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Producer Steve Wilk shares insights into the technology powering musical creativity

Sep 24, 2020

We’re consuming and creating more music than ever before – and this is all down to the technology powering the industry. Our Head of Creative Steve Wilk takes a closer look at the innovative tools making this prolific production possible.

Every day, 40,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify. This amounts to over 14.6 million a year, and this figure has doubled in just six years. Yet these numbers pale in comparison to the amount of data being created and consumed. In 2018, it was estimated that each person on earth will create 1.7MB of data each second by 2020. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes per day – 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. Rising to 463 exabytes by 2025. To put this in context, that’s 40 times the amount of stars in the known universe. And 90% of all this data has been created in the last few years alone.

Steve Wilks - Music Tech7

As social media, tech and music intersect, the tools we use to create music must reflect the usage of consumers and this new industry we’re in. There was a time where all the music and audio we heard would have been created in a studio. While this was great fun for the creators and full of lots of cool equipment, it’s expensive, time-consuming, and very inefficient.

When we see pictures of fully equipped studios with mixing desks, there’s no denying it looks amazing. But many engineers shudder thinking of the recall sheets needed to document every single knob, dial, fader, and switch in the room, for every song mixed, ever. When making amendments to mixes, it’s painstakingly slow. How would one do this for 40,000 songs a day? It’s quite simply impossible, which is why many studios have since moved to a hybrid digital/analog setup to meet the demands of the day.

I was told, Frank Sinatra would come to Capitol Studios and listen - for the first time - to the arrangement of a new song played live by the orchestra. He would then give his recommendations, and the orchestrator would rewrite the piece while Frank, the musicians and the studio engineers waited. The copyist would scramble to rewrite the edited sheet music for each orchestra member by hand. Then, they tried again. And Frank would make his recommendations, again.

You can imagine how this process would be adored by those being paid by the hour, and by the studio owner. But today this is entirely unrealistic. This past year we all heard Billie Eilish and Finneas’ hit songs which were created in their bedrooms – and I didn’t hear a single person complain that they could hear the sound of Billie’s home studio. The recent paradigm shift means that home studio recordings are now more common than studio sessions. 

Since the 90s and 00s, the audio and music world has been working hard to prove that the digital version of a device is just as good as the original hardware. Therefore, most digital tools were aimed at recreating something that already exists –  amps, synths, compressors, equalizers, reverbs, delays and so on. But in the past few years, companies from all over the world have developed tools for today’s creators. These advances look not to the past, but the future – utilising machine learning, artificial intelligence and a lot of creativity.

 


Musiio

Musiio uses artificial intelligence to sort and categorise vast music libraries, making discovery for accurate for professionals and consumers.

Oeksound Sooth2 and Spiff

This dynamic, automatic, resonance suppressor handles many time-consuming tasks instantly, and can tame a harsh voice or 808 clap instantly – all in real-time.


Gullfoss

Named after the famous Icelandic waterfall, this intelligent equalizer works in real-time to create separation and clarity in your audio.


Xtrax Stems

An app designed to separate a stereo file, isolating music, bass, drums and voice, which is great for remixing. While this sounds like voodoo, the code behind separating audio sources via unsupervised machine learning is as follows – also known as the cocktail party algorithm.

[W,s,v]=svd((repmat(sum(x.*x,1),size(x,1),1).*x)*x');


Roli Seaboard

This is the keyboard: reimagined. This device uses MPE midi protocol to give a 5D touch to the keyboard, allowing players to shake and swipe while performing on the keys. It’s compatible with certain soft synths and DAWs, and most importantly, is a lot of fun.


Sonarworks

Room correction software, which also includes a version to correct headphones and SoundID. I suggest everyone give it a try, and listen to Spotify or Apple Music with your tweaked headphones. The difference is clear to hear.


Subpac

This replaces the subwoofer for creators working at night, or in noise sensitive environments. It converts low frequencies to high fidelity vibrations that you can feel, and can be worn as a backpack by touring musicians using In-ear monitors – as seen on Finneas and Billie Eilish.


Vochlea

Translating a voice signal to midi information, this tech creates music from the input of your voice. Based on the preset, you’ll hear back drums, synths, bass and more.

Endless

A live collaboration music studio app, bridging the gap in music creation, looping, and social networking.
 
 

Musiio
Musiio uses artificial intelligence to sort and categorise vast music libraries, making discovery more accurate for professionals and consumers.

Oeksound Soothe2 and Spiff

This dynamic, automatic, resonance suppressor handles many time-consuming tasks instantly, and can tame a harsh voice or 808 clap instantly – all in real-time.

Gullfoss

Named after the famous Icelandic waterfall, this intelligent equalizer works in real-time to create separation and clarity in your audio.

Xtrax Stems

An app designed to separate a stereo file, isolating music, bass, drums and voice, which is great for remixing. While this sounds like voodoo, the code behind separating audio sources via unsupervised machine learning is as follows – also known as the cocktail party algorithm.

[W,s,v]=svd((repmat(sum(x.*x,1),size(x,1),1).*x)*x');

Roli Seaboard

This is the keyboard: reimagined. This device uses MPE midi protocol to give a 5D touch to the keyboard, allowing players to shake and swipe while performing on the keys. It’s compatible with certain soft synths and DAWs, and most importantly, is a lot of fun.

Sonarworks

Room correction software, which also includes a version to correct headphones and SoundID. I suggest everyone give it a try, and listen to Spotify or Apple Music with your tweaked headphones. The difference is clear to hear.

Subpac

This replaces the subwoofer for creators working at night, or in noise sensitive environments. It converts low frequencies to high fidelity vibrations that you can feel, and can be worn as a backpack by touring musicians using In-ear monitors – as seen on Finneas and Billie Eilish.

Vochlea

Translating a voice signal to midi information, this tech creates music from the input of your voice. Based on the preset, you’ll hear back drums, synths, bass and more.
Endless

A live collaboration music studio app, bridging the gap in music creation, looping, and social networking.

These are just some examples of how the tech industry is changing the way we create, consume and find music- and the list goes on and on. As I write this, Spotify has patented a Karaoke tool with Auto-tune – so you’ll soon be able to turn down the real vocal on your favourite songs and sing along, in tune. It’s such an exciting time to be in the industry, and I can’t wait to hear what the future holds.