the recording industry and their technology

I’ve always played nicely on the border between fighting against the evil record companies, and enjoying their music and buying lots of it.

I find it very frustrating and disgusting to hear stories of musicians who are signed into 10 year long contracts and who are forced to produce music that is not from them in order to honour their contract and get paid, and then that all their music is owned by the record company and they have very limited rights to it. Let alone not being able to record/release anything else while under contract. That’s quite sucky.

On the other side of the fence, I love hearing that young, unsigned bands who have worked hard writing music, practicing and practcing, gigging around town, recording their own EP for hours and hours in their bedroom finally get picked up by a record label and can get paid to actually do their dream job. And get paid by the record company so that they can spend more time doing what they love rather than having to find time to play gigs in amongst their day job that pays for their hobby.

The Word is a music magazine in the UK, and in their latest issue is a very indepth article on the process of recording an album, and how dramatically it has changed over the last 40-50 years.

No, it’s not you – records do all sound the same these days. Desperate to get their music on the radio at all costs, record labels are employing a new and powerful software to artificially sweeten it, polish it, make it “louder”… and squeeze out the last drops of its individuality.

This article was presented to me by a friend who seems heavily against the pressure from record companies, and also how records are then made hits by commercial radio stations, and who encouraged us to not listen to Sydney’s commercial stations, for reasons this article spells out.

I don’t think I’m quite at that level of frustration at the music recording industry, or rather, the pop-music recording industry. I definitely don’t disagree with his views – I respect them greatly coming from his experience and wisdom in music and as a musician. And I wouldn’t call those views cynical or exaggerated either. In fact, I actually probably agree with his reasons for not listening to commercial radio – the reasons contained in the article. But it’s kinda like me and eating meat – I am definitely against a lot of the inhumane things done to animals for the sake of food, but I’m not quite ready to give up meat because of it.

Hypocritical? Perhaps. But it’s not of eternal relevance, so I don’t feel guilty about it. :)

Nevertheless, the article is a fascinating insight into the process and changing times of recording an album. I particularly loved the chunk in the middle that detailed the process of recording, mixing and mastering. Putting aside the fact that the author is so very against the processes currently used, and putting aside any opinions I might have about why it’s done like it is, I loved reading about how music is recorded, put together and polished in a big studio. And to then read about commercial radio stations in the US and how they operate (or rather, how computers operate them) was incredible too. Well worth a read, and full of some fantastic musical Youtube links as well.

It’s easy to read it and feel it’s exaggerated and cynical. But I don’t doubt that it isn’t – especially for the UK and US market. Perhaps it hasn’t hit that level here in Australia – our music industry is a drop in the ocean of the US’s. But after biting through the author’s very passionate view on the recording industry in different places, it was tops that he finished it off with quite an optimistic outlook on the future of recorded music, and how all this technology could make things better.

  1. Rollo’s avatar

    I’m from the Nigel Tufnel school of mixing. Everyone should have a stack of Marshalls piled on stage with every single knob turned up to 11; maybe even cover it over with a sticky note with 12 written on.

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