Is Technology Ruining Music?

As technology becomes ever more prevalent, so does technology-related paranoia.

Nowhere is this more evident than the entertainment industry, where each new breakthrough is Armageddon, the apocalypse and 2012 all rolled into one. We’ve heard how the Kindle will kill fiction; 3D will destroy movies and many more besides. But nothing compares to the outrage music fans feel towards the dreaded auto-tune. It’s a betrayal, a disgrace that is pressed against an audience’s face, forever. Along with a host of other technological advances it’s ruining music, or is it? We decided to take a look at some of the issues surrounding the current music/technology furore:

Argument: ‘Thanks to programmes like autotune, you no longer need to have any talent to make it in the music industry’.


Cast your eye across the charts: Little Mix, One Direction, Justin Beiber… If idiots like this can make it, despite having no discernible talent whatsoever, then the argument is essentially over, right? Without the miracles of autotune, these bozo’s would have never stood a chance.

The Reality: Know who else uses autotune? Kate Bush. Not convinced? Lady Gaga, Alice Cooper, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and Vampire Weekend all use, or have used autotune. Like Photoshop, it’s simply become a standard ‘touch-up’ tool used across an entire industry. And, just like Photoshop, it can iron out mistakes, but it can’t polish a turd. Autotune cannot take your uncle’s drunken karaoke and turn it into Pavarotti: it doesn’t work like that. Producers use it simply to ‘nudge’ out mistakes in otherwise great takes; not as part of a conspiracy to turn ‘cat lady’ from The Simpsons into the next Madonna.

Argument: ‘Today’s music all sounds the same’.

Well, it does. Turn on any mainstream radio station and try and pick out a single modicum of originality. It all sounds the same; the same and loud.

The Reality: It really does all sound the same. Or similar, at any rate. A wide-ranging study by the Spanish National Research Council has concluded that melodies are becoming more and more similar.

However, this is less to do with technology than taste. In the 60s/70s turning on a radio could subject you to Frank Zappa, Dylan in his electric phase, Sgt Pepper-era Beatles or Bowie going full glam. Back then, experimental was in. Nowadays, most of us are more interested in the familiar. If there was big money in experimental music, you can bet your money bands would be learning the Ondes Martenot and releasing Metal Machine Music covers. There isn’t, so they won’t. If you want someone to blame for that, take a good hard look at yourself next time you download some challenging dubstep without paying.

Argument: ‘Reliance on Tech bleeds the soul out of music’.

Listen to the raw feeling of something like ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. There’s no way involving technology or the dreaded autotune could do anything but rob it of its power.

The Reality: In the same way going electric robbed Dylan of all his power? Or Neil Young? Or how going down the electronic route left Radiohead utterly soulless?

However you cut it, technology can enhance music, if used correctly. For every blandly irritating autotune track blaring out of Radio One, there are hundreds of brilliant artists using the same programme to make their music even better. The same technology that made Justin Beiber a thing can also help some kooky kid from Ottawa get their raw, unadorned ballads about trailer park life (or whatever) out to a worldwide audience. Had you ever heard of Lightnin’ Hopkins, the genius 20th Century Texan bluesman? Well now you can watch a whole documentary on him. All thanks to the miracles of modern technology.

Future Of Technology And Music

At the end of the day technology merely facilitates. If people want to hear processed songs, you’re going to have to put up with it or try turning off the radio once in a while; there’s a whole internet of stuff out there for you to explore.

Thank you to the DV247 Fender team who contributed to this article.

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