Creative Computers?


Wednesday, 20. September 2017 @ Festival Village/ Dome

Wrap-Up of all Creative Tech Sessions

Speaker: Konstantin Konstantinidis (Founder/ Managing Director, Metrobass, Germany)

Go to the programme here.

 

The first day of Reeperbahn's conference arm started with songwriter and producer Dave Stewart taking to the stage in the Festival Dome to share his vision about the past, present and future of the music industry.

Stewart is best known as one half of Eurythmics—the successful rock/pop duo he formed with Annie Lennox, who enjoyed 20 years of chart success from the ‘80s onwards. As a young musician who on occasion enjoyed the mind-altering effects of LSD, Stewart recalled imagining a future when humans had been replaced by artificial intelligence (you can see the references to that in Eurythmics’ video for Love Is A Stranger, which was released in '83).

In 2017, robots exist in their most advanced form yet (check out the YouTube video Sophia Awakens for evidence) and in 2023, we’ll apparently have worked out how the human mind works by feeding it into a digital processor. It’s therefore not too far-fetched to imagine a world where robots can write songs, said Stewart. So where does that leave the livelihoods of songwriters? And while Visa can process transactions in 1.4 seconds, why do artists have to wait months for their royalty statements?

Which leads on to the next panel, Blockchain Unchained, where a host of experts discussed where blockchain fits into Stewart’s vision for the future.

In response to his question about the speed of payments, GEMA’s Kai Freitag said it’s just not that easy to pay artists. Is blockchain the answer? “It’s very interesting from a tech point of view, but from a business perspective it’s difficult to see how we can use it in our day to day business,” he said.

However, if all those involved in distributing music - digital service providers, PROs, publishers and labels - can connect, blockchain can absolutely help artists get paid faster, said Peter Harris, founder of streaming music service cooperative Resonate.

“The problem lies in data silos across different sectors. When you click play on Spotify you’re creating a spreadsheet that’s completely out of date with the technology that exists.”

The transparency that blockchain would bring isn’t in the interest of companies that have spent a lifetime keeping the inner workings of their transactions hidden, argued Stewart. The answer is to build a portal based on blockchain technology that’s exists for the 15 to 25 year old up and coming independent musician, allowing them to upload their music online, get paid for it and keep their fan data.

“After we’ve got that market, we can go to those existing firms and ask them to adopt the technology, or stick to a diminishing sector,” concluded Jack Spallone from blockchain platform Ujo Music.

Continuing the forward-thinking theme, Lars Oliver Vogt, President of Live Nation Brand Partnership & Media GSA, shared his vision on the potential he sees for the live music industry and virtual reality. Finding a way to reach music fans who aren’t on the ground at festivals has always been part of Live Nation’s strategy, he said, and VR has a big role to play. Analysts have predicted the market to be worth $40bn by 2020, with half of that expected to be spent on the software.

“There are lots of brands selling hardware, but that doesn’t sell without the software. Live Nation wants to be a first mover in that field. We want to be the leading producer of music content in the VR world,” said Vogt.

While spearheading the MagentaMusik 360° collaboration with Deutsche Telekom, which livestreamed concerts in 360° from Rock am Ring Festival, Parookaville and Wacken Open Air for fans to watch online, Live Nation was able to decipher what challenges currently exist in VR. Vogt said that because the tech is still in its infancy, factors that need to be improved before mass adoption include upload speed, the gigantic amount of data storage needed for the files, and resistance from artists and road crew to allow decent space on stage for camera positioning.

Vogt’s keynote was followed by a discussion for which he was joined on stage by Steven Hancock, the co-founder and COO of Melody VR, Michael Brill SVP of new business development at SMG Entertainment Deutschland and Salvatore Vanasco,CEO Xailabs.

Hancock was sure that the virtual experience, no matter how well-made, would never distract from live, and that it's simply another opportunity. VR experiments with the British Premiere League showed that football attendance did not shrink, but instead gave millions of fans abroad a way to experience the match.

Current industry estimates predict that 300m VR headsets will have been sold by 2021, with a lot of them incorporating the smart phone. Hancock intends to have deals in place to deliver entertainment content to those users. His company doesn’t do back licensing, but only creates new material with the artists it works with. “We know who gets the money. We don’t have to embark on a hundred year quest to find the artists,” he explained.

According to Vogt’s estimates, a monetizable model for VR in live entertainment could arrive in four to five years time. Once the content is exciting, the hardware would sell. “Artists understand the medium now,” he said, thinking about up, close and personal documentaries as well as virtual meet and greets. Hancock said the market size of VR “is going to blow our minds. VR will be in every vertical of live.”

Martyn Ware, founder of Illustrious—the inventors of a unique 3D AudioScape surround-sound system—brought the audience back to the present. In a keynote dubbed The Future of Music in Urban Environments, he gave the audience an overview of some of the projects he’s been involved in over the past few years. Those included creating the illusion that Santa Claus was swooshing through a shopping mall on his sledge, an installation on London’s Millennium Bridge that took people through the history of the River Thames via sound, or simply creating a nice soundscape on a public square. “It’s a great way to make people stay a little longer,” said Ware.

Such a soundscape was used in the party city of Brighton to calm people down. It worked—the number of arrests and complaints reduced by a staggering amount. Ware said that since cities are expected to become even busier and noisier, 3D sound could modify urban environments from a sensory perspective. He added that not everything could be experienced virtually, digitally, and that there will always be a hunger for real life communal experiences.

The next keynote dealt with the question of how far the humanization of digital will go. Konstantin Konstantinidis, founder of Metrobass, explained how close Artificial Intelligence has come to imitating human beings in the world of music in a keynote titled Creative Computers.

He gave examples of AI creating music and other forms of art and asked if we stand at the beginning of a new era. Some of the examples were impressive– a duet machine that can accompany a piano player, and an intelligent loop machine. Musically, however, they were nowhere near as sophisticated as a human composer. Their “learning” capacities were great, but it became clear that a human element is always needed to turn the machine’s output into art.

A French artist named Benoit Carré, supported by Sony’s Computer Science Laboratory, has recorded an entire album with the help of AI using cutting-edge algorithms called Flow Machines. To create a song on Flow Machines, one selects the style and artist, and the machine creates the music.

There’s a few questions this new way of making music raises, according to Konstantinidis: who owns the copyrights to an AI generated song? What if someone with no skills uses AI to create a song? We might find out the answers sooner than expected… Spotify has recently poached one of the people involved in the formation of Sony’s Flow Machines.

Rounding off the first day of sessions was Tom Ammermann, founder of New Audio Technology and the acoustic mastermind behind Kraftwerk’s 3D project. Band member Fritz Hilpert had the idea to mix studio versions of the songs with elements taken from live recordings, creating a livelier sound. It was Ammermann’s job to then produce Kraftwerk’s entire catalogue in 3D surround sound.

The band went on tour, taking an eight-day residency in each venue to perform one of their eight albums each day. All of which had been mixed to make them compatible with Dolby Atmos and Headphone Surround 3D. During his talk, Ammermann played the songs, before handing out shopping tips for the best equipment out there to experience 3D surround sound.

His reasoning behind getting into 3D audio, and recording music in such a format, was due to a belief that having a high quality audio version adds value to a song, which artists could charge more for.

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