Rock Musician Shares Insights on Technology Impact with Engineering Class

Digital technology’s impact on the music industry was the subject when American rock musician Randy Jackson connected via Zoom from his New York studio with students in Mr. Kenneth Lannes’ engineering class. Jackson took students’ questions that covered several topics, including impact of digital software on music production, evolution of copyright protections, and artists using social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok – to develop and connect with their fanbases.

Jackson has experienced these changes. Before there was social media, musicians relied on radio stations to promote their music. Contracts with record companies did not always equate to equitable monetary benefits for the musicians. “After 35 years of that exploitation, the courts decided change was needed,” said Jackson.

He and Lannes have known each other for 20 years and have collaborated on projects. On a recent project, Lannes helped Jackson write and submit a patent on a new technique to eliminate the delays in multi-point internet performances allowing musicians to play real-time concerts while performing from different locations across the globe. They are waiting to hear from the patent office. Observed Lannes, “The digital technology impacted everything – from old designs like amps to new ones like the guitar synth. He’s endorsed my amplifiers for over a decade and was key in helping me finish my guitar synthesizer patent.”

Born and raised in New Orleans, Jackson was nine years old when his parents took him to see The Beatles at City Park Stadium on September 16, 1964. He returned to City Park Stadium on July 17, 1983, where he performed with Journey. He shared with the class some of his career milestones.

An inductee of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and Long Island Music Hall of Fame, in 1973 he joined Shepards Bush as lead guitarist and is best known as frontman for the band Zebra, formed in 1975 by Jackson, Felix Haneman, and Guy Gelso. After performing mainly as a cover band at New Orleans area clubs and colleges, Zebra moved to Long Island, New York. Atlantic Records signed the band to a five-album deal In 1982. “Zebra”, their first album, went gold and was the fastest selling debut album in Atlantic Records’ history.

Jackson toured with Jefferson Airplane on their final US reunion tour, and has been lead vocalist for Symphony Shows across the country featuring the music of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Doors. In 1992, he started performing “Solo” live with the use of a Macintosh SE/30 computer he programmed to perform the drums, bass, and keyboards, and called it “The Midi Show.” He also programmed the computer to run the sound mix and lights during the show and toured all over the southern and the northeastern U.S.

From 1992 to 1996, he was involved with Lonestar Technologies (Long Island) in the hardware and software development of an Interactive Multimedia Musical Instrument called, The Key, which allows anyone to play music instantly. Jon Anderson of “Yes” used The Key to perform live and wrote many songs with the instrument during that time. In 2000, a new band, “The Sign,” was formed by Mark Mangold (Drive), Randy Jackson (Zebra), Terry Brock (Strangeways), Billy Greer (Kansas), and Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow & Black Sabbath). That year, their début album, Signs Of Life, was released.