It’s not just the subject of one of my favourite SpongeBob SquarePants moments, but it’s a topic I think about quite a lot. Sure, my mind wanders into thinking of the consequences of various decisions by political leaders or even how my own choices will shape my future, but an old stand-by of mine is exploring how different authors, artists, and screenwriters interpret the world and the possibilities of humanity through science fiction. In these “spending most of my time at home” times of the pandemic, I’ve gone through countless phases and hobbies, one of which was laying down preliminary plans to construct a diorama centered around the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Star Trek (an idea I’ve temporarily abandoned due to a lack of space in my apartment). In an effort that takes considerably less skill, I’ve stockpiled some more reading material from the science and speculative fiction genres from authors such as Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Frederik Pohl, and Isaac Asimov. As the book stacks grew higher and higher, that lack of space argument went quickly out the window.
This book I’ve had in my collection for far longer. It’s no novel, and the cover looks more bland than plain toast, but my continual enjoyment of science fiction helped make The People’s Almanac Presents The Book Of Predictions stand out when browsing a favourite local comic book store (Comic Alley Toys) a few years ago.
This joy only cost a twoonie (common slang for a two-dollar Canadian coin), and scratched my itch wonderfully. This book contains a treasure trove of predictions about the future, compiling author’s works such as George Orwell and Arthur C. Clarke, and mixes voices of the past with more contemporary experts. Even one Dr. Benjamin Spock lent his Trek-affiliated name (and don’t you dare confuse them!) in a series of predictions. This Bantam edition of the book was published in December 1981, and is just one of several books that have been released over the years that gather forward-thinking opinions. Works such as Predicting The Future and The Future Starts Now have done similar, and I’m certain several others exist.
I hadn’t looked at The Book Of Predictions in over a year, but it caught my eye on the shelf and thought it would be fun to use the handy index to explore topics having to do with music in the future to see how accurate, absurd, or awe-inspiring they were. While I am keeping the focus in line with the theme of my website, here are a few other quick predictions of note:
– By 1990, 10% of all homes will have some type of alternate energy system, such as solar or wind
– By 1994, the average human life span will be extended to 120 years
– By 2002, every kind of cancer totally curable in early stages; successfully treatable throughout
And if you think that those predictions sound too lofty for the time, check out some of the other teasers from the back cover.
All these dates have passed, and I haven’t read about and 120 year-olds honeymooning on the moon with their clones, have you?
The first music predictions in this book were made by Jon Appleton, a professor who was a co-inventor of the Synclavier. He makes multiple predictions divided by year, so I’ll analyze them one at a time.
“If you can play one instrument, you can play any instrument. Inexpensive digital synthesizers can be connected to your guitar, piano, or wind or brass instrument. When you play your instrument, the sound coming from your loudspeakers will be that of any instrument you select.”
It’s fitting that Appleton invented a musical instrument that aimed to do much of what he describes here through the use of sampling, trying his best to ensure that his prediction would come true. The idea of them being inexpensive in 1985 sounds like a bit of a pipe-dream considering the Synclavier would initially cost you over $25,000 USD when it went to market in the late-1970s. It has since been adapted to modern technology in app-based form for around one-hundredth of the original retail price, but that was not until 2016. The comparable instrument Fairlight CMI was selling early on for around 12,000 British pounds, with the follow-up Series II model retailing at nearly triple the cost at 30,000 pounds upon release in 1982. It would take some doing to bring costs down in order to make Appleton’s projections to hold true.
In a more general sense, you could make a case that a variety of different effects processors for musical instruments (such as guitar pedals) were already fulfilling this prophecy by the time Appleton made these statements. Wah-wah effects (which were often used to mimic human speech) were used not only for guitars, but even wind instruments like the trumpet, as heard in some of the music Miles Davis was creating in the early-70’s. Multi-effect guitar processors would emerge in the 1980s with companies such as Roland, Boss, and ZOOM being among the notable manufacturers. A useful infographic timeline for such pedal innovations can be found here.
