The 10 Music Tech Advances We’re Most Thankful For

Posted November 22

That day of epic gorging is just around the corner, and before we sink into a haze of tryptophan and family-imposed depression, we decided to reflect back on this year in music tech and share those innovations we’re more thankful for.

Granted, this list is far from complete — which means you may very well have some additions — so feel free to take to the comments below and tell us what you’re digging this year.

But remember: As the title of this post suggests, this here is a love fest, so save your regrets/disappointments/soul-searing rants for your in-laws.


This was undoubtedly the year when music and the act of listening to music became much more social online. From the rampant popularity of (a series of musical chatrooms in which you can spin tunes with friends and strangers) and (which is akin to Turntable, but with videos) to newer joints like Myxer Social Radio, it’s become such that just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. And as borderline agoraphobics, for that we’re grateful.


Music videos are getting more and more interactive and, subsequently, more and more cool. That fact is due to the preponderance of new tech, but, probably most strikingly, recent experiments with HTML5. (HTML5 is a language for presenting content online.) From videos like “The Johnny Cash Project” to Michael Jackson’s “Behind the Mask” to Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi and Norah Jones’ “Three Dreams of Black,” users are able to mess around and play with videos in more interesting ways than ever before. Our ADD-addled brains thank you, HTML5.


Although it’s undoubtedly a popular photo-sharing app with the average Joe — boasting around 9 million users — once artists started flocking to the service, it took on a whole new appeal for music lovers. In addition to functioning as a way to keep up with the lives of friends and family, Instagram also became a sort of mobile tour diary, affording us a look into the daily life — on the road and off — of our favorite musicians. Thanks to Instagram, everybody’s stalking.


Music subscription service Spotify may have made a huge splash when it finally jumped across the pond and landed stateside this year, but it’s not the only player in the music subscription service game. Rdio and MOG also launched free service tiers this year, and Slacker Radio went on-demand — to name a few admirable adversaries.


Music Hack Day, you complete us. From hacks that allow one to play invisible instruments to programs that make mustaches out of waveforms to band-inspired drink databases, we salute these stalwart hackers’ ability to pound Red Bull until the sun comes up and all logic is lost to creativity’s wiles.


If you can’t find something to listen to on your commute home, you obviously ain’t trying that hard. This year, tons of music discovery tools hit the scene: Pandora for music dropped an iPad app, music curation service RCRD LBL came out with an iPhone app, Spin released its gorgeous magazine app for the iPad (complete with playable playlists) — and those services just came off of the top of our heads. Pretty soon we’re going to need a discovery app to wade through all these discovery apps.


Sharing, as they say, is caring, and this year, we’re proving that we care a lot by obsessively sharing music. Facebook launched a deeper integration with music apps like Rdio, Spotify and MOG, allowing users to share what they’re listening to with their Facebook friends, and a bevy of apps like SoundTracking and Soundshare hit the scene, allowing us to broadcast our musical tastes to the world. Google’s newly launched Music Store also got into the giving spirit with its integration with Google+, letting users share their purchases as playable tracks on Google+ profiles. We’re guessing some denizens of the web are more grateful for this trend than others, however (Translation: Your friends’ musical taste could suck).


If you’re a music lover, seeing live music is practically a weekly affair — your clothes are oft soaked in beer, your face stamped with the bootprints of many a crowdsurfer. Luckily, it’s basically impossible to miss your favorite bands when they come through town nowadays — mobile apps like Songkick and SuperGlued and Facebook apps like ConcertCrowd are a boon to concertgoers, and streaming platforms like StageIt (not to mention video-sharing sites) make it simple to see a show online if you can’t be there in person. Now if only someone would go ahead and invent Smell-O-Vision, we could get the full sweat-stained, pot-wreathed experience. We can leave out the bootprints, though.


Thank you, bands like The Flaming Lips, Neon Indian, OK Go, Bjork and Fol Chen for reminding us that technological innovation in music is not limited to the marketing side of the equation. All of these artists — and many more — found interesting ways to integrate technology into their art, creating music, merch and videos that push the boundaries of what it means to be a band.


And, lastly, thank you to all the bands who consistently release their music for free online, allowing anyone and everyone to check out their tunes — a list including but not limited to: Girl Talk, Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Moby, Lil B, The Weeknd, etc, etc. We recognize that it’s hard to be a musician in this day and age, which is why we’ll be using all of the aforementioned tools to find, enjoy, listen to and purchase tickets to see your tunes.

By Brenna Ehrlich

Image courtesy of Flickr, BrickArt!san