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Using 5G to deliver concerts from anywhere with Elk Audio

27 May 2022

By Editorial Team

The music industry, like many, is on a digital transformation journey. Unable to give live performances or travel to collaborate during the pandemic, musicians had to find new ways of reaching their audience.

Live streaming concerts, virtual events and online music lessons all became the norm and this hybrid world is set to continue as consumers become increasingly used to accessing content from anywhere and technologies such as holograms develop.

Elk Audio have been quick to respond to this changing environment. Initially developing an operating system that minimises latency in audio systems, the Swedish audio technology company has now branched into other services such as Elk LIVE.

Designed to make it easier for musicians to play remotely together, Elk LIVE powers remote collaboration from even greater distances.

The ambition? To create new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how we learn, create, record and share music. Co-Founder and Director, Raffaele Curci tells us more.

1. With the initial goal of making instruments smart, what lead you to expand into supporting remote production and collaboration through the launch of Elk LIVE?

The goal was to create the possibility for musicians to play together, through an audio platform.

We wanted to support new behaviours and use cases. For example, musicians being able to rehearse more frequently or to compose and create music remotely, and even create “live” content from multiple locations for their fan base.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting mainstream demand for remote collaboration tools and services confirmed the need for such services, but the challenges remained around connectivity.

Any lag time, known in the tech world as latency, means that musicians struggle to keep on the same beat.

Elk LIVE gets around that problem by using the company’s purpose-built operating system, ensuring any delays are minimal, but we see its potential growing as 5G mobile networks become more widely available.

2. Is that why we began to work together?

Yes. In 2018, we began working with Ericsson on optimising Elk Audio’s low-latency capabilities via 5G. The collaboration led to working with Vodafone and resulted in ground-breaking proof of concepts.

One of which was demonstrated during Barcelona Mobile World Congress in 2019 and the other, at one of the world’s first live 5G concerts over Vodafone’s network in Spain the same year.

3. How did the performance in Germany come about and what were the results?

Due to our pre-existing relationship with both Vodafone and AWS, we became aware of their joint Edge Computing services and suggested we test our Elk LIVE solution on it.

The aim was to showcase that a real-time multi-location music performance was possible in any location covered by Vodafone’s 5G connectivity – the results were fantastic! We managed to connect performances from across different cities in Germany.

The combination of 5G and Edge, with Elk LIVE’s low-latency architecture, resulted in measured latencies below 20ms. That is the same as two musicians playing about 3 meters away from each other. This was a massive performance improvement from 4G.

4. Why do you believe 5G can provide real value to the music industry?

We believe that the main value added by 5G for the music industry - as soon as fully deployed - will be the real-time interaction and, as a result, new business models will be founded.

Today, some fans support their favourite artists by paying a Patreon subscription, we believe that a constant and relevant real-time interaction between the artists and their fan base could lead to new membership subscriptions in the future.

As Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, recently said, it’s “not enough” for artists to release albums “every 3-4 years”.

What if artists could easily stream new content on the fly? What if they could invite guest artists to join a jam session at any time or launch a contest for fans to sing and play live in real-time with them?

We believe that in the long run these types of ‘services’ could become new substantial revenue streams for artists and the music industry, and they are only possible if you have reliable and resilient mobile connection.

Looking at music education, we also see a great opportunity.

Future generations of connected smart instruments and real-time audio remote collaboration services - boosted by 5G and Edge Computing - can allow schools to enroll students and teachers from across regions, as less frequent commuting is needed, providing remote lessons and better using the spaces at their disposal.

This will truly help bridge the gap in education and bring the joy of music to all.

Find out what Multi-Access Edge Computing can do for your business today.

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