On Friday, as music at Barcelona’s Sónar Advanced Music Festival stages kept sounding non-stop, we had the chance of attending some cutting-edge presentations on the frontier between art and technology at Sónar +D.
The first stimulating proposal of the day came from Japanese artist/designer Sputniko!. Now working as Assistant Professor at MIT Media Lab for the Design Fictions Group, she is also a highly renowned pop-culture personality in Japan, with a wide expertise as developer of hybrid projects addressed to question boundaries between technology and everyday life.
Coining the term “New Pop”, she talked about the importance of creating controversial works and challenging proposals using the power of new media, specially the social ones. In her experience, you can develop an influential position as a popular figure and take it to make a difference through insightful projects with an actual meaning.
She usually makes known her innovative projects through music video-clips full of imagination and humor. Sputniko! exposed some of her more celebrated works, as the Menstruation Machine, a device which simulates the symptoms of menstruation for those who wear it. Also, she talked about her Lunar Girl project with space agency NASA, a project meant to approach young girls to space sciences.
A real designer for debate, Sputniko! gently shared with PostDigital Node some other thoughts in an interview that we will publish in the following days.
After the shiny Sputniko’s speech, we witnessed Interface Culture Lab, a live demo of the project by The University of Art and Design Linz (Kunstuniversität Linz). Even if the center’s research embrace many different areas, for this demo they focused on sound experiments, specially on technology and nature associations. A surprising line of study focusing on how we can pull out sounds from natural elements: for instance, making music from a plain wood board or vegetables and fruits. Distinguishing amongst music and device, they proposed an inventive way of raising again our relationship with everyday’s objects.
In a very different tone, MusicBiz 2025 was a round table formed by Emilien Moyon (moderator), Scott Cohen, Chris Carey and Stephen Webber. All of them Music Industry insiders, they struggled to find out the upcoming future of the business. With noticeable differences among their points of view, from their dialogue arouse some of the main issues in this field. Is Big Data analysis really shacking up music companies’ way of working? How much will change the relationship amongst musicians and audience? Have social media changed the way people listen to music? Disagreeing in many pivotal aspects about the future, they agreed on the revolution lived and the incertitude about what is to come.
Departing from some unbiased reasonings about the use of Big Data in Music Industry explained by Chris Carey, the debate swing from wry skepticism (“you miss the point if you think the important thing is to count likes”) to delighted excitement (“Spotify is almost perfect”). They all shared the common feeling of living in pretty confusing times for Music Industry, when new tools are so useful as disturbing: for instance, Scott Cohen explained how musicians used to blame media as a forced filter to reach audiences, and now that these filters have fallen they blame the vast scattering where they are placed. By his hand, Stephen Webber hopefully forecasted a future where music would be a whole experience joining many different formats in one single platform, and the promising development of 3D concerts with video mapping. Chris Carey remarked that the end of the old music business is allowing the birth of a new way of earning profits moving the focus to other peripheral aspects of this industry. We had the chance of deepening on Carey’s ideas on a separate interview, that we will publish on this blog soon.
At the end, of course all of them agreed that the core of this industry are songs: even if the way of distributing and selling music has so much changed, the act of listening and enjoying songs is essentially the same. “You can only hear a song at a time”, was one of the irrefutable arguments. Even if the participants had quite opposite viewpoints, in some essentials the agreement was inescapable.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to the postdigital artist Oneohtrix Point Never concert. We really hope he comes back to Barcelona soon.
From pure artistic proposals to raw business analysis, Sonar +D Day 2 offered us a trip into the near future of music: a hazy outlook maybe, but with some bright flashes that are worth to be followed eagerly.
Day 3 recap coming shortly. Keep tuned.