I'm a 30 something guy who has returned to college to major in Audio Engineering. As such, I'm taking recording industry classes at MTSU, and thinking a lot about music, and the industry I plan to call home. And boy does that open a Pandora's Box. Because if you know anything about the music industry, right now you probably think I'm pretty stupid, because everyone knows the recording industry is struggling to make money. The recording industry blames the illegal downloaders. The downloaders blame CD prices and stores going out of business. What a mess. I'll clean that up for you in a minute.
No, I'm thinking, seriously. It's been said that if you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life. I've heard so may bands live that sound good, and picked up their albums and been disappointed. For lack of a little engineering the albums were horrible compared to the live performances. Well, I love music, and I think I can help some of those bands.
So how do you get around the problems the record industry has? I have a professor who constantly reminds his class that WE are the future, WE have to solve the problem, and we have to do it because the people who are running things now obviously can't figure it out. I believe him, but I don't claim to have a solution yet. But I know what the problem is. Problems. Are. I know what the problems are. Or at least some of them.
Development. Back in the day, record labels used to develop artists. Some of those great bands we got used to didn't make one thin dime with the first two or three albums. They just didn't sell. They didn't get a lot of radio play. They didn't get a lot of attention. But the labels stuck with those bands because they saw potential. Today, if your first album doesn't pop a top-10 single, you're probably going to get dumped. What, don't believe me? Ask around. I'm not going to start dropping names, but I'm sure you can find at least a half a dozen industry pundits who will tell you it's true.
Downloaders. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you. See, there's a new generation growing up in the world that's never had to fight for anything, never had to pay for it. Every generation prior to ours has had to pay for everything, sometimes with their lives, simply for the right to live how they want to. But this generation, even with the current war in the middle east, has't had to pay. That body count? It's just a number on TV. That war? It's not real, the reasons were faked, right? No one but the old administration wanted that war to start with, so we'll just ignore it. Even the war in Vietnam meant more in the US than this current war, and the price isn't registering with this generation. We are (and I'll include myself, because I know my age group is included) an entitlement generation. We think we have a right to whatever we want, or think we need. So we can just download something for free instead of buying it. Who cares if the artist gets paid? Aren't they making music so what we can listen to it anyway? I'm not saying anything new, I'm just repeating what no one wants to hear for the 1000th time.
Quality. And we'll start with those downloads. It's garbage. You take those 128K (if you're lucky) mp3's and play them on a high end stereo, or a good set of headphones, and you'll hear the artifacts from the psycho-acoustic compression. Except that no one has high end stereos or good headphones any more. Everyone listens through horrible little tinny sounding computer speakers, or earbud turned up so loud I can tell what they're listening to from the other side of the street. I'm not kidding, it's happened. And with something turned up so loud, how can you even tell the quality is bad? You can't. And the actual quality of the music? I'm not making a blanket statement, but the music being made today sucks. My professor was talking about the development issue I mentioned above, and he said it was as damaging to the industry as illegal downloading. I fired back that it was worse, because there was music being made today that wasn't worth downloading, illegal or not.
Loudness wars. Everything is loud now. Every recording made has the dynamics compressed right out of it. If your recording isn't louder than the next guy's recording is, it's no good. At least that's what they'll tell you. Now, everything I listen to music on has a volume knob. And if I want it loud, I'll turn it up. But I'd like to hear some dynamics in my music. And you won't get it today. I find myself breaking up modern recordings with older tracks, just to hear something that isn't loud all the way through.
I'm running out of time, but that's an idea. That's what I see as the problems. Or some of them. And I love music. That's my best qualification for what I'm telling you. But I'm also taking classes about stuff like this. And I think about it a lot. Because people should be recording great music, in ways that make great recordings, and those recordings should be bought be people who love the way they sound, especially when they listen to them on something that sounds good. Not everything will be this industry-boring to people who just want to know what I think about music. But for those who want to think about it, this stuff will be around too.