It takes a lot to be a famous musician in the modern age. Gone are the days when one could rely solely on talent to achieve success.
Mainstream music consumers require a visual dimension to their favourite musicians. Artists in the past three decades have had to produce music videos and increasingly extravagant concerts. With each new year, and new artist, the envelope gets pushed a little further.
Music videos are a relatively new way to promote music -- starting in the '80s -- but have proven to be a valuable asset. The introduction of YouTube has allowed established and aspiring artists to post their videos for the world to see. Consumers can look at what they want when they want, offering musician's new promotion opportunities. Even with the declining videos on MTV itself, artists are still producing expensive music videos for their fans and uploading them to YouTube.
Digital technology, too, has offered a lot of change. Music is more accessible now thanks to services like the iTunes store. Downloading makes it easier than ever to listen to music, and iTunes allows people to hear music they may not have otherwise thanks to the Genius function.
Musically, it seems the industry is moving back to the late '70s disco era. The disco era ended when riots broke out against the popular genre due to its affiliations with black and gay culture. Now it's back with songs from Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Lights and Black Eyed Peas channelling the decade, perhaps reflecting a more accepting new generation.
Synthesizers and auto-tune have been used for the past few decades but have become increasingly more important in recent years, especially to artists like T-Pain. They were first used in the '80s when new technologies came out such as the video games Pac-man, Space Invaders and Asteroids. Now, 30 years later, synthesizers are reemerging as a tool, offering more flexibility than the usual guitars.
2009 was a big year for visual and avant garde musicians. One forerunner pushing the boundaries comes as no surprise -- Lady Gaga. Her over the top costumes, suggestive dancing and blatant lyrics have caused a ruckus. This is the kind of ruckus consumers thrive on.
She is not the first of the genus. Madonna was, and is, first woman of re-innovation. Her musical talent is commendable but not irreplaceable, it's her image that makes her successful. Like Madonna, Gaga continues to change, keeping the audience and industry on their toes.
So for the years to come, music lovers can expect reinventions of old technologies, increasing novelty and a larger emphasis on visual spectacle.