Friday, 19 October 2012

Why do we bother making music?

As I sit in front of my Mac with a brand spanking new, unsullied-by-any-form-of-music-empty-Pro Tools session patiently waiting for me to do something, I am struck by a fundamental question…

What on Earth am I doing?

In this day and age, why would anybody want to make music? We have never seen such an explosion in the creative arts. The democratising process brought about by incredibly cheap and powerful digital recording media (audio, video, photography etc.), awesomely powerful software and computers has made it possible for anyone and their dog to give their Muse some airtime. Now I’m not saying that’s bad. It’s not, it is fantastic, and perhaps one day it will bring about World peace, and align the planets. Well it might.
But the point is why do those of us mug enough to do it as a profession actually do it? Unless you’ve been living under an insane rock, you must know that hardly anyone actually wants to buy music these days. As I write this in early Autumn sun (you should get out from under that rock, it’s beautiful at the moment!) all sorts of IP things are happening, and apparently certain pirate site users are being targeted. Does this mean the end of pirating? No, I don’t think it does, but it might mean that there are some ways that we can attempt to earn a crust without having some divot upload our tracks to P2P sites. Incidentally a friend of mine always seems to suggest that it can’t be theft if he illegally downloads something as it as it still exists for the person he stole it from.

The process of recording an album to the same quality of a commercially available release involves some cost. Of course, you can pick up some amazingly good gear for not much money – but do you have the understanding of the software to make it work properly? Can you afford the very best mics to get the right sound? Can you afford the instruments? Have you got the right sounding rooms? I’ll talk about this in another blog (lucky you), but the point is, all of the above cost money, and if the end results are stolen, how will people be able to produce the same quality in the future?

The same goes for people who download films illegally. That is crucifying the film industry, and it means that studios are not taking punts on films, because obviously people are going to nick it rather than go to see it at the cinema, or hire it on DVD (or get it through Netflix or Lovefilm or AppleTV or whatever)
The same friend suggests that he wants to make a living from his music rather than his day job, but he’s happy to have his day job fund his music…

There’s a certain amount of truth and beauty in that – he’s doing his music for the right reasons, he has some damned fine riffs that he needs to get out there.
Surely that’s where we all started with making music? We discovered that somewhere deep within us (somewhere very very deep in my case) our Muse was suggesting we put that little melody together as we walked to B&Q to get some wallpaper paste.

So where do we go next? Is there a way of making music available in streaming form, so we never actually own the content? Is that actually desirable? Is there a better way than Spotify? Is the Netflix model the way forward for music?
Or should we all just give it up and sing songs to each round the campfire?

Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. He encounters blank Pro Tools screens  too often.

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