11th August 2023

Watch: The Future of… Recorded Music at Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Studios and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) joined forces with Bowers & Wilkins to host a future-focused music event.

Looking back at the history of recorded music is always an intriguing topic to delve into; discovering how the technology available at the time and the innovative techniques honed by artists, producers and recording engineers have shaped the way we record music today. But something equally thought-provoking is looking forward in time and speculating how the music, scores and recordings we love will be created, marketed and enjoyed in the future.

This year, Abbey Road Studios and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) joined forces with Bowers & Wilkins, their Official Partner, to host an event about just this topic. Taking place in Abbey Road Studios’ legendary Studio Two, The Future of… Recorded Music featured a selection of thought leaders from the industry, each with unique expertise to offer on the subject.

From talks about music-listening trends to future predictions of what’s to come and more, the future-focused event brimmed with intuitive ideas and exciting prospects. Additionally, before and after the main talks, attendees were encouraged to make their way up to the control room in Studio Two to enjoy a showreel of music and media created at Abbey Road Studios using Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, which after over 40 years in the studios continue to be used as reference monitors in the recording, mixing and mastering process of countless songs, albums and scores created at the studio.

The Future of… Recorded Music event was the first instalment of the BPI Insight Session 50 series. It was created to spotlight the next 50 years of innovation in music and celebrate five decades of the BPI and its mission to promote British music. To round off the event, the industry heads at the forefront of the initiative delivered a panel discussion to delve even deeper into the topic.

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the event in person or didn’t catch the live stream on the day, the BPI has uploaded all the talks to their YouTube channel. Find out more about the future of recorded music by tuning in to the videos below.

The history of Abbey Road Studios

To kick off the series of talks, Karim Fanous, Innovation Manager at Abbey Road Red, treated the audience to a presentation about the rich history of Abbey Road Studios, detailing key milestones in the technological innovations spearheaded at the recording studio. For those unfamiliar with Abbey Road Red, the department was created to support the brightest music tech entrepreneurs, start-ups, researchers and developers in their efforts to introduce the next set of universally adopted recording technologies into the music business. During this segment, Fanous spotlighted crucial moments and advancements in technology that helped shape much of the music recorded at Abbey Road Studios over the years.

The audio industry in numbers

Taking the audience through a fascinating deep dive into the data-driven side of the audio industry, Rasika D’Souza from Futuresource Consulting shifted the focus to current and future predicted consumer trends and behaviours as well as the evolution of the sector.

Sharing some results from Futuresource’s consumer survey, which utilised results from the US, UK, Germany, China and Japan, it was found that 60% of all listening, from music to podcasts and audiobooks, happens in the home, with consumers investing in better audio solutions across the board. Additionally, D’Souza cites that following the pandemic, True Wireless headphones have become the most popular audio product when it comes to ownership. With a global install base of 1.2 billion units, True Wireless headphones increased from 30 million units shipped in 2018 to 340 million in 2022.

Stepping away from home and on-the-go listening, another key takeaway showed how music is enjoyed in cars, with the sales for “Connected” cars that allow Bluetooth compatibility and in-car streaming via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 9% with younger drivers shaping this trend.

Packed with insights into how and where younger music lovers listen to and are exposed to music, D’Souza’s talk is a must-watch for anyone looking to bridge the gap between their technology and prospective future audiences.

From a Futurist’s perspective

The third and final keynote of the day, before the panel discussion took place, saw Sofie Hvitved taking the reins. As a trained Futurist and Senior Advisor at The Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, she presented the audience with an awareness of what goes into being a Futurist and how this can be applied to locating trends within the music industry.

“We cannot predict anything, but we can look into the probable and possible futures,” she explains about the role of being a Futurist. As it’s impossible to predict the future, a Futurist works structurally, focusing on trends and solutions to ensure they are prepared for the many possibilities the future holds. In Hvitved’s case, this revolves predominantly around inspiring change and innovation within the music industry.

From embracing uncertainty to discovering which platforms will become paramount in the future consumption of music, there’s much to learn about how these predicted changes will shape the music, its creation and consumption over the next 50 years, the platforms we use, how artists operate, how genres could disappear, and much more.

A view into the future

Welcoming all the previous hosts back to the stage – with the addition of our very own Andy Kerr, as well as Steven Price, the Academy and BAFTA Award-winning Film Composer who’s worked on the likes of GravityBaby DriverLast Night in Soho and more, a panel discussion took place.

Moderated by Sofie Hvitved, the discussion opened a healthy discourse. Key talking points revealed that the technology in music, as you can imagine, is the best it’s ever been and that younger consumers are already seeking out these higher-performance audio products and platforms to elevate their listening experience. Additionally, for artists, although algorithms and more intuitive tech are making creating and recording music easier, it was clear from the panellists’ experiences that musicians will have to continue to take creative risks to rise above the noise, pinpointing that live shows and communal experiences, such as record stores, will remain paramount in bringing music lovers together.

Among it all, one theme remained consistent: people love listening to music now more than ever – the exponential rise in streaming numbers and vinyl sales over the last decade is proof of this. And, while people continue to engage with music in numerous ways, the technology that supports it keeps evolving at a rapid pace, allowing consumers to enjoy their listening experiences to the highest standard possible.

Rewarding partnerships

Our partnership with the BPI was born from a shared passion for music and the importance of celebrating it. As an Official Partner, we support BPI’s wider goals and initiatives, including the prestigious Mercury Prize, National Album Day and Record Store Day. Much like our partnership with BPI, Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers have played an important role in the recording, mixing and mastering process at the iconic Abbey Road Studios for over 40 years. Our flagship 800 Series Diamond remains the recording studio’s reference loudspeaker of choice to this day, thanks to its outstanding ability to replicate the True Sound of every performance, allowing listeners to hear more of what the artist intended them to hear.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen and heard in the first instalment of the BPI Insight Session 50 series, we encourage you to keep an eye out for the next one.

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