If you want to be further generous with Appleton’s prophecy, could a turntable qualify as a musical instrument? With physical manipulation of existing recordings, you can take a saxophone and sustain a note longer, alter or loop the rhythm of a drum beat, or slow the tempo of a guitar to make some other-worldly noise. This was being done by several different artists in hip-hop by 1985, and many of the different scratching techniques were likely already in existence prior to when Appleton’s statements were taken. But that wouldn’t make for much of a prediction then, would it? So we’ll disqualify the turntable (or even reel-to-reel tape manipulation or similar sampling methods).
“Digital recording will allow amateur musicians to play along with prerecorded professionals in a truly interactive expansion of “Music Minus One” (a record firm that produces recordings leaving out one instrument, so that the amateur musician can play along with his own instrument). The amateur instrumentalist will be able to control the tempo of the performance as well as stop and start at any point in the music.”
I do recall reading back issues of Guitar Player and other similar publications that you could buy recordings of your favourite songs with vocals removed, and that would have been done in at least the 1980s if not earlier. I can’t recall if other instruments were as easily removed before 1990, but it definitely could be done by then in theory. That must have been the Music Minus One that he refers to. Tempo changes would also have been available to musicians at that time if you were more of a techie or tinkerer in that you could adjust your turntable (which already typically had at least two speed settings) or cassette deck to go at various speeds. Of course, you’d need to have an easy method of control for this to become a practical reality, probably in the form of a foot switch. Methods of selectively muting different musical instruments, I imagine, would have been one of the aims here, although this isn’t quite mentioned until his next prediction below.
“The music lover, through the extension of home high-fidelity equipment, will be able to “lead” or “conduct” his or her favourite performing ensemble, past or present, through the use of a sensing device like an electrified baton. The sensing device will control the tempo, loudness, or location of the music in the room.”
An electrified baton? Sounds like a standard remote control to me, but I’d think you would have been hard-pressed to find one that could tempo-shift (aside from the fast-forward button) or alter the location of music. However, I have some Panasonic SA-6800X stereo equipment from 1973 that allowed you to pan sounds from speaker to speaker, but it was hard-wired to the amp via cable. My 2017 Chevy Cruze can also pan sounds to favour one speaker over another, which I’m sure has become the standard for most car audio systems on the market today. As far as tempo shifts, I don’t know what would have been in the market that doesn’t sacrifice pitch or would sound too glitchy when going at a higher speed. Nowadays, you can make such changes on your Apple device with apps like Perfect Tempo or Anytune, and you can wave them around like a baton to your heart’s content. If your device is small enough, you can do the proper conductor motions with one hand and thumb-dial the band with the other.
What could have served as an electric baton for conducting music by 1995? I think back to video game technology of the late-80s to early-90s with what home video game consoles were doing with innovative ways of interacting with LCD television sets. Coming to mind are Nintendo’s Power Glove and light gun, which were followed by wireless light guns that were battery powered with accessories that you’d place on top of your television for calibration. If there’s something equivalent to this in the ‘90s that was applicable to a home stereo system, I’d love to know.
“As Max Matthews at the Bell Telephone Laboratories has pointed out, playing the correct notes of a composition is a skill which can be done by a computer, leaving the human performer free to concentrate on those aspects which make one performance different from another. New musical instruments will then appear which makes this kind of performing actively possible.”
Appleton is referring to Max Matthews, who was a pioneer in computer music. His Wikipedia page even shows a photo of him using an electrified baton that is known as a Radio-Baton that could conduct a computer orchestra, so I guess this answered my own question that tied into the 1995 prediction. This baton (aka Radiodrum) actually emerged in the 1980s, so perhaps Matthews’ inclusion in this book drove the development this instrument at a quicker pace than expected. It’s rather interesting, and he demonstrated it in this video, which was made a year prior to his death in 2011.
