How technology has changed the way we listen to music
From gramophones discs to wireless Sonos, how tech has changed our tune.
22 Aug 2019
Once upon a time, the only way you could listen to music was live, but since then we’ve found ever more ingenious ways to store and play music. From wax discs to WiFi, the way we experience music has always been led by evolving technology. But how has tech changed and what might the future hold?
Until recently, most music was either physical, think CDs and tapes or static, like MP3 players or the MiniDisc – and the less said about that, the better. Portable music players were either bulky and limited by what you could carry (think: Walkman) or limited to a certain number of songs and albums, in the case of the iPod. But with the advent of high-speed internet available practically everywhere, mobile phones can access huge libraries of music at the touch of a button.
Streaming services like Spotify mean you can now walk around with 35 million songs in your pocket. Clever AI can build you personalised playlists and algorithms curate new music tailored to your tastes. In 2018, streaming prompted the fastest growth in UK music consumption since the late 1990s. But it’s not just new music, either. When The Beatles’ back catalogue hit Spotify back in 2016, 24 million hours of their music was streamed in the first 100 days.
The most-watched videos on YouTube are music videos – with Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You chalking up a jaw-dropping 4.3 billion views. For millions of music lovers, YouTube provides a free streaming service to catch new music on demand. Because of the success of the platform, music videos have become a vital part of modern hitmaking. Rapper Childish Gambino’s controversial This is America video clocked up 55 million views in just four days.
The rise of Bluetooth
Our wireless world has freed us up to take our tech with us. Swapping wires for radio waves, Bluetooth has revolutionised the way we share music. There was a time when you’d have to take CDs to a party, only for them to get scratched, cracked or swiped. These days, your smartphone is your portable jukebox and connecting to speakers via Bluetooth means you can take your music with you wherever you go. Plus, the latest Bluetooth speakers are often durable and waterproof, so they’re more likely to withstand anything from a spilt drink to a pool party plunge.
Voice-activated smart speakers
In the beginning, there was getting up and turning over the song. Then came desperately searching for the remote controller. But now, the voice-activated speaker rides to the rescue. Take the JBL Link 300, for example. Any song that comes to mind can be instantly found and played with just a few words. You can also link up multiple speakers for an epic portable sound system. With Google Assistant built-in, finally there’s a speaker that can give you a weather forecast. Finally!
Return of analogue
Although digital streaming represents a more convenient way to play your favourite music, analogue formats such as vinyl are refusing to disappear. The UK market seems to be experiencing a rewind, as even cassettes are seeing a comeback. To join the LP brigade, check out Currys’s range of turntables.
What does the future of music tech hold?
With improving holograms, you’ll soon be able to catch acts you thought you’d missed out on. In 2012, Tupac Shakur headlined Coachella. Since then, we’ve seen touring holograms including Roy Orbison, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson.
Thanks to powerful projectors, holograms look more opaque and less see-through than ever before.
Why leave your sofa for the ultimate live experience? For those who couldn’t make it to Russia, the BBC’s World Cup VR app offered pitchside seats – and we’re seeing the same principle applied to live music.
In 2018, the world’s first live music platform was released. Melody VR allows customers to put on a headset and experience the gig from the crowd, backstage or onstage with the band.
As VR becomes more realistic and immersive, we could soon be booking ourselves into the Cavern Club for an early performance from The Beatles or heading to Live Aid to watch Queen blow the roof off Wembley Stadium.
Want a peek at the future? Take a look at our range of VR headsets.
- Wearable tech
Wearable technology looks set to bring a whole dimension to music – including a new technology that is designed to allow But for a new development you can try on right away, check out BOSE Frames Alto Audio Sunglasses? These stylish frames double as a private party, playing music every time you put them on thanks to concealed speakers.
- Fans take control
With DJ Gramatik selling cryptocurrency shares in himself and Jack White rewarding subscribers with limited edition records, technology is breaking down the barriers between artists and their fans. Technology allows fans to buy into and even influence their favourite artists. In an online world, fans are moving from sharers to shareholders.
To bring your music system up to date, get started with Smart Sound.