How Has 3D Printing Impacted The Music Industry?
Prior to digital preservation of works of art, books were stored on microfiche, while music, pictures and movies were stored on film. One benefit of storing information in digitized form is that it can be transported electronically, so that backup copies of the information can be placed at many remote locations. Another benefit is that the fidelity of the information is preserved indefinitely.
Unfortunately, it is likely that significant amounts of music, movies and works of art may have been lost forever because reliable methods of preserving music were not previously available. For example, lots of music that had been stored on wax discs and were played on phonographs, or many old movies that had been stored on reels may not be restorable. Although many original recordings have now been digitized, natural degradation of wax recordings and tapes have made large amounts of music and movies unrecoverable. Even though many old movies and music have now been digitally remastered, true fidelity of the multimedia data may have been lost.
Works of art that have the most longevity have been preserved in several forms. Some artifacts remain as carvings on stone and wood, some artifacts remain as statues, and some artifacts remain as stylus-based ink recordings on papyri, scrolls, paper, and on other media. Except for stone carvings and statues which could be considered to a reasonable extent as naturally non-destructible, recordings on wood-based products such as papyri, scrolls and paper degrade quickly in high humidity environments. Recordings on wood-based media need low humidity or vacuum storage conditions to survive over long periods of time.
It only takes a natural or man-made disaster to lose objects of cultural and historical value for ever. For example, a significant amount of the rich jazz musical heritage of New Orleans may have been lost during the hurricane Katrina, together with other artifacts that were stored on destructible media.
The need to preserve musical data brings up the question “How has 3D printing impacted the music industry?” To answer this question, it will be helpful to address these topics:
- What methods have been used historically to store music?
- What modern methods are now utilized for storing music?
- How useful is 3D printing for the music industry?
What Methods Have Been Used Historically To Store Music?
The traditional method for storing music relies on writing music on sheets of paper. For example, classical orchestral works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others are available as published sheet music.
This method for storing music cannot provide good longevity and permanence because (a) the medium for storing the music (paper and ink) degrades over time, and (b) the stored music can be easily lost due to fire or floods.
Improvements to storing music utilize an audio format, together with physical recording media.
Over the last 100 years, musical storage relied on the following methods:
- Prior to the year 1900, audio data in the form of sound waves were transcribed to paper, glass and wax cylinders as mechanical analog signals recorded as lateral grooves. Stylus motion over the grooves was used to render the recorded audio data. Products in this era include the Edison phonograph, the Dictaphone and the phonograph disk.
- Between 1900 and 1948, improvements to sound recordings utilized magnetization and electrical amplification of analog signals to produce high fidelity audio. Products in this era include the magnetic tape, audio cassettes, and vinyl phonograph discs. Tape speeds ranged from , and discs at.
- Between 1948 and 1970, significant audio signal processing techniques utilized Dolby noise reduction and stereophonic rendition. Products in this era include the 4-track and 8-track stereo, the compact cassette, the microcassette and the minicassette.
- After 1970, digital processing technology produced advanced products that utilize audio formats such as MPEG, MLP, and many other audio formats found in products that provide CDs, DVDs, HD DVD, and Blu-ray technology.
What Modern Methods Are Now Utilized For Storing Music?
Because the music library continues to grow at an alarming rate, compression methods have been developed to store voluminous amount of audio data on the cloud, and to make them available to users by using web streaming technology.
Well-known competitors in this audio storage and streaming market place include the following:
- Apple’s iTunes stores over 43 million songs. The songs can be downloaded on iPhones, iPad, iPod or other Apple-based products. The audio formats are limited to Apple approved formats, but conversion software is available for other formats. The service does not use web streaming.
- The Amazon Cloud Player provides a service similar to Apple iTunes. However, the Amazon Player utilizes a compression that is lossier than iTunes. Being lossy means that the original music is not rendered with true fidelity. Portions of the audio signal are dropped when rendered in such a way that the human ear cannot easily detect the difference between the true and rendered sound.
- Google Play Music provides free access to over 30 million songs. Because this service is free, it may be considered a bargain, compared with the other paid services. Both Amazon and Google services utilize web streaming.
How Useful Is 3D Printing For The Music Industry?
An amazing benefit that 3D printing brings is that musical recordings stored in digital format can be recalled and reprinted at will. For sentimental reasons, many people like to play music that was previously available only on phonographs. With 3D printing, both old and modern music can be stored in digital form, to be retrieved and 3D printed on improved durable media. As more sophisticated materials become available for 3D printers, high quality audio recordings can be printed with outstanding audio fidelity and rendition.
Apart from printing musical recordings, 3D printers can print musical instruments such as guitars, drums, pianos and saxophones. The list of musical instruments will grow as more 3D printing materials are discovered.
To summarize, it is reasonable to conclude that 3D printing makes it possible to:
- Store music digitally and reproduce it faithfully,
- Print a variety of musical instruments.