His work also included some of the earlier uses of computer speech synthesis. Hear in his own words about some of the background and influence on the development of his work with computers, which included a collaboration with composer Edgard Varèse. Matthews was able to achieve his sounds using his MUSIC-N program for composition with the use of synthesized audio waves. Here’s a rather quaint rendition he put together of “Bicycle Built For Two” using computers. Sure, some of the more romantic qualities of the song are lost in translation, but you should get the idea of what was capable around sixty years ago. We owe a debt of gratitude to Max Matthews in helping to drive and push computer technological advances in music, and I’m embarrassed to say that I had not even heard of the man until I read this book.
2000 does seem rather early for computer music to have developed to the point where the audio quality generated by a computer could match the tonal range capable of recreating a wide range of musical instruments, but from a notes perspective a computer could certainly demonstrate perfect pitch if told which note to produce. This particular statement by Appleton seems to hint towards creating live music in particular. The good old-fashioned stand-bys of miming, like the musicians would do on Top of the Pops, and lip-synching were around to fill that role to allow performers to focus on playing to the crowd visually rather than worrying about their musical executions. This, of course, is not viewed as genuine and is rightly a highly-controversial practice that would essentially kill the music careers of artists including Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli (the latter of whom were performing to the voices of session vocalists rather than their own). Auto-Tune on vocalists was also starting to enter into the industry in a big way in the late 1990s, most notably with Cher’s “Believe”. Audio play-back of any other instrument would be nothing new or controversial if being used as a supplement rather than primary tool of performance, such as a band using recorded orchestral accompaniment on a live song in place of hiring additional touring musicians. However, since I don’t keep up-to-date on all the latest in live performance aids, I can’t think of any devices off-hand that would, for instance, pitch correct string or horn instruments that a touring musician would have potentially used as an aid. Some musicians may take pride in their freedom to hit a “wrong” note every once in a while, and I say more power to them!
“Our musical preferences will be stored in a computer data bank. A “phonograph” will be a pocket-sized transmitter connected directly to one’s brain. The transmitter will sense our “musical preference moods” and communicate this information directly to the computer data bank, where an original piece of music will be composed to suit our needs and taste at the particular moment. This music will appear to be an old favourite or an exciting new musical concept.”
We haven’t gotten this far in those precise terms as far as I know, so maybe in nine years this will become our reality. However, do we really need to take it this far? There are several existing resources that give music recommendations based on your existing preferences. I used to use Last.fm to achieve this in combination with Windows Media Player going back at least ten years ago. As I would listen to music on my computer, the song can be tracked and compared against a music library. From there, other artists and albums would be recommended based on listening habits. I also used Pandora radio for this at one point until it ceased operating in Canada, and although I don’t use it, I believe Spotify is capable of a high level of personalization as well.
Computer algorithms also exist in the realm of composition, too. While it didn’t read your mind to do so, I can recall when word spread about Microsoft Songsmith, a piece of software created to assist aspiring songwriters. Simply by humming or singing a melody, an algorithm would help construct a backing track. The infomercials for the software appeared to be ripped straight out of a Tim and Eric sketch. The fine folks across the internet grabbed hold of it, and had their share of fun. You can have fun to this day searching for examples of people using Songsmith with some of their favourite artists across any and all genres. The results are often rather… amusing. This was back in 2009, and the evolution of songwriting with computers would quickly accelerate from there.
Artificial intelligence, or simply AI, has developed by leaps and bounds in the past decade. The most famous uses of this are found in the form of deepfakes that are often created to replicate various celebrities visual appearances while using the voice of someone else (usually an impressionist). While lots is made about deepfakes and their potential to deceive the public (especially if a politician is the one being portrayed), these mostly seem to be used for entertainment and comedic effect (see videos made by comedian Kyle Dunnigan as examples of more light-hearted use of the technology). This can be applied to the realm of music as well, and creativity by those such as Ctrl Shift Face has led to some music videos with a new twist.
The “old favourites” portion of Appleton’s vision has already come through in strange and unusual ways. Years ago, we had holograms allowing for Tupac and Michael Jackson to make returns to the stage, and now brand new creations are bringing departed legends back into the studio. Some recent examples of AI song creation has seen Nirvana tunes made possible in a post-Cobain world, and guitar hero Jimi Hendrix has also been brought back to something resembling life through AI compositions. I don’t have anything close to the know-how relating to how such songs were made possible, but I’m not sure if I’m even all that interested. I think the drive for computers to write better music is admirable in many ways, but the human element needs to be there to truly endear me to a song.
Since we still have nine years to go before 2030, this still gives us room to theorize how much closer we will get to Appleton’s prediction. While it may be nice to simply think of a type of music to listen to and have a new tune appear below our ears, I think scientists are better off thinking up a way of imagining your favourite ice cream flavours without the empty calorie intake. I’m pretty good at making up rock and roll in my head, but rocky road is a totally different beast!
Charles Gillett has the other music prophecies in the book. He is listed in the book as author of The Sound of the City and a co-director of Oval Records (South London label). He passed away in 2010, and his New York Times obituary lists other notable achievements such as helping bring more exposure to artists including Dire Straits and Elvis Costello in his time as a DJ, and played a large role in doing the same for so-called “world music” beginning in the 1980’s.
“The decline and fall of the major record companies will accelerate, making space for a loose network of small, localized record labels which will reflect the tastes and inspiration of their owners. In particular, these smaller companies will find the music that interests and excites a teenaged audience, as punk and new-wave music did in Britain in the late 1970s. Currently, such labels and bands are blocked by conservative radio programmers, and the newcomers will have to bypass that medium by making videos which can be shown on cable TV and bought by kids whose parents have video playback equipment.”
There seemed to have been some significant momentum that led Gillet to make this prediction. While college radio stations date back as far as the 1920s, the extent to which independent record labels operated was still very much smaller. The independent record label didn’t become too prevalent as a force in the industry until around the 1950s with emergence of labels such as Sun Records. Some independent labels that emerged in the coming decades were started by those with deep pockets, such as when the Beatles created Apple Records in 1968, and others started out modest before (in rare cases) making founders very wealthy (see Richard Branson’s Virgin Records). While content off Apple Records would get exposure due to the association with the Beatles, most other indies weren’t nearly as fortunate. Artists were at the mercy of radio stations and their playlists, so it would be college radio rather than mainstream radio, corporate radio, whatever you want to refer to it, where independent labels and their artists under contract could thrive.
College radio stations aren’t limited to as strict regulation for music playlists that channels with a wider broadcast range are subjected to, and the growth of independent record labels in the ‘80s (such as Sub Pop, SST, and I.R.S.) owed a portion of their success to their bands gaining airplay through these channels. The majors looked to these indie labels as testing waters, and would skim the cream of the crop to find the next big thing in music. For instance, Sub Pop, SST, and I.R.S. released the first full-length albums of three of the biggest rock bands of the ‘90’s in Nirvana, Soundgarden, and R.E.M. respectively. Major labels were still quite the force to be reckoned with through 1992, and remain a cog in the industry to facilitate an artist’s growth potential and essentially use indie labels as a farm system. In some ways ways, major record labels have less significance than they had back then (the viral ability that the internet provides artists doesn’t always depend on financial capital), but have also gotten much bigger (just three labels hold the vast majority of the market).
As college radio gave voice to the indies in the ‘80s, so too did television. While there were channels in Britain, America, and other countries that would host music videos and band performances some of the time, television wasn’t quite living up to its potential as a promotional tool until stations made room for dedicated music programming blocks, and progressed from there once full-blown music channels were a reality. The behemoth that MTV became would grow to rival the so-called conservative radio stations as a place to be heard. In Canada, the MuchMusic station led to my first taste of countless bands, and perhaps your country had something similar.
