21 June 2023

In today's world of bedroom indie, Soundcloud rap, and TikTok hits- music making is for the masses, not the cultural elite who gate-keep the resources and technology.

Modern technology has lowered the costs of everything. The last ten years or so have seen a massive shift in the landscape of music production- now more than ever, anyone can produce music.

Personally, I create all my music with a nomadic studio that I can carry in my backpack. This allows me to be fluid and spontaneous, ready to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Even if the acoustics of the room suck and there is unwanted background noise- if inspiration hits us in your kitchen I'd rather be able to record it then let the moment pass and risk missing it for good.

I am by no means special in this. The list of famous artists who purposefully choose to record with minimal setups (despite having access to the best studios on earth) is growing by the year.

Steve Lacy, a musician and member of the band 'The Internet' has created popular hits such as "Dark Red" and "N Side" utilizing only his iPhone and minimalistic equipment. In an interview with The FADER (link) Lacy conveyed his fondness for the concept of not having to leave his house to produce music.

Similarly, Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas O'Connell, have produced chart-topping songs such as "Bad Guy" and "Ocean Eyes" within the confines of their childhood home in Los Angeles. Utilizing a laptop, microphone, and basic equipment, they were able to craft Grammy-winning music (video).

These examples serve to underscore the fact that the equipment utilized in music production is no longer the sole determinant of quality.

All that being said, creating music within a home or nomadic studio is not devoid of its own challenges. Besides the superficial issues such as acoustic environment and soundproofing proving problematic, there is also the deeper issue- not every artist is a producer. And not every producer is a mixing engineer. And not every mixing engineer is a mastering engineer etc. etc.

The problem that comes with everyone being able to produce music, is that everyone also has to know how to do everything. In this fluid world, there are no separation of roles. The price of accessibility is responsibility.

All our favorite artists from the past had a team, oftentimes dozens of people, each with different roles to play in the creative, recording, and production processes. This is still true of mainstream artists. But for the modern independent artist, each of these roles must be taken on by him/her self.

In this interview (video) Ed Sheeran discusses the 10,000 rule or having to write 100 songs before he ever wrote one that he considered to be any good.

They same logic applies to producing music. You have to do 100 mixes or more before you begin to understand what a good mix sounds like and the technical means to arrive there. Knowing how to manipulate the software to produce a desired result takes time. Training your ear and mind to know what your desired result sounds like may take even more time.

Maybe a big, expensive, professional studio seems a bit archaic in today's world. But what will never go out of style is the skill of the artist, producer, engineer (or some combination of the three) to express a unique point of view. To do this will always require expertise in different disciplines.

Some get that expertise from going to a music school and taking lessons. Others will get it from miserably failing over and over again until they finally start to learn (I belong to the second camp)- in either case, there are no free lunches. Just because the technology is there doesn't mean that it's easy- it only means that it is possible.

If you are an artist- be an artist. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything. Unless it's what you want.

Reading time: 3'

© Marc Cortese

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