“I feel that it makes everyone look smaller, not bigger. Take for example, when you see some joe schmo artist who has a well known band in his
top 8. If you are a complete unknown and you have U2 in your top 8 it makes them look smaller.”
Throughout the entertainment industry it is getting harder and harder for acts to define their market. On paper, one would think that with so many available resources and new avenues to get heard, record companies should be able to really up the ante, however it is becoming apparent that much of the problem is indeed stemming from the â€œartistsâ€? themselves.
(You can find Phaze 9 promoting themselves daily drowning out commentsÂ on mainstreamÂ bands myspace pages including SOAD, Flyleaf and 10 Years. Â Phaze 9 consist of a family including mother, father, and seven year old son. They purchased a Friendbot)
There is more than one issue to address, the first being that there simply seems to be a lack of quality acts in general, but why is that?Â Maybe kids are too quick to pick up the Playstation controller over the axe. But beyond a lack of inspiration there is a major shift in this country that is happening right before our eyes: the insatiable lust for fame. Now, even my 40yr. old balding next door neighbor thinks he is going to be famous. The two biggest contributing factors of this in my opinion are Myspace.com and American Idol. American Idol has paved the way for thousands of fairly talentless people to take the mainstream airwaves. At best, the majority of these people are closet singers that ordinarily couldnâ€™t draw their best friends out to come see them perform at a karaoke bar,
and now they really have a â€œvoiceâ€? with this Myspace craze. Myspace.com is really interesting because it takes all the allure and mystique away from the artist. Back not too long ago you would only have a few outlets to get your â€œfixâ€? on the band in which you craved. You invested your time to see them perform, to see the video on MTV, or you went to the store to buy the magazine they were featured inâ€¦there was an investment. These days you can know what band ate what for breakfast this morning, what brand of toilet paper they use, and what their favorite TV show is- there is no mystery. Everything about our culture and where it is headed is the antithesis of Rock-n-Roll. What rock band back in the day would post a journal on their daily lifeâ€¦are you kidding me?
Another contributing factor to our debilitating arts and culture is the way we access our music. Nowadays what is a song? It is a meaningless file- just bits of data which you come to as you please. You have thousands of these â€œfilesâ€? like you have pennies in a jar, and they are worth about as much to you. Besides, who really has time to check out new music when they are so busy parading themselves on Myspaceâ€¦sorry, Iâ€™m not on the Myspace bandwagon. I feel that it makes everyone look smaller, not bigger. Take for example, when you see some joe schmo artist who has a well known band in his top 8. If you are a complete unknown and you have U2 in your top 8 it makes them look smaller.
It is also important on a technical level to consider the fact that music is being recorded in a way that is less human than ever before. As a producer I am all for digital, but with itâ€™s unprecedented editing ability, we are no longer listening to a band, we are listening to a studio engineerâ€™s edits. Music is all cut and paste these days- we are listening to a computer, not performances. If the band canâ€™t play it you edit it, if the singer canâ€™t sing it you auto-tune it. If you donâ€™t hear the band live, donâ€™t trust your ears!
A subtle but very critical issue with regard to modern recordings which few are aware of is the ongoing loudness war. Try this for an experiment: take a CD you bought 15 yrs. ago, put it in and listen for a few minutes. Then, without touching your volume knob take a CD you just bought recently and put it in. The volume difference is staggering, and it comes with a big cost. To compress mixes this much in the mastering stage seriously compromises the quality and makes most CDs hard to listen to at loud volumes all the way through. The music is so â€œsqueezedâ€? that all the dynamics and life are gone. This part of it is the fault of the record companies believing louder is better- it is not always the case.
To sum it up, we are living in the â€œmeâ€? generation, or more appropriately the â€œMyspaceâ€? generation, and it seems a majority of bands/artists are doing their thing for the wrong reasons. Songs these days are becoming more and more like advertising slogans, but the public is buying less and less. Until we get back to the place where music is made for artistic reasons and not financial ones, we will see and hear the same old re-hashed garbage. Ask your friends, your teachers, pretty much anyone on the street, and they will all agree that music right now is lame. Aside from a few really cool things here and there, we are in a drought! Again, a big contributing factor to this is the fact that the playing field has leveled. Thatâ€™s not to say that new outlets like Myspace.com canâ€™t be useful or profitable, itâ€™s just not Rock-n-Roll to me.
John Degrazio is an A&R Consultant and producer/singer songwriter. John has worked with De Sol (Curb Records) among others.