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The future of the recording business

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by audiokid, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Think Tank:

    Its been a while since we discussed the recording industry and how we will all fit in and prepare for it this next decade.

    We all know its all about downloading music.
    How do you see our studios fitting into all this?
    How do we continue to make a living in it all?
    Are people listening to music in depth or is it simply disposable audio with little meaning or impact to their lives?

    These are important questions to me because it helps me understand our next generation and how the music business fits into it all.

    Are we planning our recording business around the mobile music industry. Does having the finest gear available make a difference in the bottom line?

    We are squashing a lot of sound into smaller and smaller spaces. Where is our industry going and how do you see yourself in it all?
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I have no idea where things are going on a macro level. But I think there will be markets for music with high end audio quality and low end audio quality. Compressed formats are going to be in common use for at least the near future. (Bandwidth has been going up, but there are still roadblocks to high speed delivery of uncompressed music.) Just like the era of 45s and AM radio, for this format the advantages of expensive studios are minimized. Another big trend is that a lot of music will be coupled with video. This gives some openings at the low YouTube end (e.g. Pomplamoose, The Gregory Brothers) and the home theater market means there is a market for high fidelity audio.
  3. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    I believe that it will only be a matter of time before the downloading of mp3's is replaced by the downloading of higher quality media (wavs or the equivalent). Technology is really the only current factor holding it back and if one can download either in a comparable time frame why would they choose a lesser quality.

    Also; to echo Bob's comment, I remember growing up and listening to music on AM car radios and home recorded 8-tracks. Technology has certainly come a long way since then and I'd dare to say that a well recorded media in an mp3 format played on today's motor vehicle's audio equipment probably meets or exceeds the quality of what we were listening to back then.

    I can't see anybody saying, "Hey, I don't want to listen to any high quality music material anymore!"

    Now, there will always be a need for recorded music. The fact that it may be more prevalent in forms of media that we don't consider lasting, like the latest video game, doesn't also mean that people will not have a need to listen and enjoy music that will, in a way, help to fashion or outline their life experience. There are just a greater number of ways now that music fits into ones life experience than when I was a teenager back in the Woodstock era.
  4. vttom

    vttom Active Member

    Funny you should bring this up. I saw this short article the other day and have been intending to re-post it here...

    Apple in talks to improve sound quality of music downloads - CNN
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Music today has been moved into the background. I see more and more students walking around the campus of the college in my town with an ear bud in one ear, their cell phone glued to the other ear and walking and talking to their friends as they go from one class to another. The need for high quality music is disappearing as it becomes nothing more than wall paper for our lives. No longer do people sit and listen to music, they are too busy and don't have the time to sit an listen to a complete album. They down load lots of music off the WWW but it seem to be more of "I have 20,000 tunes on my IPOD" then actually really taking the time to listen to any of it. My 17 year old niece listens to music from when she wakes up till when she goes to bed at night. It is all on her IPOD and is played at top volume. If she is not using her IPOD it is because she is on her cell phone and even then one ear has the ear bud from her IPOD in it. Even when she is working on her home work or studying for an exam the music is always on. It is a background source of noise and not something that she really listens to. When she comes over to my studio and we listen to music on the mastering speakers she is amazed that music can sound that good but she seems not to notice how bad her MP3s sound in comparison. EVeyone says that being able to download top quality music off the WWW will be the savior of the music business but I don't think so. People today want quantity and not quality. Most things released today are super compressed and, to my ears, somewhat painful to listen to but the average consumer does not seem to notice. Only time will tell who is correct but I am betting that MP3 will still be the most popular down loads either legally or illegally in the foreseeable future just because you can get more of them on your IPOD.

    FWIW and YMMV
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'd argue that if you count home theater that there is more critical listening today than ever before. "Hi Fi" was always a bit of a fringe hobby. Most people have treated music as background for other activities. They didn't sit listening to their stereo as the full focus of their attention as if it was a live concert. Yes, there was more of that in the past than there is today. But it was always a pretty small audience.
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I think we are talking "music business" here and not home theater. One reason CDs became so unpopular was that you could buy a DVD for about the same price of the CD and have audio and visual entertainment and in a lot of cases 8 hours of "entertainment" on a DVD were a CD only had maybe 60 minutes.

    Almost everyone I knew growing up had a good quality stereo system in their home which they listened to on a regular basis by sitting down and listening. Yes they also had AM radios, car radios, boomboxes and the like but they had a good quality sound system that was in regular use. Today, except for people with surround systems that they use for watching videos, I don't know too many people who have a separate stereo system that they use for listening. Times change, people change and that is what makes the world go round.
  8. natural

    natural Active Member

    Well, let's see. Prior to roughly 1990, a home or budget/demo studio couldn't get close to the quality of a pro studio. There was a pretty big chasm there that kept pro studio's in biz and allowed them to keep prices/profits high.
    Now, the quality gap is much smaller, and in some cases a home studio could produce a higher quality product than the pro studio.
    The number of tracks, or the quality of the product is not going to be the deciding factor.

