythmic structures. Now the same is happening in Middle-East, India, Africa and Americas. Yes, music is more accessible, yes, everybody can do it, but with all that great technology in our hands, I see very little of the new culture growing out of it.


I’d say that music has always had a cheap, easily available and utilitarian side, even before radio and recordings, nevermind pop music and electronic instruments and algorithmically curated streaming.

And it’s also had a grand, larger-than-life aspect. And also a deeply personal, private, right-in-the-feels side. And sometimes they’re simultaneous.

Sometimes we consume music, sometimes music consumes us.

I think my favorite listening experiences have been random surprises – visiting someone else and wondering what this awesome genre is I’ve never heard of. Going to the community college’s jazz concert and being blown away by the drum solos, of all things. Going to a Japanese festival, watching the taiko performers and deciding I had to do that myself. Sitting back with a very familiar Vivaldi recording and discovering new things in the music that weren’t there the other 30 times I heard it.

Algorithms I think tend to be less good at that. They give you music that someone thinks, based on some arbitrary parameters, is similar to what you were listening to. Sometimes it’s pretty wrong, but when it’s right it’s mostly just sort of a safe, unadventurous choice. A human DJ or a friend’s recommendations might be more wrong, but also once in a while, a lot more right.

Machine learning might become part of some peoples’ musical processes, but we will control how much. I know an opinionated electronic musician who literally wishes he could push a button and dispense music he can sell and perform without having to go through the labor of composing and recording it. But there are many, many more who love the process more than the result.

Maybe someday I’ll let an algorithm generate appropriate music for driving to work, and it won’t have been music created by humans. But at the end of the day I’ll go home, improvise my own music in a freeform way without even using MIDI… and then maybe I’ll let machine learning algorithms tweak the dynamics and EQ, or perhaps generate a background part, or even act as a partner in improvisation. Or maybe I’ll use analog synths and record to tape. Or maybe I’ll just play some hand drums and hum to myself. The future won’t ruin everything.


Exactly. I hope they will get to be so precise that they can actualy be better at recommending that independent artist you would like.

I do find with spotify, that the random algoritm is often somewhat right in predicting what I would listen to, but 95% of the time it’s just in the ballpark and not something I would save to listen to. And it’s never an artist, with less than 50.000 or 100.000 monthly listens.

But if I go to some of the smaller niche artists I enjoy and click on that, ‘other people are listening’ tab. I do get recommended artists with as low as even under a hundred listens. But only if the artist that led me there also has ‘low’ listen numbers.

Once my website/blog is up and running in a few weeks I will start a sort of ‘editorial’ type of section where I select ‘10 great artists with under a hundred monthly listens’ once in a while. Like a returning magazine article type of thing.