The Good, The Bad and the Distractions…
(Please note in the following article by Music Producer I mean someone who is creating and recording music on their own and not the traditional meaning of someone who is assisting with the creation of a sound/album/musical direction etc).
Today more than ever music producers have it the best they have ever had but at the same time they have it the hardest. On the one hand they have a wealth of sonic possibilities at their fingertips. Anyone can go online and with a couple of clicks buy a computer, software and speakers and start making music. It’s even possible to make music in your own bedroom which can be released straight on record! This was unheard of just 10-15 years ago and the advancement in technology in such a short time has been incredible. However on the other hand there are some definite negative side-effects. Firstly – anyone can make music but that also means ANYONE can make music, even tone deaf, rhythm less morons who shouldn’t be allowed in the same room as a keyboard, let alone music software!! Secondly and the more potentially damaging side-effect is the amount of distractions around these days that aren’t directly linked to making and producing music but somehow now seem essential to a music producer’s survival – creating artwork, self-promotion, learning the art of recording music properly and not least of all – the dreaded social media…
This leads to the question – what is required of a music producer in the 21st Century? Should they just make music and make it as good as they can? Should they spend some of their music making time concentrating on promoting themselves via social media – Twitter, Facebook and now Google+? How much time should be sacrificed to produce some artwork? I mean how important is artwork anyway with digital releases? What about creating a website? What about DJing and touring? What about learning about mixing and producing?!
Less and less artists are making money from selling records these days as its getting cheaper and cheaper for consumers to get hold of music. For example with the music streaming companies a listener only has to pay a nominal monthly fee and they can basically listen and download any music they want (as long as they are subscribed). Also with the amount of “illegal” downloads available in this day and age how much can an artist expect to realistically make from selling their music? I won’t go too in-depth here as some far more talented writers have already gone into this subject very deeply – see here for an example.
Therefore if a music producer wants to survive, unless they are incredibly fortunate or insanely talented then really they are being forced to multitask. They are being forced to spend precious “music-making” time promoting themselves. There are so many small aspects that they must learn about in order just to get noticed (at the end of the day the point of making music is to have it heard!) They must learn about the dos and don’ts of social media, learn how to create a website and continually update it. They have to learn how to create a newsletter and send out regular updates, learn how to use Photoshop in order to create artwork for their releases, learn the business side of things as they are being forced to pay for mastering and releasing their record on their own label as record labels are diminishing by the second!
So how much time does this leave for the actual creation of music? The nurturing of ideas? Sitting for endless hours at an instrument going over and over a song until they know it absolutely perfectly in their heads and can lay down the track in one take? I mean how many producers these days can actually even play an instrument at a competent level or even read music? I think you would be surprised at how few.
This is all very difficult to judge and the nostalgic amongst you will claim that they don’t make music like they used to! Whilst this is true to a large extent it isn’t such a bad thing as many would have you believe. I mean even back in the day when all musicians or artists had were their instruments they still wasted an enormous amount of time talking, getting high or just pontificating about something. Also, let’s get one thing straight – just because an artist is high it doesn’t necessarily mean they make great music. A few did but a vast majority created a whole pile of shite! Nowadays producers have an idea and all too often it is obvious they haven’t allowed their idea to develop and rushed to lay it down on their software before it was forgotten. I think this is where music is suffering and where so many artists are going wrong and why now we have a whole barage of sub-par music swamping the internet on sites like soundcloud and beatport. And trust me there is a massive amount of rotten music out there. I have heard enough of it!
Now I don’t want to say that the world of music is going to the shitter because I truly don’t think it is. There are many positive things associated with the improvements in technology. For example as a music producer it is possible for you to get your music heard by many people very quickly without going through a whole rigmarole of just trying to get your track down on tape. The listener also has so many more options available to them and niches of genres are growing rapidly. The listener isn’t forced to listen only to what is played on the radio and if they find an artist they like they can enjoy their music instantly.
So in conclusion… I believe the music producer’s role is evolving very quickly at the moment. So much so it is getting increasingly difficult to keep track of it. So much is expected of them these days that it can be easy for them to lose sight of what is the most important thing – the music. Also the cesspit of mediocrity is growing at an alarming rate and this is daunting for any listener. Trawling through hours of crap isn’t exactly a prospect to look forward to. However it is exciting in a way to see where all these possibilities will take the musical world but I hope the art of writing music is not lost amongst the wealth of technology. Don’t forget – Limitation can sometimes be good…