What Was Once Out of Reach is Now in my House!

Chris Anderson, in his article, “The Long Tail,” discusses the availability of obscure, lesser known, and low-demand movies, books, and music.  While movie theaters choose to show only movies with predictably high turnouts, Netflix can offer any movie regardless of popularity.  While Barns & Noble is a huge bookstore and can offer 130,000 titles, Amazon can offer 2.3 million (Anderson, 2004). 

As the manager of a band, this is something that really resonated with me.  In the 1980s and earlier, recording original music was very expensive and very much out of reach for common people.  Hopeful artists would solicit labels for a contract in hopes that the label would spring for the recording of an album. Studio time was very expensive and sound engineers were highly skilled.  Unfortunately, the only way to record original music, if a contract wasn’t in the works, was to buy studio time and expect to pay upwards of $100,000 for an album. Often, the only affordable studio time was in the middle of the night. Even more difficult was that the recording studios were mainly located in the music hubs such as Nashville and L.A. (Sound City, 2013).  Watch Sound City

Sound City is a documentary of the recording experience in the 1970s and 80s.  The studio of yesterday is very different from the studio of today.  It also discusses the closing of some legendary studios.

Today technology and the internet make it much easier for local artists to record their music and get it out to the people.  Programs like ProTools bring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hi-tech studio equipment into a private home.  Experts and novices alike use ProTools to produce music.  Rhapsody, CD Baby, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube (to name a few) are tools that allow a small town band to be heard worldwide.  Unlike radio, these venues can host a much larger inventory of music simply because digital music doesn’t take up shelf space and the users can create their own playlists simultaneously. That means they aren’t confined by time (Anderson, 2013).  Not only do these venues suggest potential new music for a listener, but social networking allows listeners to spread their love of new music (Rheingold, 2014). 

How Does That Affect Little ‘Ole Us?

For the band that I manage, this new digital process and accessibility has allowed a group of high school kids with a ton of talent to record with a producer who has worked with Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Kesha, and more. Josh Stoll, from Northern Minnesota got a two year sound engineer degree from McNally Smith in Minneapolis.  As his internship, he worked under Dr. Luke in L.A. He returned to Minneapolis and started his own recording studio and his own band (Summertime Dropouts).  My son was recruited by Josh Stoll to be the lead guitarist for Summertime Dropouts.  Josh did all of their own tracking and sent the tracks via Dropbox to his friend in L.A. (Clint Gibbs) who is Dr. Luke’s assistant.  Gibbs acted as Executive Producer on the Summertime Dropouts CD’s.  The mixed tracks were then sent (again via Dropbox) to New York where Darren Vermaas mastered them.  Finally, Vermaas created a digital image of the CD and sent it out for replication.  Within two weeks, 1000 CD’s were delivered to Josh’s door.  Of course I bi-passed the creation of the artwork, but that was digital as well. Interestingly enough, the songs were tracked at my home in central Wisconsin rather than at a recording studio in a major city.  So, because of technology today, musicians in central Wisconsin were able to access the expertise of people on each coast to create their music. 

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The next step is promotion.  Using social media, bands can promote their music themselves without having to spend money on agents and promoters.  Because of the tech savvy skills of Summertime Dropouts, their music has been featured on MTV, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, Portlandia, and much more. 

How has that affected the band I manage?  I met Josh Stoll through my son.  We were able to hire him (using a family-friend rate) to track our music.  Josh was our Executive Producer.  We then sent our music to New York for mastering and then submitted to digital retailers.  We get a check every couple of months for the online purchases of our music.  This is something that could not have happened to a young local band 25 or 30 years ago.  Technology has changed the music industry and likewise, it’s changed the movie and book industry as well.  I am attaching links to music by Summertime Dropouts and the band that I manage.  Since a recording studio can by housed in a computer tower, listen to see if you can hear a quality difference between these songs and something that would have been tracked in a major recording studio.  Songs must have a much higher demand to land radio airtime. However, due to the ability to get our music out globally using the internet, the band I manage is getting airplay all over the world and most recently was picked up by a radio station in California.  It’s simply amazing to see how our reach is much different today. The format of digital music is getting easier and more popular than ever.  I used to hold out and buy hard copy music from the music store simply because I wanted to see the photos and get the information that could only be found inside a CD.  Today, that information is rampant all over the internet.  Instead of listening to a new CD and browsing the pages of a CD insert, I can listen to new music while I sift through uploaded articles and photos of my favorite bands.

Summertime Dropouts

WithoutExcuse

It’s simply amazing to see how our reach is much different today. The format of digital music is getting easier and more popular than ever.  I used to hold out and buy hard copy music from the music store simply because I wanted to see the photos and get the information that could only be found inside a CD.  Today, that information is rampant all over the internet.  Instead of listening to a new CD and browsing the pages of a CD insert, I can listen to new music while I sift through uploaded articles and photos of my favorite bands.


References

Anderson, Chris. (2004). “The long tail.” Change This. Issue 10.01. Creative Commons. Stanford, CA.

Grohl, David. (2013). Sound City. Roswell Films.

Rheingold, Howard. (2014).  Net Smart: How to thrive online. MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Posted on October 30, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The connections you make between Anderson’s seminal piece and your band management work is great! I look forward to seeing the case study. You mention Rheingold once but can you elaborate on that social networking and community? I’m guessing you mean fanbase or is it more of the professional networking that you describe in the “How does that affect us” section?

  2. Yes, here I’m talking mainly about professional networking. We now have access to professionals without having to book time and travel. Because of this, we can create a quality and professional product. However, the social networking to build a fanbase has also changed the music industry. A band used to have to go on tour and get in front of as many people as possible. Today, they can do this with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The easiest way to build a fan base is through social networking.

    • Thanks for the clarification. I think all of free tools that allow bands to share and promote their music are great.
      Somewhat unrelated, one of my digital humanities undergrads is evaluating http://www.jungalaradio.com which, via podcasts, “aims to empower the people of the refugee camp [in France] to have the ability to create their own narratives and to have voices in their communities, allowing them to challenge assumptions that may be made about those within refugee camps.” What I think is fascinating, besides these stories, is the emphasis placed on skill building: “creative IT software, audio recording hardware, interview technique and language development. [and] Enabling volunteers to contribute to all the creative processes involved in running the station.” That’s collaboration and technological literacy in a place I wouldn’t have predicted!

  3. I love your unique take on the use of technology and social media for such an incredible cause! I also know some local bands who have only been able to make CDs or have exponentially increased show numbers through social media. It is not an aspect that is talked about that much – more publicity goes to the opposite side (the famous artists who are losing out on sales because of technology) – so it’s really great to be reminded of the amazing benefits for people to reach their goals.

    • You’re right – I hadn’t thought about that. While social media allows young, new artists to get their music out there, it also has made it more difficult for the famous artists to sell their music. In addition, it brings more competition. I worked as a radio DJ in the late 80s and early 90s. It was our policy to play certain songs every hour. When multiple artists released new songs at the same time, our music hours sounded so much the same. That’s why I tend to get bored with radio. They play the same songs over and over. I don’t think this strategy works the same as it did back then. People have too many options and can easily create their own playlists in too many formats to settle for same-ness.

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