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Mike Shinoda Interview with Rolling Stone (June 16, 2021)


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Read a new interview by Mike Shinoda who talks with Rolling Stone about technology, Artificial Intelligence, and the future of music.

Tell me about how, and why, you made the leap from music to the business of music.
"Every album — each time we [Linkin Park] went in to record — there was new technology that allowed us to do new things. Every time we launched a record, there were new tools. New software we could use to have fun with our fans. On one album, A Thousand Suns, we put out stems of music before the fans had even heard the song, allowed fans to remix the song they’d never heard, and put the winner on our album. We did a sandbox video-game video for “Guilty All the Same” off of our Hunting Party album.

For “Lost in the Echo,” we made a video which scraped your Facebook information — people didn’t even know how much personal data had been obtained by Facebook — and when you watched it, your personal photos and stuff from your life and history would show up in the video. People were like, “what the hell’s going on here?”

It always felt natural for me to go deeper into technologies and get closer to founders of companies that I thought were doing cool things. I started talking to a lot of companies that make the software we use. I was able to do everything from being a part of Spotify’s entry into the U.S. to investing to being involved in Y Combinator and Techstars. It’s something I”m passionate about, and I feel I learn a lot just being in the mix."

So what are some technological shifts you see happening in music’s future?
"I think there’s a shift happening from large groups to smaller scale. We’re already prioritizing a more direct and focused relationship in a fanbase, where it’s more about closer connection over quantity. People are overloaded with the pressures and annoyances of the current version of social media. We’re tired of it. I think we’re headed deeper into tribalism.

For a long time we’ve been taught that more followers and likes is better. But maybe we’ll start to move away from that. Friends of mine are congregating on messaging apps like DM, WhatsApp, Telegram, instead of Twitter. I have friends who put together weekly Zooms where anyone that is a friend of friend can join. And that’s one reason Clubhouse is becoming popular, because the pressure of sitting in front of your entire follower base and saying something, all of those people chattering… it’s a very annoying way to live.

Even our best efforts to just say “Hey I care about this thing I saw on the news!” gets mired in bullshit very quickly. And I think we’re all so sick of it."

Is a small, passionate fanbase enough to make a living, though? A major criticism of streaming services right now, for example, is that their business models are a bad deal for anyone but the biggest artists.
"I think you pointed at more than one issue. The first thing is about impatience, and the time and effort and focus it takes to hone your craft and get really good at it. I realize everybody wants everything to work the first time and to be famous right away, but that’s not realistic. My daughter said “I love acting and I want to be an actor,” and I said, “Well that’s great,” because the focus isn’t “I want to be in a movie” or “I want people to be watching me.” The focus is “How do I get really good at my craft.”

The second thing: building momentum in an ecosystem. If you’re talented and you’ve put the time in, you’ll be prepared when something starts to happen. You’ll also have the information you need — marketing, visual art, finding the right partners, friendships with folks who work together in a communal style. That points back to the tribalism. It’s a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats mentality. And by keeping it insulated, and you’re a team now, a collective rather than a person off in the seas of music by yourself. 

Also, I think one thing I expect to continue is that software is gonna do even more jobs that people used to do. I’m not saying all our songs are going to be created entirely by AI, but I do think jobs like engineering and mixing and mastering will be fewer and far between. Today, you can pop a plug-in in your vocal track and it will analyze it and choose settings, reverb, compression, to make it sound great. That will just continue to get better. You can pop plugins in something and it will get your album ready without the help of a human to do it.

AI for example is already writing compelling music. I’m working with a company called Authentic Artists making spectacular virtual artists where the music gets made from scratch in real-time. The songs it’s outputting, generated in seconds, already sound like something it took a human weeks or months to do. 

To be clear, I don’t think humans are gonna be driven out of music by the robots. I just think the human artists will make decisions about what sounds best to them by using software. And just like the reliance on a professional recording studio has become less important to make a great selling song, the reliance on people associated with those environments is going to become less important."

Read the full interview on Rolling Stone website.

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