Smithsonian Hosts “Future of Music Public Forum”

Sessions held Thursday–Saturday, Dec. 12–14
December 3, 2019
News Release

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The past hundred years have brought unparalleled change to the way music is created, disseminated, learned, sold, critiqued and researched. Technology, social change, travel and migration have transformed the ways people engage with music. This evolution poses the question: What will music sound like in 2025 or 2050? The Smithsonian unpacks this question through the “Future of Music Public Forum” Thursday, Dec. 12, through Saturday, Dec. 14.

Presented as part of the 2019 Smithsonian Year of Music, the forum will explore different visions of the future of music from sociological, business and educational perspectives. Industry trends will be discussed by experts from multidisciplinary fields, including representatives from the Smithsonian, SXSW, Future of Music Coalition, the Recording Academy, MIT Media Lab, #Don’tMuteDC, and NPR.

The three-day forum includes discussions, performances and demonstrations at several Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Sessions will be centered around five main themes:

  • Sharing: The nature of sharing music is constantly evolving, and with it, the ways listeners curate their music experiences, whether it is through festivals or listening platforms. Representatives of the music industry and media will reflect on the implications of these changes for listening experiences.
  • Creating: Technological developments, cultural diversity and ongoing social change have transformed the way music is created and presented. Creating leads to questions of ownership of the music and of remuneration when music is heard or used by others. Discussions will focus on how copyright and licensing laws help or hinder the work of creators and performers. The Future of Music Coalition will present a panel focusing on what kind of infrastructure and policy initiatives best serve community needs and cultural diversity.
  • Inventing: Invention has always been at the heart of musical creativity. Over time, new inventions have transformed every aspect of music, from recording to amplification, broadcasting and the dissemination of recordings through records, tapes, downloads and streaming. Some of the latest technologies that look towards the future will be on display.
  • Learning: Experts will look at tensions between the 19th-century legacies and 21st-century realities of music programs in schools, starting at the k-12 level, and address how to best prepare young people to be professional music makers in the 21st century.
  • Engaging: Music has always been a catalyst for community identity and cohesion. Experts and artist activists from a wide range of backgrounds first reflect on how music defines community, builds community and supports community.

The “Future of Music Public Forum” kicks off on Thursday evening with a performance by Lula Wiles in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium. Sessions Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13–14 will start at 10:30 a.m. noon, 2:30 and 4 p.m. with performances in the evening from Mark de Clive Lowe, and Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith. All events are open to the public and media. A full schedule of programs and performances is available on the Smithsonian’s Year of Music website.

About the Smithsonian Year of Music

The 2019 Smithsonian Year of Music is an Institution-wide initiative celebrating the Smithsonian’s vast musical collections and resources through 365 days of music-related programming and events. When combined, the Smithsonian’s musical holdings, activities and events make it the largest music museum in the world. The Year of Music spotlights and shares these musical resources with the public at events and in museums, as well as online. More information and a full schedule of events can be found at


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