Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why go in the studio?

NPR has been posting some great articles about the past decade in music.  I talked about one here, and I'm reading another good one here.  The model of how to make money as a musician, and even be a musician, has changed so much over the past ten years.  I've been thinking about it and I have a brave idea.

Why do artists need to make studio albums at all?

I think the way of the future is in streaming and playing live shows.  Sales of full albums are declining, and even I can't deny that methods of buying music will change greatly in the years to come.  I think musicians will make most of their money from touring, endorsements, and merchandise while their recorded music will be increasingly seen as a giveaway.

If recorded music is a giveaway and a band isn't making any money from the hours they spent in the studio, why spend it in the studio at all?  Think of how much money would be saved if only a few artists used expensive studio equipment and complex computer programs to spend endless amounts of time perfecting a song that isn't going to have as much soul as a live version to begin with.  This would free up time to go out on the road and tour, which is where bands really make their money.

With no studio album to promote, bands could choose their own schedule.  They could take breaks when necessary, and work on new songs in rehearsals or even live on stage.  Once those songs are ready, a live album can be made.  Think of bands like Dave Matthews Band and Phish.  They have two or three times as many live albums as studio albums.  If the jam bands can do it, other bands can too.  

A live recording has more energy, soul and passion than a studio recording.  Listeners and buyers are more likely to respond to a great live performance than a bland studio version of something.  Audience reaction can play a part too.  If a song just isn't working, it can be discarded and replaced with the newest composition.  Instead of full albums, let's go back to E.P.s.  That's a product to sell, and it's usually stronger than a full-length album.  If the band wants to use the studio, they can record pristine versions of singles.  Maybe the most well-liked new song can be recorded, put out in the media and sold on iTunes.

I know this can be done.  I have many live albums, and most of them sound great.  This would also serve as a method of separating the good from the bad.  The pop tarts could still make records and singles, but other artists can go in this new, live direction if it suits them better.

I'm mostly brainstorming here, but I think I'm on to something.  

1 comment:

Mal's Team Gherkin said...

I literally recorded my last album in my backroom here at home. i] i simply couldn't afford studio fees, and ii] i could do things at my leisure. People who 'know' these things have told me they assumed I'd recorded it at some 'proper' studio space. nope, not at all. the technology thesedays simply means that music can be recorded at quite high quality anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

but you're right... i've sold a total of eleven CD's, so i'm quite realistic as to how popular original music can be to market. But yes, the CD's are a great tool as a freebie and giveaway.