The beautiful thing about MTV is that they would accept music video submissions from the public. However, time changes all, and I can no longer see any evidence of the video submission form on the MTV website as it is described here. Could that be because MTV hardly ever airs music videos now? It’s part of a decline that seems to had begun since the mid-to-late 1990s. Even their second channel MTV2 evolved into reruns of their original TV shows rather than its original intention of airing blocks of music videos. How long before MTV Classic meets a similar fate?
Still, in 1992 MTV (and other parallels around the world) were doing the job, though it wasn’t long before those programming changes would kick in.
“With videos as the main outlet for new music, a different kind of performer will come into music, with backgrounds in art, theater, mime, and graphic design, who will take advantage of keyboard synthesisers and rhythm machines which require forethought but no great dexterity. The guitar, which came into prominence in the mid 1950s and dominated the arena-playing bands of the 1970s, will recede as an archetypal instrument of pop music, giving way to the slightly robotic but melodic sound of keyboard synthesizers.
By tradition, the greatest breakthroughs in pop music are made by artists who were previously unknown, so it is crazy to attempt to name the pop stars of five years from now; but already it can be seen that certain performers made an early move towards Future Pop, notably Sly Stone (as far back as 1967), David Bowie, and Donna Summer’s producer, Giorgio Moroder. By 1980 Britain had become the workshop where experimental bands had the best chance to survive commercially while forging new styles, and among the leaders were Gary Numan (who topped the charts with Are Friends Electric? and Cars), the Buggles (whose Video Killed the Radio Star expressed the spirit of this writer’s concept of the future with far more flair and fun than this typed-out feature can achieve), and New Musik (Living By Numbers was another keen comment on how we will live). Waiting in the wings are Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark, the Human League, and Ed Sirrs, each with promising records already out. There are surely many more still at work on home tape recorders, whose flexibility is an important element in Future Pop; no longer is it necessary to incur huge debts in making records and then look for a large record company to bail out the artist.
But in the end we must admit that Doris Day already said it back in 1956: Whatever will be, will be.”
I immediately got the connection with David Bowie and some of the new wave acts he listed, but was curious to know what made some of Sly Stone or producer Giorgio Moroder’s music qualify as Future Pop compared to the others listed since I’m not heavily familiar with them. While most including myself know of Sly and the Family Stone’s more commercial music such as “Dance To The Music”, “Everyday People”, and “Family Affair”, their 1967 A Whole New Thing album (which my brother graciously let me borrow) brings fantastic energy and showed plenty of commercial potential, but was probably mentioned since it didn’t get nearly as much love as the following records upon its initial release. Sly’s own music career never again reached his success with the Family Stone and his collaborations were more sporadic once that group dissolved, but his influence in music is immense with continuous praise from music critics and led to Sly and The Family Stone gaining a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993. As a band that has been sampled several hundred times, the next few decades saw their sound creep its way into Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” (“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”) , Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Deep Cover” (“Sing a Simple Song”), and Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Membrane” (“Life”) not to mention the various artists that continue to crate dig for Sly Stone grooves to this day.
Giorgio Moroder began his collaboration with Donna Summer beginning with her debut album Lady of the Night in 1974 as a songwriter, and his role in her career would expand from that point forward as she gained higher album sales and hit singles such as “Love to Love You Baby”, “I Feel Love” and “Hot Stuff” placed her into the upper echelon of pop stardom. He balanced these collaborations with a fruitful solo career of his own, most notably for providing the soundtrack for Midnight Express at the point this book was published. But how much of the future of music did he help to shape? The man had an impressive run of success that extended beyond his ‘70s work. Moroder had his mitts on what can now be regarded as some classic ‘80s pop song on both songwriting and production, with the theme from “The Never Ending Story”, Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” from the Top Gun soundtrack, and “Flashdance… What a Feeling” from the iconic dance film being among his gems. His continued prescence in the music industry shows he was more than a disco guy that can fully adapt to the times and push pop music in further directions.
