The Future of Employability in Music
“The future is there… looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become.”
― William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
Imagine solar powered concert halls with landfill multinational orchestras, where the public is represented by avatars moving around and chatting, while their masters are sitting at their homes. Is it just a fantasy of the world we will never see or the upcoming reality? Even though it is hard to give an answer right now, all of these transformations could be fuelled by the current coronavirus epidemic depriving musicians of their opportunity to perform physically on stage for thousands of grateful listeners obliged to stay home and keep the social distance.
Indeed, 2020 has become a symbol of changes for business, for the society and for certain professions, including musicians. A number of transformations are predicted in the music industry, such as less reliance on full-time and contract work, the performances of robot composers, or multicultural pedagogy.
Virtual planet of music
The coronavirus made musicians to go virtual by organising performances via Zoom or other digital platforms. It also made their audience more diverse, as geographical boundaries were broken down. It seems that online streaming concerts will not disappear from our lives even after the end of the pandemic. Consequently, it is increasingly important for musicians to acquire certain digital skills and equipment in order to adjust to a new demanding reality. At the same time, it is highly possible that they would rely more on contract work rather than a full-time work in the future.
Virtual performances can also lead to the creation of virtual concert halls with projections of listeners from different corners of the world gathered in one place only virtually. Such virtual concert halls could be not only an interesting solution breaking the geographical boundaries and making music more accessible for different categories of population, but it can be also more commercially viable.
The concept of sustainability has been proclaimed as one of the core elements of the 21st century way of thinking, thus encouraging musicians to implement projects related to societal responsibility by performing in hospitals or environmental sustainability by using digital notes or music instruments made from recycled materials. For instance, the project “Landfill Harmonic Orchestra” of a Paraguayan musical group embraced the idea of sustainability by making music instruments out of garbage.
Another solution promoting sustainability in the world of music would be to use alternative sources of energy for concert halls, such as solar panels. We already know examples of technological cities relying on solar or wind energy. Designed by the British architectural firm “Foster and Partners” Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates is a good example of such cities. It is being constructed with the aim to host cleantech companies and various centers of science and technology. Perhaps, these projects could be a source of inspiration for future concert halls constructed with the aim to make music industry more sustainable.
Hybridization of music cultures: a hymn of humanity
The flows of immigration, as well as the increasing process of globalisation nurture the hybridisation of musical cultures, leading to transformation of pegagogy towards a more multicultural approach. Globalisation also provoke discussions about the importance of local music cultures which could be a new main stream in the foreseable future. Being individualistic and different is valued more and more in the music universe, hence perhaps in the future we will see much more diverse music styles and solutions.
A rise of artificial intelligence
It is no secret anymore that robots can both compose and perform music alike humans. For example, the robot Shimon, which was made by Mason Bretan from the Georgia Institute of Technology, can create its own music by improvising over pre-composed chord progressions. Its compositions are based on music from human-made segments. Although music robots at the moment would not be able to replace humans completely, they can become an essential part of new music styles, cultures and ways of performing in the future. Embracing technology rather than rejecting it can shape our perceptions about the world of music and enrich it with new meanings and styles. In addition, it involves collaborations between scientists and musicians, thus enriching both sides of this unexpected union.
COVID-19 as a turning point in the history of music
The coronavirus crisis has begun in March 2020 and it has made us to realise that it could be a new turning point in the history of humanity. Preventative measures against a spread of COVID-19, including the closing of concert venues, led to unemployment, psychological and financial pressure. For instance, around 90% of music venues in the USA would have been permanently closed if the government had not supported them with substantial financial resources. Apart from concert halls, it should be noted that a coronavirus epidemic has become the obstacle for music touring, which usually provides around 75% of bands’ income.
On the other hand, COVID-19 revealed the necessity of music therapy, as populations were under a huge psychological pressure due to the loss of lives, self-isolation and the omnipresent quarantine preventing usual modes of interactions and communication. The year of 2020 has become a symbol of panic attacks, depression and a psychological deadlock. As music can be the most powerful contributor to cure for mental disorders, the role of musicians will become even more significant in the coming years.
The world of the future
Who are the musicians of the future? Perhaps owing to globalisation, global epidemics, digital revolution and new consciousness based on ideas of sustainability they will be masters of a range of different languages, not only the one of music, but also the languages of coding, artificial intelligence or even medicine and psychology. The employability of musicians can be easily affected by global pandemics, hence adaptability, creativity and knowledge of various skills, including digital ones, would be the main characteristics of the future’s musician.
 Diana Tolmie. What will the lives and careers of musicians look like by 2050?, October 22, 2019. URL: https://www.cutcommonmag.com/what-will-the-lives-and-careers-of-musicians-look-like-by-2050/ (accessed on 10.12.2020)
Masdar City, Connaissance des énergies. URL : https://www.connaissancedesenergies.org/fiche-pedagogique/masdar-city (accessed on 11.12.2020)
 Watch: Robot composer performs its own work, Futurity. URL: https://www.futurity.org/music-writing-robot-shimon-geo1-1459092/ (accessed 10.12.2020)