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5G and the Future of Music

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Leading industry figures at South by Southwest talk about the interplay between connectivity and entertainment. 

By Laura Kobylecky

#SXSW Online 2021 is bringing people together in a socially distant world. For this session, “Can 5G Transform the Live Music Experience?” Cristiano Amon and Steve Aoki have come together to talk about the impact of 5G technology on music. Cristiano Amon is the president of Qualcomm Incorporated and Aoki is a Grammy Nominated DJ, Producer, Music Executive, and Designer.

5G is a popular topic in 2021. It was discussed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year and remains a point of interest at SXSW this year. Qualcomm’s website explains that 5G is “a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G network.” This wireless network could be a large improvement over the previous networks by delivering “higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users.”

5G remains a popular topic in 2021 #SXSW Share on X

The virtual session with Amon and Aoki begins on the lighter side with a casual tour through Aoki’s opulent home. Aoki jumps off of a roof into a pool that is 16 feet deep. He shows off a large library room full of books and vinyl. Amon and Aoki discuss their mutual fondness for vinyl. Aoki shares an anecdote about how he acquired some of his vinyl after college when some friends couldn’t move with all their bulky collection. While technology has moved forward and allowed more efficient digital storage of music, Aoki seems to have maintained a deep fondness for this antiquated, tangible, method of music collection.

The home tour moves into Aoki’s home office, also known as “Aoki’s Playhouse.” Aoki’s Playhouse “pays the bills” and is also “where the magic happens,” according to Aoki. This room used to be a racquetball court. It has been remodeled and contains a large green screen, some GoPros, and the other tools that Aoki uses to perform and live stream concerts as a DJ.

Aoki talks about how the progression of technology has changed his experiences as a DJ. Nowadays, “anyone can DJ any song at any given place.” However, earlier in his career, “I used to tow in records. I could only play the 60 records that I brought. So, you go from 60 records 15 years ago, to having unlimited access to the internet.” Nowadays, when Aoki is traveling around the world, he can quickly download new music to an SD card and then insert the SD card into his unit.

@steveaoki talks about how the progression of technology has changed his experience as a DJ #SXSW 2021 Share on X

For Aoki, the possibility of 5G streaming would be a game-changer. He says it would give him “access to being able to play so much music to so many people.” One thing that 5G could help with is increasing access to computing power. Amon, of Qualcomm, explains how this would work. With 5G, the internet speed would let you connect to the cloud in real-time. Through that connection, you could get access to more computing power. Even if you were working from a phone, you could potentially access the “processing power of your studio,” from a distance, through the cloud.

@steveaoki believes that technology played a key role in keeping people connected during this time of social distancing and online conferences #SXSW 2021 Share on X

Aoki sees the value in that processing power. He explains that input and output speeds are significant to his work. For him, “It’s all about being in the flow, I don’t want to disrupt the flow.” He remembers how he used to spend a great deal of time sitting around and waiting for downloads or waiting for stems to render. He says that the faster workflow, enabled by 5G would help prevent being stuck in the “bottleneck of creativity.”

Even if you were working from a phone, you could potentially access the processing power of your studio, from a distance, through the cloud #SXSW 2021 Share on X

5G could also have a big impact on the festival experience. Aoki talks about the difficulties of staying connected with people at festivals. Currently, a person might just turn their phone on “airplane mode,” since they can’t get reception anyway. They could be at Coachella or Electric Daisy Carnival, trying to post but it’s like “a wall has gone over.” For Aoki, being able to share his experiences in real-time is important. 5G connectivity could make that possible soon.

This 5G connectivity could also enable better quality video. Amon explains that with 5G, people might be able to broadcast 4k interactive video in real-time. He also proposes the idea that Augmented Reality glasses could be a tool for sharing those perspectives, where a person could live stream high definition video taken by their glasses and the video would let other people look at the world through their eyes. The glasses could also provide real-time overlays of digital experiences so that a person could interact with the virtual world and the real world simultaneously.

A faster workflow enabled by 5G would help prevent being stuck in a bottleneck of creativity #SXSW 2021 Share on X

Aoki is enthusiastic about the ideas presented. He says “I believe not just in the merging of music and technology, but in human and technology.” Although he is an avid tech enthusiastic, Aoki remains practical about the limitations. Not everyone is caught up on the latest tech and Aoki doesn’t want them to get left behind. He explains his methods for deciding which innovations he wants to include in his process:

“When I produce I always listen on every different medium. You have to think just enough ahead but not too far ahead because if you think too far ahead they won’t get it. It goes right over their heads.”

For Aoki, the main priorities are quality content and connection and 5G may help with both of these. His music and live streams could be improved with 5G. The content would be delivered faster and with higher definition. This instant delivery would allow Aoki to take those lifestream experiences and amplify connections as he is able to provide more instant responses.

5G could also have a big impact on the festival experience #SXSW by @TheLauraKoby Share on X

Aoki believes that “technology played a key role in keeping people connected” during this time of social distancing and online conferences. He feels that “at the end of the day I want to be able to connect with as many people as possible…in all the different ways that I can.” 5G may help Aoki fulfill those goals and enable other creators to do the same.

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Laura Kobylecky is a contributing writer to Tech Trends. She is particularly interested in new and emerging technology and culture. Connect with her on LinkedIn