There seems to be great emphasis on the potential of synthesizers in many similar music writer’s forecasts from the ‘70s and the ‘80s. In this regard, Gillett was largely proven right, but it would be a gradual decline for the guitar in popular music. And when I say gradual, I mean very gradual because guitar-driven bands in the ‘80’s managed to co-exist quite well alongside artists more known for using synths. Considering that 1980 kicked off with a massively-popular “guitar album” with AC/DC’s Back In Black and the decade saw other big sellers being released in the rock world like Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, the guitar wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Buggles are great and all, but they weren’t at all in competition with these rockers.
A more longer-term vision of music would prove to be more correct. When it comes to rock bands that have cracked into the mainstream in recent years, their songs don’t elevate the guitarist to a god-like status and place it as the dominant sound in the mix of the non-vocal instruments. Imagine Dragons, Arcade Fire, and Maroon 5 are among bands from the past decade or so often labelled as rock that I rarely even see associated with guitar despite the fact they do utilize them, and this is because the instrument tends to take more a supportive role. This is largely why I see guitar magazines like Guitar World focusing more on heavy metal and Guitar Player on classic rock musicians in their cover stories. I find that pop music that isn’t associated with rock also seems to lack guitar, bass guitar, or stringed instruments of any kind really, and if they do they sound much more synthetic and lifeless. That’s part of why I usually find myself reaching backwards pre-2000 to locate intriguing pop artists that I never paid much attention to or knew about from their heyday. A record by Kate Bush or Jane Siberry, for example, has enough instrumentally going on to make me want to reach for the liner notes or read the album’s Wikipedia page to find out who backs them on different tracks. I seem to have to look towards artists on the indie labels in the present day to get the same type of drive.
And if you are like me and were scratching your head at the mention of Ed Sirrs, don’t be embarrassed. The plug could very well have been for a personal acquaintance, seeing as he only has one credited single with “I Think I Think Too Much”. How else could you explain such a fortuitous plug?
His last point regarding the incursion of debts is of interest as well. Plenty of musicians were building home studios at the time and continued to do so, but 1992 was too soon a cutoff date for those to consider home recording as a cost-effective measure. Nowadays, depending on your needs, you can effectively record an album in a basement or even a bedroom for a few thousand dollars worth of recording gear (instruments, amplifiers, etc. not included). If we are talking major label album quality, there were very few musicians that could afford the startup cost of a studio at that point. It’s still a challenge financially to do this, but it’s all a matter of weighing it against the cost of professional studio time, which you are often liable to pay back even if a record label initially fronts the money in the form of an advance. Several artists have been caught in recoupment traps set up by record labels, and this practice extended far past 1992, impacting the finances of several major label artists such as Kanye West, TLC, and Prince.
“The days of buying records are already numbered; the current process is inefficient, cumbersome, and expensive, with musicians transferring their noises onto tape, somebody else transferring the tape to disc (or video disc), and then the whole complicated mess of distributing and selling records, shipping unwanted returns back to the warehouse…
We know that the future promises that most households will have an information/communication center, plugged into libraries of information, video material, tv, and telephone systems. For musicians, the prospect is mouthwatering; having made a tape (sound or video), the artist will pay a fee to place the digital recording in a music library (the fee will escalate, depending on whether the musician wants to make the tape available locally, nationally, or internationally).
At home, the consumer has no need of radio or records, but has access to every recording ever made, each coded and available upon pressing the right combination of numbers (which costs a fee, some of which is paid as a royalty to the performer and writer of the music). Given this almost limitless choice, the consumer does need help and advice, and there will be a new kind of program consultant, who will make suggested sequences of songs available to consumers – for a fee, of course. It will be the task of every musician who adds a new song to the library to somehow arouse the interest of a program consultant in the new work: far from being eliminated, payola may be as big a part of Future Pop as it had been in the past.
In this new world, where much new music will be conceived and recorded in conjunction with a video, will there be a place for live concert performance? The question is unanswerable in isolation. Will there be theaters, dance clubs, or any kind of public performance? Or will society finally have retreated into isolated home entertainment, scared by street violence from ever venturing into the night?
