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We Are Robots festival to ‘demonstrate the future innovation of music’

Founders of the music tech event We Are Robots gives PSNEurope the inside track on how it aims to make sense of the rapid innovation happening in the audio industry

Pioneering innovation has always been at the heart of the audio industry and its pursuit of achieving the perfect listening experience. The technological era we’re now living in means anyone with a laptop and a pair of headphones can shape the future of sound. At the time of writing, a quick search of audio projects on crowdfunding site Indiegogo brings up more than 700 results, with some products boasting millions of dollars’ worth of financial backing from optimistic audiophiles across the world. But with user feedback at the heart of this new technology’s patenting process, hearing this boundary-pushing equipment is integral to its development.

That’s where music technology event We Are Robots comes in. Now in its second year, the three-day show at the Old Truman Brewery in East London takes place from October 12-14. It aims to provide industry professionals with the chance to discover the latest in music technology and newcomers the chance to learn more about the art of making electronic music through demos, workshops and thought-provoking panel discussions. Half of last year’s attendees were industry professionals, with the remaining demographic made up of students (30%) and the general public (20%).

With event partners including Source Distribution, Teenage Engineering and the Audio Engineering Society (AES), the event certainly has the industry’s backing in its second year. PSNEurope had a chat with the event’s co-founders Emma Joyce and Gordana Jovkovic about what’s in store for the event this month…

Why did you launch the event last year?

EJ: We were looking to create a show for people in the industry but also to teach newcomers how to make music electronically. We Are Robots 2018 looks to do the same.

How does it stand out from other music technology events?

EJ: Last year we handpicked the most immersive and interactive brands, worked with sound and light installation artists, and curated a conference discussing subjects that aren’t often even touched upon, such as the future position of women in the music industry.

How has your industry expertise helped launch the event?

GJ: As well as working at the Old Truman Brewery, I’m also a pianist, composer and keyboard player. I have had the luck to work with some amazing DJs, music producers and artists and have spent a lot of time in recording studios around the latest gear. These experiences helped me understand more about music trends and led me to create this event with Emma to show off the innovators within this great industry.

How did the feedback you received from last year’s event influence this year’s line-up?

EJ: This year we are giving the brands a bigger presence and opening it up to a wider audience. We’re doing this by moving the show to the shop front and making it free. Not charging for entry this year was extremely important to us as we want it to be accessible to all. This year our exhibitors are located on Dray Walk (just opposite the Rough Trade East shop in east London) so it’s really easy for people to just walk past and pop in.

What can visitors expect this time?

EJ: As well as the opportunity to immerse themselves in forward-thinking music technology, there’ll be a great insight into future innovation in the music industry. London-based music technology company Roli – known for its Seaboard and BLOCKS instruments – will be hosting workshops and demonstrations using its innovative equipment. Source Distribution will be also be exhibiting. These guys distribute for Moog, Arturia, Genelec and Eventide and have teamed up with Red Dog Music to bring a selection of analogue synths, effects, and sequencers to the shop space – all set up and ready to try, buy, and take home on the day. Experts will be
on hand to help create music with the gear and they will have a programme of free interactive talks and live demos throughout the show. Teenage Engineering will be also be on site sporting its range of products.

The AES is hosting the panel discussion ‘Technologies in Music: How Far Have We Come and Where Do We Go Next? (VR, AR and Immersion)’. This will be followed by a musical set by PhD students from Queen Mary University London’s Augmented Instruments laboratory.

How can events like this help people learn more about the world of music technology?

EJ: We Are Robots offers companies a platform to launch new products, demonstrating the future innovation of music. These companies go out of their way to curate workshops and demonstrations, promoting their new products in non-traditional ways to boost their brands and show the world the latest in music technology.

What trends do you expect to see develop in music tech in the next 12 months?

GJ: There’ll be a lot of focus on how artificial intelligence is changing the music industry. AI can’t completely take over the creative process, but it’s definitely making music creation easier than ever before – several music softwares have been developed that use AI to produce music. However, I believe what’ll be a greater innovation is Computer Learning. CL is used in other industries and allows software algorithms to not only resolve specific issues by finding solutions easily – as AI does – but by allowing algorithms to develop and solve entire issues on past experience. A possible example of this would be writing a score of one instrument and the CL will know the best fit for all of the other instruments scores in whichever style of music you choose. This will allow for anyone to become the next Chopin or Jimi Hendrix
– whether that’s good or not, who knows? VR is getting a lot of attention as well – especially in the music world – and that’s really exciting. There’s lots of talk about how VR could potentially change the game in terms of music festivals and live music, which is really mind-blowing.

How important is diversity and equality when talking about the future of music tech?

EJ: Last year, the subject of women in music technology was a prominent part of the festival. We can’t highlight enough the importance for progress in this department and there is still so much more we could be doing. There are so many great female innovators, musicians and engineers, particularly as the two co-founders are women. We Are Robots are massive supporters of women in music and we will always offer them a platform to be heard.

How would you like to see the event grow in the next five years?

EJ: We would love to see We Are Robots grow, to include even more women innovators, have even more incredible performances and become the destination where people will come to visit to view – and most importantly try – the latest in music technology.