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Audio Op-Ed: Untethering Live Music with 5G

Technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expanding the possibilities for how we can drive live music innovation.

Leonard Lee
Leonard Lee

There is no shortage of available and emerging technologies that can expand the frontier of innovation and creativity in live music now and in the post-pandemic era. Despite the hype, 5G is a tremendously exciting technology that will change the way we think of connectivity, computing and how we architect systems.

What if the snake could be replaced with a high-bandwidth, low-latency connection that is wireless from the board to the stage? What if the multitude of devices on stage could be auto-provisioned in a secure and trusted fashion, connected by a highly reliable communications infrastructure? What if high-definition audio could be pumped wirelessly across all the speakers and monitors in a venue without interference and distortion? What if devices could be expressive and smart?

Technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expanding the possibilities for how we can drive live music innovation. In particular, 5G brings about capabilities that can revolutionize how we connect things on stage and how artists can connect with their audiences. Much talked-about 5G features such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) are making industrial-grade wireless connectivity a reality.

Current and emerging 5G technologies and deployment architectures have the potential to deliver the ultra-low latency connections across a live music platform—which includes audio, visual and lighting systems—while enhancing the flexibility and adaptability of a stage configuration or venue. 5G also brings powerful technologies that mobile network operators use to operate and manage their networks with 5 nines (99.999% uptime) reliability. We are seeing early trials of 5G networks being used to support industrial-use cases that require 6 nines (99.9999%) reliability.

5G technologies are not just for big telecom operators; 5G can be right-sized for various private network implementations on licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Live music venue operators will be able to consider a wide range of private and carrier-hosted network deployment options to support their clients’ productions as well as to connect audiences in and beyond the venue.

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Based on neXt Curve’s research, there are six areas where the live music industry can apply 5G and IoT concepts to reinvent live music.

Live Music Performance: 5G is a global technology driven by a unifying standard established by the 3GPP. While regulators have provided alternative spectrum for wireless equipment to operate on, 5G presents an opportunity for the live music industry to shape spectrum policies that foster wireless performance tech innovation or perhaps untethers the industry from regulatory concerns all together.

Live Music Design & Engineering: 5G has the potential to revolutionize stage and show design by introducing a new level of flexibility that wireless technology can bring. It can also enable novel mobile robotic applications that can bring about new dynamism and channels of expression to the stage, which we are already seeing with drone-base light shows.

Live Music Production: Live music is a mission critical operation. 5G has the potential to bring unprecedented mobile flexibility and agility to live music production. It can provide the ultra-reliable wireless connectivity that reduces the complexity and cycle times for production setup and teardown. 5G also has the potential to improve the flexibility of a venue and its ability to support the infrastructure needs of international acts and the global portability of their equipment.

Live Music Audience/Fan Engagement: The multi-access nature of 5G will enable new cyber-physical approaches for artists and show designers to engage with the audience. This can be through real-time messaging, multicasting, gamification and a multitude of other digital interaction modes that augment the physical experience at massive scale and in real time.

Live Music Experience Capture: Each live performance is a unique experience. 5G will enable novel approaches for extreme-fidelity video and audio capture, such as volumetric media and drone-based videography. These new applications will require wireless connectivity and the industrial grade performance and broadband capacity promised by 5G.

Live Music Event Broadcast & Sharing: Finally, 5G promises to deliver the high throughput needed to make the live broadcast of new immersive media formats possible. It will also provide the massive capacity that will allow members of the audience to share live multimedia content with each other, the artist and friends on social media during the course of a live performance.

We are very early in the process of thinking through how 5G can revolutionize live music. The artist, the show designer, engineers, venue operators and the equipment vendors will be critical participants in the rethinking of the live music experience, the venue and the business of live music as a whole. It is a vast ecosystem that the live music industry can and needs to explore in order to uncover the 5G applications that will revolutionize the future of live music.

Leonard Lee is managing director and founder of neXt Curve, a boutique advisory firm based in San Diego, CA.

Link: neXt Curve •