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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Next Disruption

Guitar body made from a 3D printer image
Guitar body made from a 3D printer
We live in an age where business disruptions come fast and furious. The biggest one that applies to musicians, of course, is what digital music has done to a music business that basically worked the same for more than 50 years. Now we're living through another as streaming becomes the choice of music consumers over buying downloads.

We've seen other disruptions in the music business as well, how about:
  • the digital audio workstation kills the tape machine business and the commercial recording business
  • music copy software like Finale kills the copyist business
  • sample libraries decrease the need for orchestras
  • loop-based music decreases the need for studio musicians
Probably one of the earliest disruptions was the drum machine, and for a while drummers had a problem getting work making records. We've seen how that turned out, with producers and artists eventually rebelling against the sound and stiffness of the machine, with a new generation of drummers developing who could hold tempo as good as a drum machine with better feel.

Of course, we've lived in a world of disruptions for a long time, with our everyday lives changed almost overnight thanks to a new bit of technology. How about:
  • the typewriter being replaced by the computer and printer
  • the cell phone killing the landline
  • digital cameras killing the film business
  • LCD tech killing the old CRTs in televisions and computer monitors
  • the Web and Wikipedia replacing encyclopedias
  • desktop publishing replacing traditional publishing
And if you want to take it back even further, you have:
  • the automobile replacing the horse and buggy business
  • steamboats replacing sailing ships
  • plastic replacing metal and wood
I'm sure you can think of dozens more. The point is, we live in a world of disruptions, and they sometimes happen right before our eyes without us realizing it. That's why I want to call to your attention the next major disruption that's happening right now, hidden in plain sight - 3D printing.
Personal 3D Printer image
A Personal 3D Printer

3D printing is sometimes called additive manufacturing (traditional machining is subtractive manufacturing) and is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. The way this happens is that successive layers of material are laid down to make an object that couldn't never have been traditionally manufactured.

Large companies have been using 3D technology for some time to do rapid prototypes of everything from cars to footwear to architecture,  but the technology exists to actually make drug compounds and even human organs from stem cells. In fact, the price has come down to the point where personal 3D printers are available for much less than $2,000, with one even being shown at the 2013 Winter NAMM show.

As you can see from the guitar on the left, we're not that far away from making our own instruments, regenerating new parts for the ones that need to be fixed, or creating musical items that we can't even conceive of at the moment, right in our homes with technology as ubiquitous as the inkjet printer that we all have. The fact of the matter is, we're further along towards the goal of a true Star Trek Replicator than you might think.

There's a lot of money to be made in this space, and we're right at the beginning of the disruption. Make sure you ride the wave.

More on 3D printing in this video.


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Dez said...

Looks very good & interesting

Anonymous said...

It's too revolutionary to fathom at this point. Thanks

The Raving Moderate said...

That fellow Cody is quite the egotistical jerk (I am biting back stronger language), imposing his vision on all of us, so any place could so much more easily end up the next Newtown.

Ray said...

Love reading this blog


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