The decade that was and the decade to come in… music

Tuesday 24 December 2019

By Associate Professor Kim Cunio


The decade that was

This last decade has been very interesting at least partly because the means of making music have completely changed. For example 20 years ago a professional home recording rig would have cost at least $30,000, 10 years ago that would have cost around 10- 15,000  for a comparable sound quality, a significant reduction in price.

Now that same sound quality is around $500-$1000 meaning that a teenager can purchase the means of production to make music in their home free with their pocket money (well at least in the developed world).

Actually I have checked this out, by recording a piece of music early this year on extremely cheap equipment, costing less than $200, and comparing it to early digital recordings on very expensive equipment that I made 10 and 20 years ago and the difference is small.

At the same time the software required has become much cheaper. If you buy an Apple computer entry level software comes for free in it, alongside thousands of audio loops meaning that a beginner can produce music that sounds very good, even if it is not entirely original. This has meant that emerging musicians can make recorded music the same way emerging novelists were able to make manuscripts with the advent of the word processor in the 1980s. 

This means that a lot of people are making music who are not taught what “good” music is, or taught the history of music, they make it in response to their immediate stimuli instead, and because of digital distribution they can often find a sub culture to make it viable. As a result strange things are coming back, vinyl even tape, and adventures into extreme digital recordings, the audio equivalent of 4k and 8K video, DSD and DXD.

This could not be more different to the structures of a decade ago, which foresaw the end of the recording industry. In regards to aesthetics we have also seen something remarkable particularly in Australia, a much more wholesome integration of multiculturalism and Indigeneity into Australian music. I compare this to the rise of roof top solar, it just took off and is lead form the ground. Music appeals to all and it is the domain of all listeners and creators now.

Personally I also find it inspiring how the lines between classical and popular music are blurring as well, so while there are problems, not at least how people actually earn money from music today, there are amazing possibilities available in a truly democratic way.

Prediction for 2020-2029

The next decade is moving so fast. My prediction is that we will engage much ore with the environment through the sounds of field recording and that this will integrate much more with our music due to climate change.

I also think we will have some new genres of music that follow on form game music, symphonic pop for example might expand significantly. Another change will be artificial intelligence or algorithmic music which is starting to re-emerge and is much slicker than in the past. In 10 years we will have autonomous composers just as we will have autonomous cars.


Associate Professor Kim Cunio is the Head of the ANU School of Music. He is also a Senior Lecturer in composition and convenor of musicology. We profiled Associate Professor Cunio earlier this year. Read his story here

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Updated:  24 December 2019/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications