How the shifting tech landscape is affecting what producers are making right now, and what this means for the future of music production.
JANUARY 15TH, 2023
You probably saw this one coming from a mile away, but it would be impossible to have a music tech trends article without touching on AI! This is an ever-expanding topic, so we’ll keep this focused on what’s most relevant right now. AI isn’t likely to replace music producers anytime soon, but it already has the ability to make their lives easier. For example, if you want to work on more vocal songs but aren’t an experienced lyricist or singer, ChatGPT can give you a solid foundation if you feed it a topic, outline, or any other details you can provide.
The better and more detailed you are at writing prompts, the better the lyrics you’ll get back — these likely won’t be excellent, and it’s wise to keep things original, but this can help get you over any initial creative humps. From there, you can even give your lyrics to an AI vocalist plugin like Dreamtronics’ Synthesizer V to perform them; a real professional vocalist will always be a better choice of course, but this can be a life-saver in a pinch!
AI is also already at work in tons of different plugins, especially in the area of “intelligent” mixing and mastering tools that have the ability to compare your songs with tons of reference material and apply mixing decisions for you on the fly. Soundtheory’s Gullfoss, iZotope’s Ozone and Neutron, and countless others are already well-established in this area and can massively decrease the amount of time required to finish your songs.
Simpler, easier to use plugins
For most of the 2010s, the focus of music production software was allocated to offering more features, depth and control, which makes sense given how many avenues that remained unexplored in synthesis, effects and more. But with the plethora of tools available now, there are more tools than ever to learn; the more complicated the tools, the more time they take to master. That’s why there’s more incentive than ever to strip away unnecessary feature bloat and streamline the user experience, and plugin companies are taking notice.
Take a closer look at many of the new tools coming out on a regular basis and you’ll see just how much plugin UIs are changing. We’ve been working on this at UJAM since the inception of the company of course, with super simple interfaces and zero menu-diving — look at any of our Finisher multi-effects, Beatmakers, Virtual Guitarists or any other plugins on our site and you’ll see the clear orientation toward usability, simplicity and speed. Other companies might be catching on, but make no mistake ... we started it!
Speed and ease aren’t the only factors at play, though; plugins are also getting better at removing the potential for mistakes in the production process and steering producers toward better decisions at a faster rate than ever before.
Creative explosion in mainstream sound design
Now that every producer has a massive variety of processing options at their fingertips, the standards for sound design are growing. If you want to hear the biggest changes to EDM summed up in a single producer’s music, just observe the progression of Virtual Riot’s music over the years (and the myriad of other producers who have followed in lockstep). Especially in the dubstep world, though other genres have followed suit, you can see more complex processing chains in use. There was a time where it was enough to pull up Massive, modulate the Carbon wavetable, throw on a Scream filter, add some Drive and Dimension Expander and call it a day ... but those days are long gone.
What does this mean for you as a producer? Mainly that the more creative you can be with your sound design without eroding the quality of your production skills, the more you’ll be able to stand out. Depending on how deep you want to dive into the world of sound design, this could mean playing around with different settings on vocoders, distortion, filters, granular processors, phasers, time stretching, and more — but you can achieve many of the same effects without doing it all from scratch with UJAM’s Usynth line of software synthesizers. The deepest layer of processing is hidden from the UI, allowing you to create by feel rather than advanced synth programming, allowing you create rich sound design possibilities in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise!
Home recording studios
For years now, the focus of music tech has largely been on helping bedroom producers achieve a sound that only used to be possible in the studio. But now, studios are moving to the bedroom! Even some famous mix engineers like Leslie Braithwaite (whose credits include Happy by Pharrell Williams, among countless others) who had to bring their studios home during the pandemic are opting not to go back. If even the pros are doing it, what does that mean for producers as a whole?
Many plugins have been released that aim to recreate the environments of famous pro studios, a trend which will likely continue and morph in the coming years. There’s less difference than ever between the minimum amount needed for a quality setup and the tools used by pros, meaning the time to bet everything on fancy gear has long passed. And as quality becomes easier to achieve, there’s bound to be even more diversity in style, arrangement, composition, and all the more creative aspects of music — so double down on what makes you you and run with it in 2023!
Music technology is advancing at an insane rate, and it’s having a marked effect on the style of music being produced and the speed at which it’s released. Producers should stay on top of the most important trends in the technology they’re using, as these have a direct impact on the music they can create and the direction of music as a whole. That said, it’s far more important to spend time making music rather than predictions, so always put the majority of your energy into creating.
Music production will only get easier and more democratized, but the tools already available are plenty to help you make pro-quality music you’re thrilled to put your name on; to get started, everything you need is right here!