A Great Opener: the Musicday 2016 is still ringing in our ears!

How do new technologies affect the music industry? The Musicday at re:publica TEN explored various ways in which technologies can influence and expand music production, visualisation and collections.

The Musicday enjoyed a brilliant reception when it was launched for the first time at re:publica 2015. Back then it showed how music and the digital world go hand-in-hand and that the topic required a stage dedicated to music and technology to explore this relationship.

For our 10th anniversary we decided to expand the culture section of our event programme and further developed the Musicday in close cooperation with the Musicboard Berlin Musicboard Berlin. Katja Lucker from Musicboard Berlin and Andreas Gebhard welcomed the audience in the labore:tory at the start re:publica's Day 1.

The labore:tory was opened by journalist and VR expert Jan-Keno Janssen (ct. Heise) with his talk on the huge potentials of virtual reality beyond just gaming ("Jenseits von Spielen: Was man alles mit Virtual Reality machen kann (zum Beispiel Pornos)"). Jan-Keno argued that VR needs to be understood as more than a feature for gaming. VR is creating a new form of “closeness” which can be of interest to other genres, such as the music business, and could be implemented in innovative ways. Music marketing, videos and production should and will gain new energies through AR and VR technologies.

[caption]Florian Sebald (Die Pfadfinderei), Patrik de Jong (Artificial Rome), Mate Steinforth (Sehsucht) and Alexandra Dröner[/caption]Music policy was the focus of British musician Roxanne de Bastion. In her talk "Female is not a Genre - about decentralization of the music industry"  she discussed the  From Me To You Music network (#FM2U)for independent musicians. Roxanne is looking to the network to make the music industry more fair. She appealed directly to the tech industry to collaboratively work on creating decentralised systems, such as blockchain technologies, to make a "better and fairer music business."

One of the Musicday highlights was the "VR & AR is pushing music" panel. Patrik de Jong (Artificial Rome), Mate Steinforth (Sehsucht) and Florian Sebald (Die Pfadfinderei) represent three design companies which are working on the interfaces of music, sound and visual creation. Artificial Rome have in the past collaborated with Sennheiser to create "Sound Monoliths", while Die Pfadfinderei and Sehsucht worked together on the successful VR video "The Reminder" for the band Moderat. Alexandra Dröner, music journalist and self-styled "raver", lead the discussion. The panel concluded that while virtual reality is a fun and playful innovation it is actually augmented reality that is the more promising technology when it comes to supporting music and music content.

[caption align=left]Julian Vogels, Vanja Steinholtz, Mickael Pinto and Daniel Büttner for "Start Ups in MusicTech"[/caption]

Following that discussion, Alexandra Dröner continued exploring the interactions of music and technology in her talk on mobile music apps ("Music Mobile Apps - die Erweiterung des Hörerlebnis").While VR and AR are expanding the music experience, mobile apps have innovative potentials for individual songs and albums. Bands like Massive Attack and Björk have already explored this avenue. The digitisation of the old CD box set experience, with all its accompanying details and extras, can and should supplement our contemporary understanding of music enjoyment. Dröner's conclusion was ultimately reserved. Much more could still be done in this area, especially because future potentials are still rather vague and unclear. Alexandra Dröner was, however, excited about the prospects of mobile apps democratising music production and mobile devices becoming more suitable for music creation.

This tech-orientated line of thought was continued by G. Martin Butz. He impressed the audience with a demonstration of the creative possibilities of audible programming with Sonic Pi ("Hörbar programmieren mit Sonic Pi"). Butz says he started with the cliché that programming is rational and cold, while music is sensual and emotional. Then he came across the Sonic Pi software. With this live coding synthesiser, users can “listen” to the lines of code they have written. Musical coding is not totally new and had previously already been explored by the likes of Brian Eno.

[caption]Horst Weidenmüller (!K7 Music) at the "Fishbowl Musicday" closing discussion.[/caption]The new kids on the block were discussed in the "Start Ups ins MusicTech". talk. Four startups presented their ideas and philosophies and discussed how new developments and working methods could rattle industry giants and dusty hierarchies. Vanja Steinholtz (Soundtrap), Julian Vogels (Soundbrenner), Daniel Büttner (Lofelt) and Mickael Pinto (WAM - we are music) use their respective startups to achieve different goals: collaborative composing, developing new instruments, “vibrotactile wearables” and a crowdworking app for musicians. The talks was particularly fruitful because all four speakers are also musicians themselves who work with the tech-scene to realise the ideologies and needs of music creators.

The final panel session of the Musicday was the Fishbowl. Along with Eric Eitel (Music Pool Berlin) and Horst Weidenmüller (CEO von !K7 Music), Roxanne de Bastion and Vanja Steinholtz reflected on the core themes of this year's Musicday. Which developments are most promising or require further exploration? What are the overarching points which could lead to new concepts? How can new technologies help to transform and develop the music experience? Moderator Inken Bornholdt began by looking at the possibilities of VR in the music industry. Horst Weidemüller broadened the time frame by examining the X-Mix compilation series, which back in the 1990s had begun combining music and visuals into immersive live installations. For the moment, VR seems to be more of an accessory to the music experience, rather than a game changer. The more pressing questions, when it comes to music and technological innovations, are about monetisation in the digital age.


Evans Campbell from the Nairobi iHub closed Day 1 at the labore:tory. He presented an interesting talk on "Getting Vinyl in Kenyan Basements to Collectors Globally". Evans Campbell began with a short overview of the high-point of music labels and vinyl production in Kenya and neighbouring countries during the 1990s. Many of the then produced albums have since disappeared from circulation and into collections. Today, many of them are impossible to find on digital streaming sites such as SoundCloud. In order to make this lost music accessible again, Campbell and others initiated “The Reclaim Project”, a platform to document the region's music history and serve as a reference and material pool for musicians.

All these session made for an amazing start of the Musicday! Dedicating a full stage to the topic of music was well worth it. Speakers and audiences were thrilled and the VR exhibition on the upper floors made the discussed technologies very real and immediate. The lab atmosphere of the labore:tory encouraged critical thought and experimentation. We look forward to following the discussions in the music world over the coming months.

Photo credit: re:publica/Jan Michalko (CC BY 2.0)