21st Century Recording Means Less Studio Time: Deal With It
This is a long comment I made in response to this Trust Me, I Am A Scientist blog post which was Facebook-shared by friend and record producer extraordinaire John Naclerio at Nada Studios. I lump the ‘Scientist’ blog in with the Trichordist folks who basically try to complain the old music industry back into existence. They think music is devolving, I think it’s evolving… I guess that makes us sworn enemies. But I don’t want to fight, I want to find solutions, and all I hear from them is complaints.
This is addressed to John but could really be addressed to any professional career producer/engineer worth their salt.
Sorry, I’m going to be the guy that points out this article is BULLSHIT!
John, we’ve had these discussions before so I know you know I appreciate the work of a professional. You made our record sound 1000% better than it would have sounded fresh outta my basement.
I disagree with the main point that “It always takes longer than the band expects” to finish a record… I mean, I’ll take your word for it if you think this is a good article. I’ll accept that most or a growing number of bands think this, but I believe the true professional musicians understand the process and understand it takes time.
I totally disagree with his implication that somehow technology has had a negative effect on the recording process simply because a few people are impatient. Technology has made it possible to have a studio on every laptop — we should be celebrating that!
Yeah, from a producer/engineer standpoint it sucks because culture is getting lo-fi, there’s less money in the music economy and budgets are smaller. We’re never going back to Led Zeppelin locking out a studio for a year, nor was that ever necessary to make a good record. It was important for doing lots of drugs though.
What about the black market for drugs? With musicians spending less time in the studio, they have more time freed up to do drugs. Maybe you should consider a career as producer/dealer?
Seriously, I think I can understand why producers and engineers would be totally fucking annoyed by bands coming in and expecting to have a great record in a few days. Maybe that happens more often than not these days. It must frustrate the hell out of you to want to do an awesome job but the band only has the budget to do 4 songs in 2 days.
This blogger offers no solutions whatsoever, just complaints. How about thinking about ways musicians can have bigger budgets? How about thinking about “fuck the album” because people listen to singles, and just take the time to do really good singles until you get financial backing for an album? How about record it at home because listeners are cool with lo-fi as long as they’re getting a type of music they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten because the musician couldn’t afford to be in a studio? How about celebrating home recording as a gateway drug to valuing professional production/engineer services?
It’s not that bands don’t value the professional recording process or how long it takes… they just don’t have the money they used to, plus they can do a C+ job at home… that’s just reality. They’re not going out of their way to be assholes about it, but they are fair to expect that recording technology has evolved to the point where yes… it actually does take a shorter time and is much cheaper to make a great record than 5, 10 or 20 years ago. All of the sudden you CAN record an LP in a few days for $1,000. Will it be awesome? 99% of the time, no. But your odds don’t get much better with a professional recording… it’s not about the art, it’s about the business.
John, you are one of the most respected professionals I know in the music business — not just from me but from the hundreds of musicians who have come through your studio. You don’t complain about any of this shit, so I’m not directing this at you. I just want to say that 99% of musicians have never been able to afford a $20,000 recording budget, so nothing much has changed there. It’s the label situation that’s changed. And good riddance. Patronage beats exploitation. It sucks for producers/engineers, there’s less money. But it’s better for musicians and they are the ones ultimately keeping you in business.
We’re just going through a rough, awkward patch in the industry where the old players are dying but throwing every dollar and lawyer at holding on to paid access to music. But access to music is already free or nearly free, and we’ve yet to adapt the music economy to it because these assholes are preventing us from finding new solutions.
Recording technology will continue to get cheaper and more efficient. Digital editing means there’s no reason for a musician to play the track 47 times. Recording time is getting shorter and that’s a good thing for everyone but the people who are paid based on recording time. So for those folks, like you, John, and the countless other producer/engineers struggling against this wave of amateur musicianship and production — let’s start talking about business solutions.
Let me close by saying I think that you, John, are a shining example of a producer talking solutions. You started a label and are now taking backend interest in some of the bands you produce. The producer/engineer becoming more of a part of the band or their management is probably the most promising avenue for talented studio professionals right now. But there will be more, and I’ll work with you to help find the money!
Just wanted to make one more thing clear: There is still a need and a time for hanging out in the studio for a long-ass time. DIY home recording makes it possible to hang out at your house for a year and record an album. I still want to hear albums that took a long time and a big budget to produce. I just don’t see the need to produce tens of thousands of big-budget recordings every year when only 1 in 5 see the light of day, and 1 in 5 of those ever reach a big enough audience to justify the scale. Let bands scale up to a big budget, big timeline recording — instead of it being all or nothing.
The real problem is not one of philosophies but one of economics. No one is arguing against technology or the internet. People are arguing for Fair Business Practices and for musicians to be compensated in any value chain where money is being made – by for profit businesses. This shouldn’t be hard to understand and to ignore the realities of exploitation against musicians is intellectually dishonest.
The fact is, we all know a lot of money is being made on the internet via the distribution and consumption of music, however – that money is not being “shared” with musicians… how ironic…