Yesterday I led a session at Unsummit about the democratization of music entitled, “Rock-and-Roll in the Digital Age”. The personal computer and the Internet have significantly altered the path of music history. With virtually no technical roadblocks to recording music, everyone with access to a computer can do things that would have cost thousands of dollars just a decade ago. Put simply, artists can now focus on their art.
Back in the day (pre-2004), getting a “pro” sound recorded meant spending thousands of dollars in a recording studio. We had to pay for the space and also for the audio engineer. Then we had to pay for master tapes and, God forbid we wanted a CD to play at home, we had to pay for that.
Today, we have an opportunity to record music using stuff we mostly already own. There is no need for an audio engineer. “Space” can be anywhere that is quiet. And your computer is your recording studio.
The impact of this shift in ease-of-recording is that more and more artists are able to create music. This is great. Couple that with free or pay-as-you-go national and international distribution (i.e. websites, iTunes, Rhapsody, and Napster) as well as an organizational and categorizing tool (i.e. Google), and we’ve got everything we need to get rolling! (Securing fans is a different story…)
As you have probably read, this democratization of music has REALLY pissed the record labels off. They have sued everybody they can think of to sue. They have squandered so many opportunities to become relevant that they are now a laughing stock. Today, the record labels’ main assett is their connections/network. They can still open doors for musicians but only because they have a solid stable of established bands that signed up before the digital age changed everything. They can offer opening slots and give bands credibility. And they can loan you money. They can also provide you with a business organization.
BUT most of that is irrelevant for most musicians.
Most musicians make music for the joy of it. And even the ones who are trying to make it big don’t really need the labels. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to make a career out of music, but it would take a similar amount of hard work and persistence to get noticed by a record label. In fact, record labels are now looking for polished acts with a proven track record of success, basically serving as loan sharks to established bands.
Some perspective on my session.
In any case, here is me rapping at yesterday’s Unsummit (from multiple angles!!!).
And here’s another video clip from the session.