Audio RecordingMusic

The Flattening of Music Production

I am using the term flattening here to describe music production as a more level playing field. I suppose I am borrowing that term from a terrible book written by Tom Friedman called The World Is Flat.

I have also heard the term home recording renaissance to describe this. I find it fascinating.

Overall I think it is good. It is allowing people to create their music and release it to the world, without the barriers that existed in the past. By that I mean, record contracts and expensive commercial studios.

The main downside is an expected dip in production quality. In the old world, most music would pass through a commercial studio which employed an experience engineer. So, you could bet that most music that got released was of a fairly high level of quality. Or, what was considered high quality at that time.

In the new world, the level of quality is widely distributed from low to high. In this bad? This is the debate happening now.

Since music is so subjective, it may not matter. If there’s a good song out there and people like it, does it matter that there are some obvious deficiencies in the production? I am not sure.

It’s like these blog posts. I am not a professional writer, so I know this writing is not going to be amazing. I am also not a professional recording engineer, so I know my recordings are not going to be amazing. But, I can work hard to make this stuff the best it can be and continue to grow and improve.

It becomes a question for musicians and songwriters who are considering the DIY approach to recording versus hiring professionals. The reasons to hire professionals was covered very well in a recent post on SonicScoop titled, Why You Should Hire a Professional Producer or Engineer (…And 8 Bad Reasons to Do It All Yourself).

There are some great points here. The point I find most compelling is in line with what I touched on above:

But if we’re talking about music that’s important enough for you to release to the general music-buying public? Then you should make sure it gets appropriate attention and consideration. Hiring a professional for at least some part of the process allows for this. – SonicScoop

You don’t want to work on something for months that will end up being mediocre. I decided to gamble in hopes that I have gotten my recording/mixing skills up to a level that is acceptable. And, to their point about hiring a professional for some part of the process, I did that for the mastering phase.

My primary point of contention with the article is that, for me personally, the enjoyment of learning this stuff goes a long way. It’s like when you decide to build a deck at your house. If you do it yourself, every time you sit on that deck, you are going to feel a sense of satisfaction that you stepped up to the plate and accomplished something that you weren’t sure you could do. Your own sweat and toil went into it. You overcame the obstacles. You felt the joy of learning. You can help a friend or neighbor build their deck.

There may be quality issues with your deck versus one built by a professional. Is this a fair analogy?

In addition to a flattening of the recording process, there is also an opportunity to distribute your music independently. By this, I mean online outlets such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, YouTube, and your own website.

The only thing left is marketing and promotion. This is where it gets very challenging for me and many others. Furthermore, I think this is part of what separates the people who can do music full time and the ones who need to work full time jobs or at least non-music related side gigs.

The nice thing about all of this is that you could attempt to do it all yourself, or you could hire various people along the way to handle specific tasks. For example, you could hire a manager. You could hire a social media marketing person. You could hire a booking agent.

The main point here is that 20 years ago it would have been infinitely more difficult to record and release an album. It would have required either a record contract or several thousand dollars to pay for studio time and an engineer. The home recording renaissance has allowed me and many others to bring our music to life. It has also allowed for greater experimentation and learning. If you are in your home you are not worried about taking additional hours/days/weeks to refine a sound or try different arrangements.

The increasing rate of change in technology will only continue to change music production and the music business. Will artificial intelligence replace the songwriter?

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