Lately I have been getting into a lot of discussions with people regarding the ever increasing affordability of high quality digital audio production. This has sparked a lot of questions as to where the value of recorded music lies to the consumer in the 21st century. Production value had always been a deciding factor in what the majority of the population was listening to. With modern digital recording, this no longer separates the independent artists from the guys with big money. The quality is now on par.
If you had heard an indie bands album twenty years ago, its production quality would have sounded decisively inferior to a professional label band’s recording. Whether people realized it or not, during those times production values we’re used as a way to curate their listening tastes. Today this curation technique has become less and less applicable to music as the playing field has been leveled through digital recording. Anyone willing to learn and invest the time can create an album which from a production stand point sounds just as good as a high end studio recording.
For a lot of people this has created a real problem in the industry. There are tons of musicians, engineers and producers that still seem to believe in this concept of high production value automatically equals more listeners, but there is a serious flaw in that way of thinking. Production alone is no longer enough to get your music heard and praised by others. Nearly everyone has “good” production these days and even those who do not are still able to do well based on the substance of their songs, not expensive recordings. If you want to attract fans to your music it needs to have something more than just great sounding production.
I’ve seen too many brand new bands working with expensive producers and engineers in the industry only to have a great sounding album that no one wants to hear. Just because you can spend the money and work with the best doesn’t always mean you should. You can invest tens of thousands of dollars into the production of your songs but if you haven’t already established an audience of listeners then it by no means guarantees that the rest of the world is going to enjoy them.
You have to build from the ground up, not the other way around! So many bands are willing to go into debt to start at the top of production quality chain and try to work backwards. You need to build your audience first based on content & substance not super high end production value. As your following grows you grow with it and expand into better and better production. If your music connects with people, makes them laugh, smile, cry or want to dance regardless of production, then you’re doing it right.
So how do you build the audience and share your music without going to a high end studio and spending an arm and a leg to record your music just to find out if people even connect with or like your music in the first place? Well, if I can give advice to any young band or artist out there, here it is: Do it yourself! Get a computer, a copy of ProTools or Cubase, a decent vocal microphone, an audio interface, a copy of Guitar Rig, and Superior Drummer. Now learn how to record yourself! Being a musician in this day and age means knowing how to record your own music and how to market yourself to the masses.
DIY (Do it yourself) needs to be the motto of every new artist. Ideally, someone in the band would be a recording engineer, another a marketing/web guy, and the last a video editor to tie it all together. Choose your roles and hone those skills. Everyone will wear multiple hats until hopefully one day you have built an audience so big that you can finally afford to hire people to take on other roles… or better yet, they seek you out.
And that’s when finally, you can justify hiring a producer to help you create your next album and use them for what they should be used for: offering an outside professional perspective to help take your music to the next level with their song writing expertise and ability to understand upcoming music trends.
Content in the Digital Age is an ongoing series of articles on consuming content in today’s world and the impact technology has had on people and industry.
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– Shane Lamotte