What is MusicTech?

Since you landed here, if I were to throw at you the term “MusicTech”, you’d probably know what I’m referring to. Even if you only have the slightest idea, Innovation in Music is a growing and ever-evolving sector and I won’t hold it against anyone to feel a bit lost. Since Resonance has been at the intersection of Music and Tech for years now, I thought we’d get started on a few things.

A brief definition of MusicTech

Up until now, there never has been an official definition of “MusicTech”. So let’s start there.

The music industry has always been at the forefront of major changes, somehow making innovation a part of the field, without the need to think about MusicTech as an independent sector. Think about it; among the main evolutions in creative industries, Music was usually one of the first sectors to take the hit. A better audio quality got developed? Music went from vinyl to compact discs. Digital Content? Music moved on to a new business model that streaming developed to halt music piracy. Getting hit by a global pandemic? Music found a way to keep in touch with audiences without Live, which incidentally, was the main source of revenue for the industry. I could go on but you get you get my drift.

So in a way, innovation has always been part of the music industry. There always have been changes that happened when they needed to (facing a crisis) or if new opportunities arose (to stay up to date). So how come we’re only talking about MusicTech now?

📌 If you take a closer look at the History between Music and Tech, it feels like Music has always had to adapt to changes in a hurry, always reacting and never anticipating. Now it’s safe to say that the music industry (i.e. the Majors, institutions and any “traditional” actor) are trying to get a hold of innovation and create a real collaboration to make the most of it.

At the crossroads of Music & Tech

It’s tougher to think of Music as a standalone industry. Everything is connected between Music, Gaming, Live entertainment, Brands… This gives space for innovation and the infamous world of Tech to grow and take its space in the music industry. The need for a digital transition is here and considering the pace at which transformation of the music industry is going, tech solutions are highly required by now.

MusicTech becomes a field, at least in my opinion, when it’s deeply needed. Music is an old industry, working in its specific and very complex ways. On one hand, Copyright evolves by building blocks over blocks, so when a new regulation is needed, we usually add new rules over the current ones. Which makes it very complicated and it’s not about to stop.

On the other hand, Tech is a field that thrives on pushing limits. Meaning that companies will develop new platforms, app or other products, release it to create a new habit, a new consumption, and regulation will come later. Where Music regulates to make sure the evolution is well taken care of, Tech goes full speed through the wall. And between the two fields, there’s MusicTech. The collaboration between Music and Tech essentially evolves around working together to create a dialog and develop new solutions to help the ecosystem grow, in harmony.

📌 MusicTech is the kind of company or project that works in Music (or at least has a part of its activity in Music), with an innovative component at its core, which is part of its business model.

Innovation in Music is yet to be studied

Then comes the difficulty to set clear limits to that category, to measure the volume of people working in the field and to allow for a healthy collaboration.

Innovation in Music never really was studied as such. As of right now, in France, there is a study developed by Music Tech France (soon to be released). Catalonia has released a study by the Barcelona MusicTech Hub, with the support of Accio. But no other body have realized a full on study on MusicTech. Just to mention them, Music Tech Europe is setting up to gather funds and create the first directory and observatory of MusicTech across the continent.

France has some resources on the matter, including a study created by the National Center of Music, from beginning of 2020. Of course many data are outdated by now but this study was set to reach out to more than 500 companies, only in France! The ecosystem is here, it’s now becoming stronger thanks to the creation of various hubs scattered across Europe just like Music Tech France, but also Music Tech Germany, Music Innovation Hub, Barcelona MusicTech Hub, MusicTech UK… The recognition of MusicTech as a field also comes from the fact that its actors are uniting.

These communities have this in common: they were created because their founders wanted to find the rest of the key players working for Innovation in Music. And that’s exactly how the collectives got to grow: the need to be seen by the rest of the ecosystem, but also to have more weight down the line, to be more influential on subsidies conditions, to access more grants and be more visible. Which is working!

Who is part of MusicTech then?

So now, we have a clearer idea of what the MusicTech game is and who the players are. With them gathering in collectives to be more influential, it shouldn’t be too complicated to find them.

MusicTech companies span from a simple platform rethinking a workflow or a tool for the music industry, to complex tech applied to Music. It spans from Groover, rethinking a portion of music promotion, to Ircam Amplify, putting the deepest research on audio at the service of Music. Mapping out the ecosystem would be a mission that’d require a full time job (or several) over a few months. But here’s a first try that we got to develop while managing members for Music Tech France:


As you can see, there are a few examples on there, of course this is not an exhaustive list, and even regarding categories, we could add a lot more of them. But it gives you an idea of how wide and complex MusicTech is as a field itself. The good news is that the field is growing, we are witnessing more and more companies stepping into MusicTech, answering needs from the music industry that are more understandable to the Tech industry than ever before.

Not to forget that it’s about representation too! Compared to a few years back, there weren’t so many events where MusicTech is showcased. Looking in Europe, there are now some really great events such as Wallifornia, fully dedicated to MusicTech, ESNS putting an accent on Innovation in Music and especially Live, Linecheck with the Music Tech Europe Academy being launch from there each year, MaMA Music & Convention with MaMA Invent, the focus on Innovation with booths and panels for 3 days straight. Not to forget the unmissable Music Biz now integrating many topics on innovation, Indie Week inviting more innovators to meet up with the music industry or the very Entertainment-focused SXSW in North America.

As you can see, the work around building MusicTech as sector itself is far from being done. In fact, it’s part of what motivated the creation of Resonance. Evolving in the field for several years made it clear that the right time to be at the crossroads between Music and Tech is now. But there’s still so much work to be done to allow these two fields to collaborate that we’ll use every resource Resonance has to create the right message to right people, at the right time. See everything we can do together here.

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