I’m not going to explain to you how reddit or crowd sourcing works, but suffice to say the conversation going on is lively and enriching for any type of musician. So what are all these music makers talking about?
I scanned the last month of WeAreTheMusicMakers posts to gain some insight on what’s important to the community. I would have liked a larger sample size of posts but reddit’s archives stop after one month. However, the community itself is a huge sample size, and I was able to see a few trends emerge. Here’s the data I ended up with after counting and categorizing each post that received 30 or more upvotes:
Tips, techniques and resources for digital recording, mixing and mastering represented nearly a quarter of the most popular posts. While it’s true anyone with a laptop can produce a great-sounding record these days, it still takes a considerable amount of skill and experience to properly record, mix and master. Many of the most popular posts were links to free resources to learn the ins and outs of digital recording, followed by information on the hottest plugins for “in the box” recording.
The next most popular category was career advice. Clearly there is a lot to talk about here with the big changes happening in the music world. It seems the WeAreTheMusicMakers crowd tends toward the amateur end of the spectrum — musicians that have been playing for a while and are looking for advice on how to begin establishing a career. Luckily there’s a good number of professional musicians in the fray to provide quality advice.
Along that same line, there were robust discussions of the music industry in general — mostly around unfair, exploitative business practices we’ve become too familiar with. But there were also a few posts that looked to gain lessons from the industry success of other artists.
Also popular were requests for specific feedback on non-career issues. These were usually creative ideas about new websites or resources for musicians, and the posters got an enthusiastic response.
Anyone who’s hung with musicians knows they can’t shut up about gear, and the prevalence of gear porn and gear advice among the most popular posts was unsurprising.
The rest of the most popular posts focused on humor, inspiration and commentary on miscellaneous issues important to musicians. There were also appearances by music apps, exhibition videos, requests for collaboration and allegations of copyright infringement.
While these insights may seem self-evident, to me they powerfully illustrate how musicians are taking their fates into their own hands. And that’s a really, really good thing. The odds and benefits of winning the major label lottery are disappearing more and more each day. We’re replacing the old, corrupt system of exploitation with a new do-it-yourself, direct-to-fan attitude.
Digital recording has made every musician a producer. We’re now culturally cool with a lower-fidelity standard of audio quality. We may never individually learn how to make recordings shine in the way an expert mixing engineer can — but as long as we can make the music we hear in our heads, the tradeoff in fidelity is more than worth it. Old folks like Neil Young and Flea might complain we’re a generation of overly-compressed, earbud-isolated kids who don’t know what we’re missing, but it’s clearly the old folks who are missing the point.
Likewise, artists are taking on management and marketing roles for themselves. Again, most of us can’t create amazing music and manage ourselves to six-figure salaries at the same time. But we’re trying because we realize that the first step to “making it” is taking an entrepreneurial attitude and realizing we’re managing a small business. It’s exciting to see that realization dawning after decades of musicians pathetically waiting to be “discovered”, creating great music that dies in obscurity.
I’ll continue to keep my ear to the WeAreTheMusicMakers thread, and even try and get a conversation or two going myself.