If Western civilization does degenerate into this kind of self-centered paranoia, the future for music will more likely be based elsewhere, most likely in the third world, where music plays a more fundamental role in public rituals, and where rhythm must be good for at least another 50 years.”
Giving a 38-year span for your prophecies isn’t exactly a bold move, but that aside, you could take Gillett’s prediction and interpret it several ways when looking at what is currently available to us.
His system of distribution sounds interesting, though largely centered in the time of the book’s publishing. In this day and age, a record label would still be largely responsible for making easier connections regarding getting the album into different regions, with major acts on major labels having a much easier time of getting your foot in the door. However, the tables are balancing for worldwide distribution of music for independent artists, but algorithms could still be slanted against them when using a service such as Spotify. To be fair, while I would obviously like to see a system that recommends obscure musicians up there with the household names, it makes sense to me that artists that get more plays (the ones more users are aware of) would be more widely recommended. However, Spotify claims in their royalties section that their payment is not only dependent on the number of stream, but is also based on deals negotiated with labels and distributors. I’d think that would extend right across the board to the whole recommendations and playlists Spotify create for their users, which is why blogs out there are providing tips to musicians on how to get more favourable odds in “hacking” the algorithm. This “fee” that Gillett mentions could be part of the negotiation process, sort of a modern day equivalent of payola.
To approach this point broadly, it basically sounds like he’s describing the internet at large. The World Wide Web as we know it was made accessible to the everyday person with the advent of the web browser, Mosaic being one of the first popular ones which launched in the first year of Gillet’s chosen range (1993), and the Netscape Navigator one year later. In theory, this would be the big equalizer in terms of how artists can funnel potential fans towards their music. I say in theory because search engines such as Google mix paid promotions in with their search results, which (in my experience, at least) often bumps far more-relevant search results much further down the list than they should be.
Nonetheless, exploring musicians’ earliest forays into self-promotion over the internet makes for an interesting study. There are several bands who saw the internet as a good opportunity to reach out to their fanbases. Les Horrible Cernettes, or LHC for short, apparently was the first band with a presence on the internet in 1992. I haven’t verified it as authentic, but it almost feels like some sort of meme, with many comments beneath their videos bringing up the Mandela Effect. Still, there were plenty of others out there making use of the new tool of the ‘90s in interesting ways. From a more mainstream source, MTV VJ Adam Curry registered the domain name MTV.com on behalf of the company in 1993, which eventually spiralled into a lawsuit. From a more independent-minded end of things, one of the more interesting things I’ve spotted was the founding of the Internet Underground Music Archive, which was also in 1993. Based on the organization’s name, it catered to artists whose music could not be heard through more traditional sources such as TV and radio. As seen in this CNN report, the IUMC site hosted music streaming and offered song downloading capability back in 1994. Also of note is that the first online music magazine Innerviews launched in the same year, and it’s still going strong to this day.
As far as musicians you may have actually heard of, their presence on the internet wasn’t too far behind. If you use 1995 as the cut-off year, the list of internet pioneers proves to be a rather interesting collective of organizations, people, and musicians. Megadeth often have a knack for getting mentions on this web page, and they have a legitimate claim of being one of music’s early birds, with their first site “Megadeth Arizona” launching in 1994. Another interest website that developed around the same time was in the form of a fan community based around Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. The site, cleverly titled “Home Page Replica”, launched more than a decade after the group disbanded in 1982. Now that’s what I call fan dedication! And speaking of fan dedication, many of you should be familiar with crowdfunding sites used by artists of all types such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and (until it went bankrupt in 2019) PledgeMusic to help get their recordings funded in exchange for exclusive perks and rewards, or sometimes something as basic as setting up a pre-order. Marillion beat them all to market, using their own website as a means of raising money following a historic fan-driven effort to finance an American tour back in 1997.
That’s about all the book contained when it comes to predicting the future of music. I have a few other books and magazines in my collection where they take a round-table approach on theorizing where current trends will take music into the future, so it would be fun for me to pick through some of those at a later date as well.