What Does 5G Mean For Music?
Computer Music|Autumn 2020
What Does 5G Mean For Music?
5G is the next generation of mobile cellular technology. Before you ask, it is not just faster 4G (although it can be up to 20 times quicker). 5G brings with it lower latency figures and higher bandwidths – that is, more data and quicker – and it’s more about what you can do with this extra girth that counts. 5G will mean some obvious improvements – like better sound quality for your streaming music and being able to play properly in time with other musicians online – but there are some other less obvious, yet far more exciting 5G musical possibilities. From enjoying a virtual band on stage to accessing a recording studio on your phone, 5G will transform the way we make and enjoy music, and it might just save the live music industry as we know it.

So let’s have a look at the big five advancements in music that 5G will bring…

1 An improved live experience

Should we ever get out to enjoy gigs anytime soon, 5G could well change that experience beyond recognition, from buying a beer to enhancing the reality of the gig itself.

The Chase Centre in San Francisco has already staged the first augmented 5G gig, where The Chainsmokers played on stage while fans added virtual digital enhancements by way of their 5G phones. They were able to “experience high-fidelity graphics and imagery timed with music”, and also enjoy other pre-, post- and in-show photo, video and interactive experiences via a special 5G app.

Before that has you running for the hills in fear of yet more mobile phones being present at live events, the O2 Arena in London offers a more practical vision of how 5G could impact the live experience, and it might even lead to less phone use. The venue commissioned a report on 5G earlier this year and concluded that the new technology could revolutionize events there, including reducing the queuing at bars and merchandise stores – you pre-order your beers and try your T-Shirts virtually for size before you buy – and by providing multi-angled videos of the event. These could be controlled live by fans or sent to every attendee after the concert, thus encouraging them to watch the gig rather than record it on their own devices. We can but dream…

2 An alternative live experience

As well as transforming music events, 5G could well end up being the live industry’s saviour should coronavirus continue to impact the sector in the devastating fashion we have been seeing.

Live streaming might well become the norm – at least in the mid-term – and 5G technology’s improved wireless performance brings all sorts of additional features for the live performer wanting to beam their concert to the safety of your home. Again, the entire gig could be filmed with multiple video streams so that the user experience could be completely customized. Want to focus on the lead singer rather than the rest of the band? Now you can!

Then there are other enhancements that could be added during a performance. Want to order some merchandise? Read each band’s member’s bio and about what they had for breakfast? Want to mix the drums quieter and make that guitar solo louder? All this and more could be coming to a sofa near you soon.

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Autumn 2020