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How 21st-century tech is changing commercial music production

There’s no denying that the modern music industry is big business, with some of the world’s most prominent artists among the richest people on the planet. It is estimated that Beyoncé Knowles, for example, has a net worth of approximately $400 million, while it is thought that husband Jay-Z’s accumulated fortune now totals $1 billion.

Of course, these riches have not been earned by record sales alone, with both superstars profiting from a range of additional ventures and endorsements. But it was in the music business that they initially shot to fame, and the fact that both are still going strong is testament to their ability to continue to evolve and keep pace with the ever-changing face of the industry in the 21st century.

Because there can be no doubt that music has undergone a radical transformation over the past two decades or so, with advances in technology altering almost every facet of the business, from the way songs are produced to the way they are sold to the consumer.

Analogue vs digital

One of the most significant changes in music production has been the switch from analogue to digital. The former refers to the continuous soundwaves given off by an artist’s voice and the instruments they use, which can then be recorded onto vinyl or a cassette. However, replaying these recordings causes friction which means that the sound quality can worsen the more it is played.

Digital music, however, is a copy of analogue music where the sounds are created using a series of samples. In the early days, the sound quality was compromised when converting analogue to digital but technological developments in the latter mean there’s now little discernible difference between the two.

The tech that has changed music production

There have been numerous advancements in the way music is recorded and produced. Here’s just a selection of them:

  • Multi-track recording means artists can now record separate parts of a song and piece it all together, without having to record the whole thing in one go. This means they can make tweaks to individual elements and drop them into the track without having to start all over again.
  • Auto-tuning enables sound engineers to iron out any kinks in the vocals of a track, for example if an artist is marginally off-key with the odd note. Having the ability to make subtle corrections with little more than the flick of a switch removes the need for time-consuming re-recording.
  • Loop pedals provide artists with the ability to add in the sounds of various instruments without having to call on a live band to come into the recording studio.

Some devices have stood the test of time

Of course, some pieces of equipment have been around for decades and are still in use in the modern day. Microphones and headphones are inventions dating back to before the First World War, while oscilloscopes from the likes of RS Components were previously used for diagnostics of older signals but are still used today to assist with dynamics processing and sound synthesis – proving that just like modern superstars Beyoncé and Jay-Z, their worth is enduring.

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