The music business has changed. Some of it is for the better, some of it – not sure yet. One thing that has changed, dramatically, in the last little while is the way in which an artist delivers their music to a consumer, or end user. ProTools and other home recording gear, along with Apple’s impressive Garageband software (installed on most new Macs) has made it so that an artist needn’t go into the conventional “recording studio” to make, at very least, a demo and, in the extreme, a completely “finished” master or “album” (to use old world terms). Sadly, a few of my recording engineer and studio owner friends have lost their businesses due to this increasingly common situation. Which is too bad because acoustic settings in a great room can really help you when working with drums or string sections, and I hate to see skilled people and good rooms go out of business. But it’s probably also a great time to be an artist, right? You don’t need a producer to meddle with your vision, right? Well, not so fast. The way I see it, there will always be a need for objective ears (beyond girlfriends /boyfriends and band mates) to fulfill the role of artistic editor, whether that person is called a “producer” or not. When you can go straight from inspiration to finished recording, you may want to skip such a middle man in the name of expedience. But beware. Engineering is one thing, although vital in some cases (especially when working with live drums and balancing complex mixes) but what about song structuring, arranging and overall sonic design? Someone who is skilled in the art of arranging (either through music theory or the school of hard knocks, i.e. another recording artist who has worked and reworked a hundred songs and has worked with overdubs etc.) will still be a valuable member of your team. Their aesthetic opinion may differ with yours, but hey a good idea is worth fighting for. And more importantly, a producer can solve a lot of problems before they arise, and save you time. So ultimately, you don’t exactly need a producer, but if you happen across your own personal George Martin (whose knowledge of strings and orchestral overdubs came in quite handy to the Beatles) why not let them help you on your voyage to musical happiness?
Archive for March, 2008
I was watching Wilco on Saturday Night Live this weekend, they were awesome. Jeff Tweedy’s scratchy, lived-in voice was in full rasp and Nels Cline’s tone made me jealous in a way I haven’t felt since the 80’s when I was heavy into Adrian Belew. Wilco have quietly become one of my favourite bands, although I hardly think about them and I rarely talk about them. But I saw Jeff Tweedy solo a couple of years back, at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and he was life-changingly inspired and inspiring. I went home and, like, wanted to write songs all the time again–like the old days when I thought rock and roll was my calling, it wasn’t, but it keeps calling. The way that Chinese lady calls our house every six months (because, I suspect, our phone number was misprintedly listed in an ad in a Chinese community newsletter.) Anyway, watching music on TV has changed for me since we decided to get a DVR. I now spend quite a bit of time combing the listings for things like Austin City Limits, PBS Soundstage and all the late night talk shows. This week, for instance, I got to hear Liam Finn play one of his great songs from his inventive and melodic new album I’ll Be Lightning on Letterman, Arcade Fire for a whole hour on Austin City Limits which also featured Bloc Party earlier in the week. And Conan, Jimmy Kimmel and even Craig Ferguson regularly have emerging bands on so it’s always fun to program these shows, go to bed and then fast forward through them next day to get to the music segments (always the last thing on). Often, I will have read about someone like Martha Wainwright or Lily Allen and then see their names pop up in the weeks talk show listings. In this way, my DVR is like a big clunky iPod, bringing me music in a different way than MTV or VH1 used to-back in the old days.