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How The World of Music Has [Changed]

See how Roger and Paul think the world of music has [changed] over the years.

Paul:  Having now been a part of the recording industry for 44 years, there are so many changes I’ve seen.  Back when I first joined Little Feat and we recorded Dixie Chicken in 1972, records labels back then had true artist development departments.  Once an act was signed they had the opportunity to grow and develop their sound, that simply doesn’t happen anymore.  In today’s world, you have to have not only your sound, but a social media presence before a label will talk to you.  It’s not so much about the music as it is the dollars.  And now those dollars are shrinking for the artist as the digital age has made it possible to pirate the music in so many ways.

The recording process had already grown into the over-dubbing era, multitrack recording was the norm, as opposed to just a few years earlier when folks used 4 track recorders, now you had 24 to play with.  Mastering albums for vinyl was an art unto itself, the fewer minutes per side of a LP, the deeper the grooves you could get and thus a wider range of sound.  When the first digital recorders came it was amazing how easy it was to punch in and out making the editing process much simpler, not to mention the digital consoles that had programmable functions this keeping six people from leaning across the mix making fader moves manually, oh those were fun times.  Now, with full digital recording set-ups one can do as many overdubs as one would like to do, and then just cut and paste it into a single track, words can be broken down into syllables, guitar notes blended from one take into another, the pallet is so much bigger for the artist.

It is a whole different world in how music is made, but in the long run it still boils down to songs, and personal tastes.  There is so much more music to hear with so many more avenues to explore for getting a bite.  I just hope folks will always feast on the music cause it’s good for the soul.

Roger: I think one of the main things that have changed is that there is a serious saturation of material out there, it’s endless.  People have the ability to record an idea in their bedroom and then automatically sign up for a webpage somewhere and release it into the world and say ‘here’s my new song’.  Based on that, there’s just so much stuff that before, would never have made it that far.  When I first started it was multi-track tape, you only had X amount of tracks based on what you could afford for machines and went into a studio, so you spent a lot more time refining your demos.  Because of that you were able to have much more successful, branded bands and artists, because when they put something out it was done, I mean it was really something to listen to.  People would go to the record store and get their copy, excited to see what was next, as opposed to “Oh my God there is more stuff”. I am in no way saying that there’s all bad material out there - there’s a lot of great material coming out, but there’s such a saturation with all the internet middle men of distribution these days that who’s got time, or takes the time to sift through all that stuff to find an artist that really gets them?   So that’s a huge difference.  

There was always a school of thought of how things had to come together sonically and energy wise to deliver the message, if there was one, when they sat and listened to it.  I think a lot of the changes has come down to the fact that what it used to cost for a reel of tape,  you can buy a piece of recording equipment and put it in your living room and have as many tracks as your computer could handle.  So every time somebody finishes something it’s great, a lot of work, they’re excited and they release it just because they thought it was done.  Before you would really take the time to make sure everything was right.  You could go into a studio and get it done and then release it, which kind of kept a higher caliber of music coming out   at the time. 

On the production side it seems because of that same ideal of how simply you can put your ideas onto a hard drive now, the production side of things has really changed.  It used to be a producer was a person who had a really good understanding of all the instrumentation, the style of music, the recording process - the whole thing from the beginning of the process to release.  Now it seems people just hit the record button and they think it’s really cool but they’ve never had to really learn the fundamentals of how to capture audio because now you can just throw a mic on anything and hope it’s good.  In a world of mp3’s, who really knows the difference?  Labels used to create development deals for bands.  Once the band got themselves to a certain caliber, they would get a little help to get over the hump and have a place to work with people who are more knowledgeable at the time to develop into something that’s really brandable and   real, and creates an audience and all that but, it seems there’s no point in that anymore because there’s just so much material.  Now it’s like the band itself has to do every step that the label used to do, then all of a sudden a label will say ‘well that’s kind of cool, let’s take that on.  We’ll spend some money on that and hopefully we’ll get it all back.  Hopefully they will survive long enough, and if not, there’s another band right around the corner.”

The music industry is always going to be evolving, but it seems that as different generations of people get involved in recording and playing music, and even the people that are teaching them, each generation that goes away the next generation comes in learning less and less of the basics, the more dynamic seems to be lost in the overall sound of things.  I think that’s one of the biggest changes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what technology has done - it enabled people to really express themselves without really having to spend $50k in a recording studio, plus tape, so not a negative, just changed.

Mark Ross asks:  Is it just me or does it seem like female singers are more popular than male singers these days? Personally I love that women have finally made a big impact in popular music.

Regarding an increase of women in the industry it seems that every decade of music has had it’s influx of women who are predominately singers. In the 50’s there was the Shandell’s, the 60’s had Janis Joplin, 70’s Heart, 80’s Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, and so on… There is a lot of great female singers out there, then there’s one that gets over the top, and then opens the door for the sound for a couple dozen more until it runs it ‘s course and labels start looking for a new sound.  Now it’s become more apparent because before they were all in specific styles or genres where they could make their mark, now it’s become more cross marketing across genres, and be marketed to a larger fan base because of the internet.