Consumption: Zero-Latency Video/Audio Conferences

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During the onset of the pandemic, many arts involving a social and group aspect became nearly impossible to play and perform with others. Jazz music was an art form that experienced detrimental effects from the pandemic and is still recovering to this day. While many clubs and businesses that offered live music were unfortunately unable to make it through to see the end of the pandemic, many musicians began to take matters into their own hands and host shows in the form of “virtual bands,” in which the musicians would all pre-record the parts and send them in for someone to stitch all of the individual parts together. 

Although many musicians and bands were able to pull off this new era of “virtual big band” music, what was missing was the feeling that came from being in the same room as the other musicians. Being able to look at and communicate with the musicians in real time while they were playing was a luxury that no musician ever expected to lose. 

One might think this problem can be fixed by having musicians utilize video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. However, it isn’t quite that simple. While most communal gatherers have found Zoom to be a viable alternative to meeting in a large group in a real world location, musicians had more trouble. Zoom’s not particularly disruptive latency during conferences, classes, and casual conversations quickly becomes an issue for musicians as there is too much of a delay for them to play in time with each other. Soon after the emergence of zoom, this problem was fixed… for the most part. 

A YouTube video and an NPR article speak of an open-sourced software known as JackTrip, which, with less latency than zoom, enables musicians to play “together” virtually in real-time. However, there is a difference between playing “together” and playing “next to” each other in real life as JackTrip can only simulate people being as close as 30 feet to one another. Thus, my proposal was born: a not only “low-latency” form of virtual meeting, but a “zero-latency” form of meeting. 

In regard to the circuit of culture, which is a cultural studies visualization for contextualizing a cultural artifact, the zero-latency software will be primarily consumed by musicians. The term “consumption” in this context, is one of the facets of the circuit of culture and refers to, during the sale of the item, who the buyers will be. If the software is free, I believe the experience of the musicians who use the software will range from more less experienced players to professional. However, if this hypothetical software becomes a paid one, I think the market will be more catered towards more experienced or professional musicians rather than those who are less serious about their passion. I believe a similar effect will occur also if the software becomes subscription based. It is possible that the zero-latency software would be akin to a live studio session, and if marketed methodically, it would make a humble rival.

This hypothetical product would help many musicians who have struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic who are located in parts of the world which may not be in the condition to prioritize live music. Even large cities such as New York lost local jazz venues to the pandemic that had been cultural staples of the city and around for decades. While it would be a dream to bring back the lost venues, a step in the right direction would be to help the musicians whose livelihood depended on the clubs by giving them another outlet to express themselves creatively and showcase their musical works.

The only issue that the zero-latency conferences may cause is to lower the need/want to play in person. However, this is a very unlikely situation as this technology doesn’t completely replicate the in-person playing experience of making music with someone. For example, even if two musicians were to use the zero-latency software, it is true that they would hear each other in time, but they wouldn’t each other with the same quality as they would if they were actually in person. Regardless, the zero-latency technology would offer a playing experience unlike anything “virtual big-bands,” JackTrip, and zoom calls could offer. 

Photo Credit: Chad LB Virtual Big-Band – Easy to Love, YouTube

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