If there’s one product that’s transformed music production and consumption this year, it’s the iPad. Developers have created a huge range of musical apps, with high-end audio firm Roland introducing visually controlled music editing and guitar synth software, for example.
What this means is that, beyond Garageband, the iPad is bursting on our musical youth. There’s bands, buskers and DJs – even an iPad orchestra. When it comes to music creation, there’s an app for that. Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz recorded their album The Fall using an iPad.
There’s plenty of apps for music consumption, too. Shazam has become even more compelling this year while Spotify has continued to evolve and gathered more converts. Artists and music labels have also grown app happy, with Bjork recently introducing her Biophilia album-as-an-app concept.
Social networking and location-based technologies seem to be becoming more important. Those location sensors inside iPhones and iPads are enabling new breeds of music-related apps – some UK festivals are working to develop apps with maps to help you to find your friends on site.
Social networking and augmented reality technologies will become ever more important, from We7-like music recommendations to gig-finding apps such as BandMate. Perhaps the most important social networking change (other than the complete failure of MySpace) is Facebook’s move into music retail, working in partnership with numerous online services in order to offer a fully worked out music discovery, connection, sharing and acquisition platform – perhaps the biggest threat yet to Apple’s iTunes empire.
Still, Apple continues to innovate within iTunes. Its new iCloud service is accompanied by iTunes Match. Initially available in the US, that service is widely seen as an amnesty for file-sharers, enabling them to easily access music on all their Apple devices for a set fee. This reflects a wider move to cloud-based music services. iTunes Match is expected to be available in AUstralia and internationally by the end of the year.
Apple’s AirPlay is also creating lots of interest. Denon, Pioneer, Marantz and other brands are rushing to introduce AirPlay-enabled entertainment systems for the home. AirPlay technology allows you to easily stream music (or video) from a compatible iOS device (your phone or tablet) to a compatible receiver. This makes it easier than ever to integrate Apple’s world-class music ecosystem within your own home entertainment set-up. Audio equipment manufacturers are able to license AirPlay from Apple for use within their devices.
As for headphones, Skullcandy continues to drive into the youth markets, while Shure and Sennheiser are securing the mid and high-end consumers.
Internet radio system
Product name: Music Tap Elite
Price: Not yet available
These systems offer digital tuners for internet radio and digital sound boosters to get the best from compressed MP3s. There’s also Bluetooth, a USB port and support for WAV, WMA, AAC and FLAC files. There’s also a remote control app for the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. Another app, AirJam, allows you to connect up to four Apple devices via Bluetooth.
Product name: Etymotic hf3
Price: $239.95 (from Australian Apple stores)
These certainly aren’t the cheapest in-ear headphones you’ll find around, but these buds won’t let you down as they deliver serious sound quality. You can expect crisp and excitingly rendered music, but you may find them a little bright when playing your most compressed music files. Other features include a three-button remote and a microphone for use with your iPhone.
Product name: Skullcandy Aviator
Jay-Z’s Roc Nation worked with Skullcandy to deliver these distinctive over-the-ear cans. High-quality materials, a funky skull logo and impressive sound complete the company’s push to wrap itself around the ears of fashion-conscious music fans. Expect more artists to soon follow suit as more jointly developed headphones are planned in future.