As Recording Technology Advances, How Does the “Live Experience” Change?

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Sabrina Bucknole. Sabrina has been singing in musical theater for over eight years, and wrote this as a deep dive into how the meaning of “live” performance has changed over time.]

 

Seeing a “live” performance has changed in meaning throughout recent years. With the introduction of new technology to the stage and online spaces such as YouTube and Facebook, the meaning of “live” has evolved and become something everybody with a smartphone or tablet can experience.

Bringing the Studio to the Stage

Technology once only found in the recording studio has recently been adapted and used for on-stage performances. According to vocalist, electronic music composer and lecturer Donna Hewitt, “Recording and performance practices are trending towards each other and this is being propelled by a combination of technological shifts, a broad change in the level of production literacy of musicians, and an increasing shift towards more technologically intensive performance, either on stage (in terms of the musician’s own performance tools) or off stage.”

In other words, the use of technology on stage has greatly increased, with artists becoming more experimental with the use of technology in their live performances.

The introduction of recording equipment and new pieces of tech to the stage has evolved and shaped the term “live performance”. For instance, loop pedals record vocals and instruments in real time, then loop the sound back to the artist. These nifty pieces of tech allow you to create layers of sound and add textures to live performance.

There are plenty of new and up-and-coming artists who use loop pedals for live performances, including Grace McClean who creates what can only be described as a witty form of jazz using clever yet comic lyrics and snappy vocals. A great example of this is in her live performance of “Natural Disaster”. Hite (aka Julia Eastern) is another example of a growing artist who uses the loop pedal in an innovative and experimental way during live performances. She uses the pedal to add smooth textures through holding long notes, creating an enchanting sound which is evident in her performance of “Eyes on the Prize”.

But it’s not only smaller artists who use these nifty pieces of tech during live sets. Pedals are becoming increasingly popular mostly due to the likes of famous artists including Imogen Heap, Radiohead, and of course, Ed Sheeran. With only an acoustic guitar and loop pedal by his side, Ed Sheeran became the first-ever artist to play Wembley stadium solo over three consecutive nights in 2015.

There were concerns that Sheeran wouldn’t be able to pull it off because usually audience members in an arena as immense as this require a grand spectacle. Plus, being able to fill a stadium with sound generated by only a guitar and pedal seemed impractical, but as history shows, the performance was a complete success. The pedal was able to create a richer and fuller sound, contributing towards Sheeran’s impressive achievement.

Livestreaming

Livestreaming music festivals and concerts are also becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 81% of internet and mobile audiences watched more live video in 2016 than in 2015. YouTube for instance, livestreams large events including Coachella and Ultra, giving new meaning to the concept of seeing a performance “live”. The BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury is another good example of this because even though the viewers are not physically there, they are seeing the action in real time.

As well as growing in popularity, live streaming is becoming increasingly normal thanks to Facebook’s new tool which allows users to go “live” and watch videos as they are happening. Facebook’s “live” feature can also be a great benefit to up-and-coming artists when they’re trying to promote themselves through their pages, from live covers to never-heard-before originals. What makes the “live” tool different and possibly more effective than uploading a music video is that artists can interact with their viewers in real time as well as reach new audiences.

As the concept of watching things “live” becomes more of a normality, how does this affect the way audiences view an artist’s performance?

Of course, seeing your favorite artist perform through a screen is not the same as seeing them in the flesh, but if more and more people are watching performances live, would this not decrease the number of people attending live shows?

Actually, 67% of live video viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or event after watching a live video of that event or a similar one. The use of technology here then acts as great advertising for artists by increasing attendees and therefore ticket sales. It’s also clear that people value the experience of being physically “there” at a concert more because they are part of an exclusive group experiencing a special moment in time.

Holograms

Holograms have also been used in recent years as an experimental piece of tech in live performance. In 2012, a hologram of world-famous rapper Tupac was resurrected on stage alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Stunning more than 80,000 audience members at Coachella, they performed popular hits including “Hail Mary” and “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted”.

The illusion created, was not technically a hologram because a hologram by definition is a “3-D image produced by the interference of light beams that reflect off a physical object and can be seen with the naked eye”. Instead, the illusion was created by adapting a nineteenth century theatrical trick known as “Pepper’s Ghost” which used a sheet of glass and a light to project the actor’s reflection onto the stage. This technique was used in supernatural plays around this period to create an image of a ghost-like, ethereal being.

Still, this nineteenth century technique adapted and enhanced with the use of current technology offers audience members a seemingly impossible opportunity to witness deceased artists perform live.

