I recently watched the new Dave Grohl film, "Sound City." It presented some very poignant thoughts regarding technology's influence on the music industry and music in general.
In the glory days of rock the only way someone could record themselves was to sign that golden "record deal." Making an album was very expensive and the equipment needed to record that album was even more so. One half million dollar recording budgets were common place. Now, anyone with a laptop, some recording software, and some microphones can make a recording in their living room. This is good and bad for a multitude of reasons. One good reason is that, we could never afford to do an album, but due to these advances in technology, we can realize our vision. On the flip side, anyone can do this. So the internet is flooded with music that is not that good. In addition, there are a lot of cheat features in computer based recordings. For instance, drummers can be put in time, and bad singers pulled into key. This is why there are a million teeny bopper pop artists that have no business being in the business. They are just a pretty face without much talent. The computer can make anyone sound like God. In the old days, you had to play it right or do it over and over until it was. Many great musicians weren't "beautiful" but they could play their asses off. It was about sound not appearances. MTV did a great deal to ruin many a career of those who weren't model material.
Grohl's film goes into great detail about how records used to be made and how this famous studio finally went bankrupt because computer based recording killed it. The film also explained most of the big studios were all the classic albums were made are gone.
What does this say for the future of music? Of course, great music will still be made, but will it be heard or lost and buried in the masses of mediocre music that permeates the digital domain? It seems record companies now, since anyone can be made to sound good through digital manipulation, is only interested in the pretty boy or the bombshell diva. Are Rock Gods going to die away? Are the great innovators and visionaries gone? I think they still exist and will be heard but there is going to have to be a new musical revolution of some sort. Many people are getting tired of the sterile sound of these perfect assembly line manufactured songs and artists. They want that human element back, and that is what Grohl's film captures at the end. He makes an album the original way with a bunch of different artists interacting with one another.
|Photo by Lauren Davidson|
I salute this, but, the only problem is nobody can afford a half million dollar recording studio. However, no one has to have a Neve console and $5000.00 microphones to interact and make a great record. Advances in recording equipment have made great strides and great quality stuff can be had at a fraction of the cost of yesteryear. However, just don't lose sight of the vision. Keep it real with a band. Don't be afraid to leave the odd mistake or two. Sometimes a mistake leads to a great musical idea.
The human element, at least for Radio Yesterdays, has to be there. Matt and I recorded everything together and worked off of each other's ideas. We brought in other musicians to play instruments we don't play such as drums and piano. Much the way Steely Dan did it. Although we used the computer to record, it was just a means to an end. I think we made a very big, natural, and organic sounding album. It is out now and we hope you like it. We hope to release it in a variety of mediums, such as downloads, compact disc, and maybe even vinyl. However, more on this, next blog. Radio Yesterdays - out.