The last few years have seen a real change in music. Naturally music changes all the time, and like with clothing trends we’re hit with different themes that sort of get labelled with a particular decade or era or whatever. But the thing I want to focus on here is the change in producing the music itself that’s happened more recently.
As we move into the digital age where technology has allowed music to be made more accessible, recording artists don’t necessarily have to pay out huge sums of money to buy time in a recording studio. The equipment is all there on your laptop, give or take a few upgrades and add-ons. It’s possible to make a half-decent record from your own home now, so I guess that’s part of the reason the music industry is slowly dying out. Yes as long as people love music, it will always be made – don’t get me wrong on that. But the need for expensive studios is rapidly decreasing, and with it the need for a record label at all. Why should a band sign a complex and binding contract with a record label when they can make the exact music they want from the comfort of their own home – no creative restrictions?
And here’s where it gets complicated. Yes I completely appreciate that a top music producing label will produce better sounding music than your average Joe in his bedroom with nothing more than a few microphones and his laptop, but there are so many quality recordings coming from the basic home setup it makes you wonder if it’s worth the extra spend. I’m not saying the record label is redundant, just less of an attractive option these days. Yes they have the connections and marketing teams to promote your record, but we’ve all seen how easily videos go viral – who’s to say you can’t do it all yourself?
Another thing that’s caused this change is the recession. Yeah, it’s hit everyone hard, and the music industry has suffered a massive punch in the face in this respect. Few can afford the luxury of a perfectly polished record now, so in a lot of cases the cheap DIY option is the only real option – it’s that or nothing. It’s a real shame, but that’s how it is now. Part of me hates that record labels are being thrown by the wayside, to be replaced by the DIY version of music production. Yet at the same time I enjoy the possibilities that have been opened up by technology. There are so many great bands and artists that thanks to this technology can produce great music at a very decent quality for their fans, instead of waiting for the chance of hitting the jackpot and being snapped up by a label. Just think of all the great music you might not have heard if record labels and expensive studio time were the only way to go.
I haven’t even mentioned piracy yet, which has to play a huge role in all of this. Ok granted a lot of people buy music on iTunes or whatever, which is great, and I salute you for doing so! But the vast number of file-sharing sites available has made it more and more tempting to just download music for free. Personally I think that the artist should always be appreciated for their work, so if you want more music of that quality from them in the future, support them by paying for it.
Anyway back onto DIY music production. Studios aren’t completely dead it has to be said (rhyme unintentional), and minus the record label still have a lot to offer. This is thanks to crowdfunding campaigns, for example through Kickstarter. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, take a look at my guide on it. Basically these campaigns, or projects, have allowed fans of an artist to show their support and fund the creation of an album. The artist they love gets to raise enough money for the required studio time (and the rest) to make the music, and in return the fans get the music they want to hear – for donating pretty much the same amount they would pay for the album in the first place. It’s a great concept, and I’ve supported two of my favourite artists through it already.
The music industry has clearly seen a lot of change in the last few years, and it’s likely that things will never again be how they were. It’s a shame for the record labels who make a good honest living out of making great music, but in some ways the increased accessibility that has come with advanced in technology has opened up the way for more artists to showcase their talent, and make more of a success of themselves. The possibilities of networking and spreading the news of a new artist across the web, along with the improved sound of DIY music has, in my opinion, changed the music industry for the better. I mean, who doesn’t love discovering a new artist by chance, and wondering how you hadn’t heard about them before? Technology has made that so much easier, which can only be a good thing, right?