Holograms and technology which produce holographic effects are also being used by living artists to add to the dynamics of the performance. For instance, in 2017’s Grammy Awards, Beyoncé used Holo-Gauze to deliver 3D visual special effects in her spell-binding performance. The hologram features Beyoncé, her daughter Blue Ivy, and her mother Tina Knowles.

Holotronica CEO Stuart Warren-Hill, who supplied the Holo-Gauze screen, said, “Holo-Gauze is ideal for live events such as this, allowing live performers to be situated behind our near-invisible gauze while visually stunning holographic effects appear to float in front of them. Holo-Gauze makes the seemingly impossible possible.”

Rather than using holographic effects to replace the live experience, they enhance the performance and add extra dimensions. It’s clear that artists are embracing the idea of using holographic effects in their live performances, manipulating the term “live” even further.

Whether it’s livestreaming performances for the benefit of the audience, using loop pedals to add textures and dimensions to the music itself, or introducing holograms to enhance the on-stage performance, the meaning of “live” is changing due to advances in technology. But this does not mean, seeing artists live, in the flesh is no longer of value.

While technology can enhance performance, audiences still appreciate and value the authenticity of live performance, especially when artists with “real” voices perform without technology like auto-tune to aid them. Modern technology found in studios allows artists to refine and perfect their sound including autotuned vocals, automatically mapped virtual instruments, and sound proofing foam to manipulate the acoustics.

While using high-tech recording equipment such as this can create a “perfect” final product, this can also raise the audience’s expectations when seeing an artist perform live. Audiences can sometimes feel let down when they see an artist performing live because the reality does not always live up to the expectation set by studio recordings.

This is why even though technology can enhance a performance, most people appreciate and value hearing “real vocals” and watching artists perform live, in the flesh, rather than through a screen.

TuneCore Social Pro Has Arrived!

Last October, we announced the exciting launch of TuneCore Social – an all-in-one platform designed especially for artists who want to reign in control of their Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Mixcloud profiles and have an easier place to plan, schedule, publish and engage with their fan base. The service is free for any and all TuneCore Artist who currently has a release distributed with TuneCore.

Today, we’re thrilled to expand on those efforts and offer TuneCore Social Pro, an upgraded, premium version of TuneCore Social that allows users to schedule an unlimited amount of social posts per month (including media posts), add other artists to their account for social profile management, share social media reports, and access more comprehensive social media analytics, stats and audience insights.

The coolest part? TuneCore Social Pro includes a mobile app!

When an artist signs up for TuneCore Social Pro, they’ll be able to post or schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, check their TuneCore balance and trend reports – all from their mobile devices!

For $7.99/month (or a discounted annual fee of $85.99), TuneCore Artists can sign up for TuneCore Social Pro, download the app on their Android or iOS devices, and get a huge jump on managing their social media strategy.

TuneCore Social Pro is an all-in-one platform designed exclusively for TuneCore Artists who want to reign in control of their Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Mixcloud profiles and have an easier place to plan, schedule, publish and engage with their fan base – not to mention have a high level view of important analytics that can impact decision making.

Offering a premium version of TuneCore Social is just another way we’re looking to make the lives and careers of independent artists easier. We know how important getting the word out about your music is and we’re always here to help by providing valuable tips and advice for doing so – now we’re giving you the social media management tools to take it one step further.

Interview: Josh Simons on Vampr – the New Collaboration App for Artists

Whether you’re looking for a date or a fun new way to connect with your friends, there’s no shortage of mobile apps being developed and released to the world every month that’ll capture our collective attention and hopefully make our lives easier in some manner. The more we progress in a technical sense, the more fine-tuned and solution-oriented these apps become.

But where do artists stand to benefit from this tech explosion? Of course there are apps that’ll make a musician’s life easier in the practice room, the studio, and the social sphere, but as we all know, there are still problems that are lined up and waiting to be solved by resourceful and music-minded developers.

Enter Vampr: a new iOS app with the mission to “connect musicians of all genres with like-minded collaborators in any city around the world.” As an indie artist, no matter which city, town or country you reside in, it’s likely you’ve stumbled into the clunky and at times awkward process of trying to connect with a stranger to collaborate on some musical venture. From Craigslist flakes to finding out your new guitarist friend hates the genre of music you play, it’s about time independent artists had pocket-based access to a new world of potential musical matches.

For artists moving to a new city to those looking to take their hobby out of the bedroom and into the studio, Melbourne-based co-founder Josh Simons describes Vampr as a “demo tape, show-reel and database rolled into one.” Create your profile, link to your recordings, share your ‘liked’ artists, and start swiping!

And of all people, Simons should know a thing or two about the struggle: a six-year TuneCore Artist himself, his indie-pop band Buchanan has reached over one million streams on Spotify, and 400,000 on YouTube. When it came to reaching fellow artists outside his own circle, however, the frustration sank in.

