As samples and synthesizers continue to gradually increase in quality, it is getting harder to now tell the difference between live instruments and their synthetic imitations. This is wonderful news for independent composers and producers like me, who in years past would have had to routinely spend big money to hire out top quality musicians. But the flip side of this is that it means less session work for highly skilled instrumental musicians. This is an unfortunate but necessary byproduct of creative destruction.  

Having performed a great deal myself and known some amazing musicians, I have a wonderful appreciation for what it takes to be truly proficient on an instrument. Countless hours over many years are needed to be able to interpret, execute and emote music with appropriate rhythm, intonation and feeling. However, computer automation now enables a person of minimal skill to be able to sound precise with rhythm and intonation - on a wide variety of instruments. Additionally, the technology will only improve in its ability to emulate the more subtle nuances of musical expression, making the computer generated music indistinguishable from a real musician being recorded. 

I predict that studio drummers will be the first to become obsolete. Bassists may not be far behind. Expensive studio orchestras will find increasingly less work. It just makes no sense to pay humans to do what a robot can do more cheaply and efficiently. 

Some types of musicians, however, will retain a measure of job security for the foreseeable future. An excellent singing voice, for example, won't be able to be replaced by a computer any time soon (though I predict that day will come, too). Also, present day synthesized guitars, saxophones and other solo winds still leave much to be desired, but that is merely a technical problem for engineers and programmers to solve, and they will solve it . . . eventually.

Concert performers, however, will have a bit more job security. Live audiences still enjoy hearing music made by real people playing real instruments. There's also the unique thrill of hearing skilled musicians improvising together - that will prove very difficult to emulate with a computer. Not surprisingly, live performance is one of the last viable profit centers for the music industry as a whole. 

But are composers safe, so long as they adapt with the technology? I'm not even sure of that. I may be out of a career if the singularity is real and actually happens. Creativity itself may become mechanized! I'm glad I have a modest head start on retirement savings. 


2013-09-26 12:43:38 - Bill Davies
Who knows? Interesting question!