Sunday, September 25, 2011

From the desk of the Sympathizer...

So we've just cracked 70 posts, and hit 10,000 visits a week or two ago, so it's been a really exciting time for me as the writer of this site.  When I started this site in May, I didn't think it would be where it is right now-- I've gotten to interview many great artists, some of whom I even consider favorites, and others that are soon to be favorites as they release more music.

Something I've noticed with many of the guests is that there's now a blurred line in music production that didn't exist 20 years ago.  It used to be common for artists to only write their music and perform it, and the producer would record them, and make their records click and sound well on the radio.  Hiring a good producer and recording in a good studio costed thousands of dollars, so in order to get to that point, unless you were rich, you needed to impress a fair amount of people.  Now, with the advancement of computers, artists are doing almost everything outside of selling their music-- they're writing it, recording it, mixing it, programming it, using all the effects.

It's this sort of production that makes me wonder where the real talent lies in some of the more mainstream cultures of music.  Watching American Idol and the X-Factor shows off a ton of people who have "good" voices (I use quotes because it's really about taste at the end of the day) but many of them-- even most of them-- don't know the first thing about writing songs, or playing an instrument, let alone recording outside of their own voice.

I find it alarming that you can look up the producers of the top ten songs on iTunes and elsewhere and realize that the producers who craft those tracks are the real talent and yet go unnoticed by most of the public.  Would you have guessed that one of the producers who's made Katy Perry's Teenage Dream (the record) such a hit also did Britney Spears, Pink, and even some of N'Sync's hits back in the 90s?  That's all the work of Max Martin, who you've probably never heard of but is consistently selling millions.  What is the value of those singers, besides "good" voices and looks?  As American Idol and X-Factor show us, there's plenty of "good" singers, and with autotune, you don't even need a good singer.

I think part of the reason I'm so drawn to electronic music is the fact that you can usually trust who made it is who made it.  There's no disconnect-- generally the "demos" are what you hear as the final finished record, albiet a bit fatter or better produced in the purely "clean and big" sounding way.  There is, of course, many different levels between the singers who are their producer's marionettes and the producers who are the artists.  Visitor, who were guests a couple months back, send off their demos to Diamond Cut who re-records some synth parts for them.  Starsmith and Ellie Goulding sit in a room together and write, and while Ellie is certainly a talented singer, without her and Starsmith working together, probably wouldn't be quite the hit they were (although it's technically the Ellie Goulding record).

So what does this all mean, really?  I hope there's more acts that work like Ellie and Starsmith, or Visitor and Diamond Cut in the future, or just Producer-Artists.  The producers who work in the shadows on the hits feel so misleading to me.  There's a ton of people (most likely younger people) who probably think someone like Katy Perry is a hit because of her talent-- I won't say she's a bad singer (how can you tell anymore?  Is she auto-tuned, is she even singing live?) but she's certainly not only reason her music sells so well.

A little food for thought on a Sunday afternoon.


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  2. really enjoy the blog! keep it up! more reviews on vst-plugs would be great!