Read our exclusive interview with Josh below, who dives into the ins and outs of Vampr and how it stands to further encourage the collaborative spirit of indie artists worldwide:

As a musician, how have you watched the way artists and songwriters connect with each other as strangers change over the past few years?

Josh Simons: Connecting with other musicians can be difficult, especially when moving beyond our immediate group of friends and locale. And it’s even more difficult for those just starting out and worried about hooking up with the relevant skill levels and of course their appropriate tribe.

Finding the LinkedIn equivalent for musos that wasn’t as boring as all hell while also providing me with relevant connections and skill showcasing was what I needed. We are all pretty tech savvy these days and used to making friends from strangers, all over the globe using our social networks, so there is no reason that music couldn’t be apart of this connection revolution. Vampr would have made my life so much easier when I was starting out with my band Buchanan.

What kind of personal experiences specifically led you to seek the solution that Vampr offers?

I had a few contacts to get me started in my career, but ultimately I still had to build my own network from scratch. At no point is that easy.

It’s intimidating; you have to communicate a hell of a lot (your look, your tribal affiliation, not to mention your skill) to someone whose attention span is probably as short as your own; and even if you manage to make a few contacts, most won’t materialize into anything that can sustain a career in music. So I wanted to speed up that vetting and trialing process for myself – Vampr solves that.

What kind of direct research and collaboration among the artist community went into designing some of the features of Vampr?

The app is made by musicians for musicians. That extends far beyond just Baz (Hunters + Collectors) and myself as the co-founders – even our lead developer is a musician – and a baroque trumpeter at that!

We consulted all our contacts in the industry over the course of development, from A&R [people] to managers, graphic designers to music press and most importantly our fellow artists and musicians in the community – rather substantial research to say the least.

Vampr storyboard update

What can those in the fields of music engineering and production look forward to when using Vampr?

Whilst we anticipate the creatives in these fields to make up a fairly niche percentage of our overall user-base, we believe the value proposition for these users versus say a gigging guitarist to be equal, if not greater.

We have created the ‘venue’, if you will, to deliver to even a relatively busy engineer (be it front of house, monitor or studio mixers) the chance to bring in more paid work from musicians who need their services, anywhere in the world. This has never been done before.

How about those on the music business side of things i.e. labels, publicists, etc.?

One of the things we’ve been doing whilst marketing the app in these early days is speaking with the labels and publishers about on-boarding their signees, to increase collaboration across the industry. This generates more exploitable works, which ultimately increases revenue for the entire industry.

We were in MIDEM recently and saw all these apps and companies trying to solve revenue issues in music from the top, with data analysis software or new streaming services – we’re coming at it from the other end, which is to help musicians create more.

Some might joke that this has a ‘Tinder’-like user experience. What are some commonalities you’ve noticed about how people use apps of any kind and how have you implemented them in Vampr?

The best apps are ones which help the user complete their task as efficiently as possible whilst simplifying their task, and where possible employ an element of gamification or fun. Through months of testing and UI design tweaks Vampr managed to incorporate all the necessary pieces of assessable content needed for a useful finding tool for musicians (ie. bio, photo, video, song, list of interests, etc.) whilst keeping things uncluttered and classy – it looks simple and it’s easy on the eyes, which was no mistake.

Tinder proved that people are willing to make meaningful connections with a single swipe. The Tinder UX, or ‘swipe for like’ approach, was employed for the simple reasons that it’s quicker, it moves a directory service like Vampr away from form-based hell, and it employs a level of discretion and protectionism from spam, which musicians or industry folk actually need.

This isn’t a popularity contest or a new open social network – it’s a place to make real connections.

Comparatively, what makes Vampr so musician-friendly compared to other collaboration platforms?

The other platforms for indie musicians to showcase and get themselves out there are mostly web-based. Their feature sets are extensive and as such any focus on bespoke discovery of other individuals is completely lost. We’re about connecting people, be it publicists with a banjo player, and we’re not sure anyone else is actually out there in that space.

This is LinkedIn for musicians presented in a simple easy-to-use platform that anyone can setup in seconds and start using.

In a few words, tell the indie artist community how they can make the most of their Vampr use!

In these incredibly formative days, I would encourage the indie community to simply use the app however they see fit – we’ll be watching how people use it and feeding that back into our future development.

Beyond that, we’d just encourage the community to help us spread word of Vampr’s existence – the more people on the platform, the higher the chance of discovering and making a real meaningful connection.


Vampr is available as a FREE download in the iTunes Store. Download it here!

Josh Simons has invited you to provide him feedback or inquiries on Vampr directly- email him here.