How Changing Musical Technology Impacts Emerging Musicians
The way we listen to music now is vastly different from the ways our parents used to listen to music, and even from how we ourselves used to listen to music as children. From cassettes, vinyl, and radio to CDs and MP3s to streaming sites like Spotify, the landscape of musical technology has rapidly changed, and will continue to change. People are opting for the convenience of streamed songs over physical copies, and I started to wonder if that affects how musicians produce and release their music. In a world where we must sell in order to thrive in society, I figured that musicians would have to tailor their art to the new ways of listening, but didn't know exactly how that would work. To learn more about this, I reached out to talented musician and dear friend Kimia Jay.
Kimia Jay is an emerging vocalist, producer, and songwriter from Toronto, Canada aiming to express her passion for making music through creating catchy, euphoric melodies fused with emotive lyricism that overall deliver strong sonic statements. We first get to know Kimia and her musical journey a little better before diving into how the shift in musical technology has affected her career, specifically.
How did your journey with music begin? What made you certain that this was the path you wanted to pursue?
I grew up in a musical family, so being involved in music making has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved the idea of creating something out of nothing, and the nature of sound and music has always been fascinating to me. I made the decision of becoming a musician when I was 6, just because I thought the job description meant learning all the instruments that ever existed. And this idea sounded both challenging and exciting, pardon the pun.
On a professional note, I believe music allows me to tap into an unknown force of creativity and to re-discover myself and the world around me over and over again, and that’s the reason why I love it.
Where do you hope this journey takes you?
I’ve always had a passion and a thirst for discovering the unexplored, the unknown. That’s to say, I’m in love with travelling and exploring different flavours and experiences that each corner of the world offers. I believe music is the best creative outlet that allows me to express myself and tell my stories, in addition to providing me the opportunity to collaborate with other artists with diverse backgrounds. It also enables me to travel around the world performing my art. So I intend to expand the exposure to my music to be able to reach a broader spectrum of audience around the world and perform in different cities.
"A bittersweet make-believe Holding me back from reaching all I need"
- Kimia Jay, "Fallacy"
The technological landscape of music has been changing quite drastically over the years, from cassettes and radio and physical records to mostly streamed music. Has that impacted your journey, and in what ways? Have you adapted your songwriting and production methods for a solely streaming world?
Definitely! In terms of technical workflow, getting more chances to record and produce more frequently and not being dependent on booking a well equipped recording studio are all the benefits that have allowed me to progress my music career and move forward in my artistic journey in the streaming world. Distribution channels like Distrokid, Tune Core, Ditto, and so many more have allowed independent artists to enter the streaming world and share their music without the help of labels, and that’s one of the main benefits of streaming platforms.
At our age, we've sort of caught the tail end of this technological shift from mostly CDs to mostly streams. Do you feel like you missed out on the CD era, or are you happy with the streaming era?
I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the CD era as much as I could’ve. What I’m certain of is that music technology, just like any other technology, is evolving at a rapid pace. I’m happy that I was able to buy CDs and experience that era, but I’m also satisfied with where the music industry and music technology is heading towards.
Knowing that the way we listened to music was changing, did that make you nervous to start producing and releasing music?
Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that social media and streaming platforms have created more opportunities for artists to receive exposure in the last decade. But of course when it comes to putting music out there, I want to achieve a certain level of admiration and perfection for my own music first.
"Don't wanna be my own enemy"
- Kimia Jay, "Fallacy"
What do you feel are the benefits and downfalls of being solely on streaming platforms vs. producing solely CDs?
The pros of purchasing CDs in the old days was definitely the tangibility of the music you were loving and listening to. The posters, track lists, and tangibility of putting your favourite music in your CD player was a full enjoyable experience for me.
Yet there’s no doubt that environmentally speaking, streaming platforms definitely win the battle as they produce no actual space (only digital storage space), which is way more accessible than carrying CDs everywhere with you. And more importantly, another benefit of streaming services is the fast and convenient way to discover similar sounding new music!
You attended a program for the more technical side of music production; did that course help you with this new musical playing field?
The music production courses did teach me self-discipline and organization. But truthfully, most of the techniques and skills I use daily to make music I’ve been teaching myself, since I started learning sound design and music production thanks to online tools and tutorials.
You'll probably get this question a lot throughout your career, but what advice would you give to a young artist who's trying to navigate the streaming world? Is there anything you wish you knew or anything you wish you'd done differently?
Observe the numbers and the statistics that the streaming world provides for your music, and learn how to corporate marketing strategies to better promote your music, but do not get caught up in all those numbers. And lastly, only compare yourself to previous versions of you, not anyone else.
"I can find so many ways to wipe my shadow away Can you see the truth in me that I'm not ready to say?"
- Kimia Jay, "Fallacy"
Kimia has just released her third single, "Fallacy," on all platforms. She describes it as a "black swan-esque" conversation with a darker version of oneself, and it presents the harsh reality that our darkness is not a separate being, but is a part of our whole. I felt that the instrumentation created a comforting environment while the powerful lyrics and haunting vocals delivered the more unsettling aspect of talking to one's dark side, creating the perfect mix to capture the atmosphere of introspection. This single accompanies her first, "Mind Games," about the frustration of navigating difficult romantic terrain, and her second, "Show Me," a collaboration with Vymvn and a call to humans to embrace being real with each other.
With her insights in mind, check out this incredible artist Kimia Jay, and keep her music in your pocket the way new musical technology allows you to.