    So it would seem that for the pro studio to survive, it must be able to provide some service that can't be easily done at the home level.
    Perhaps something having to do with copy protection, or multiple format provision. 5.1 hasn't quite taken off as hoped, but that would require more resources than the homey studio could provide.
    Some kind of web, iphone, ipod, youtube, ipad, distribution integration.
    It would involve a new technology that we haven't seen yet.
    Maybe when we stop recording on computers and start using an amoeba, a starfish, and a light prism to record, then you're going to see some action.
    Which brings us to:
    An amoeba, a starfish and a prism walk into a bar.....
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I think that it's a huge mistake not to think of the video market as part of the "music business." Soundtrack music needs to be written, performed, and recorded just like a CD. All parts of the business get a chance to participate and profit.
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Most music for films is written by a few select composers, played by a consortium of musicians who are skilled session players and recorded in one or two studios in California. The music for films is not a big part of the whole recording scene.

    In the old days when you went to the local "record shop" (remember them before the big music retailers) there would be a small area for "movie and show tunes" but it only took up about one or two bins. Then if you went to Jazz there were about the same maybe more and also for classical and then you got to the POP records and it took up more than half the store. I don't know the exact numbers but I would guess that show and movie music makes up less than 10% of the total music scene. Maybe in Virginia it is different.
  11. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    There are still people who listen carefully to music, just perhaps not as many as before due to there being so many other options for entertainment for kids these days. I'm pretty young myself, and I know lots of people who are the "toss on some good cans and lie in bed with the lights off" type. Sure it's just background for lots of people, but hasn't that always been the case to one extent or another?

    It certainly isn't what it used to be, but it is what it is. The question (in my opinion) is more how to roll with the punches, rather than how to discuss how painful those punches are going to be.

    Of course, I'm not making much money off this biz yet (and may never make enough to be a full time job) so I have nothing to lose. I very much respect that others are in positions to lose a lot.
  12. leopoldolopes

    leopoldolopes Active Member

    Studios can't just offer recording services nowadays. They do need to widen their services to have a regular income. Like our new studio, we have a lot of services and a lot of different client types. Music composition, post-production, sound design, sound for video and films, podcast production, web audio and even karaoke and gift recordings... there are multiple services that now studios must offer to run a regular business with regular income. Professional studios can't just rely only on recording services, mixing and mastering... and the web development bring out new chances for studio to spread their wings, not only for local clients but worldwide... broadband is the future for "some" studios! I can tell you that for our studio this is very hard to get clients to get a regular income... but we do our best everyday!
  13. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Whatever Happened To The Audiophile? : NPR

    Cool article over at NPR.org, courtesy of ASCAP's The Dean's List.
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Good article.
  15. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    The author's conclusion was the same as my own, which is not exceptional as I think that it is fairly obvious that as the technology evolves the public will naturally want to have a better quality product.

    What I think is also interesting is that while I walk around Manhattan these days I'm starting to see more people using higher quality cupped earphones instead of earbuds. I guess that is a sign of the times.
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    We just purchased an IPAD for our EBAY work. It is GREAT and I am wondering how I ever got along without one. This is a GREAT tool and as such it is used for work related tasks. It does have lots of entertainment uses built into it but we use it for what it can do for our business. I also own an IPOD Touch which I use for business and for listening to music. Again this is a tool that allows me to do things that I could not do before like listen to a mastering I just did when I am not in front of my mastering speakers and to get some sense of what it will sound like on consumer equipment or after it has been made into an MP3. The IPOD is also great for just listening when I am reading or sitting in the dentist chair getting my teeth drilled. The line between using these tools in my business and for personal use is blurred. I think the same things can be said about the music business today. The lines are blurred as to what is professionally done and what is done in a DIY mode. People have always made their own music and have always tried to capture their attempts on some form of recording device. This is true all the way back to the earliest cylinder recorders. As tecnology progressed so did the quality of those recordings. I can still remember taping my piano playing as a young musician and marveling at how good it sounded (the recording - not the playing) but today that "primitive recording" would not stand up to what I can do today. People are now able to do in their basements or even bedrooms what a couple of years ago would have meant a trip to the local recording studio and the expenditure of a lot of cash. This is GREAT news for everyone but somehow along the way we seemed to have lost the ability to judge what sounds good and what does not. We are no longer able to critique our own efforts. Everything that gets recorded immediately gets put on the WWW and people think that once it is up there they have somehow become professional musicians with a following and if anyone says anything derogatory about their music or their playing they get seriously upset. They cannot critique themselves nor do the want to be critiqued by someone else. No one has any concrete values to hold on to any anything and everything that anyone does today is "perfect". WE care more for who is doing what to whom in the music business and could care less that the music has had all the life drained out of it by over compression and distortion. This is a very interesting article about audiophiles from NPR Whatever Happened To The Audiophile? : NPR and it speaks to a lot of what is wrong with the whole music/recording business today.

    I think we have not yet reached the bottom of the barrel but are close so I think at this juncture there is only one way and that is up. Hopefully in my lifetime I will see the whole music and recording business come back to some of its former glory. I hope an pray it does...

    We live in interesting times...
  17. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I think the issue is almost a black/white issue. The average person is...umm...average. They have average ears, for whatever reason.

    You people here are not average when it comes to audio. You may be average cooks, average carpenters*, average mechanics, but not average listeners. So you will notice the differences in sound quality whereas the average person probably never will. Because of this, the average Joe doesn't see a need for better earbuds, cans, speakers, tubes over transistors, and so on.

    But you always will. And you'll never be completely satisfied until they can DI into your brain. Even then you'll be thinking of brain upgrades. You'll want to change your neural preamps for something else.

    $*^t...it never ends, does it?

    * ...wait a minute...most of you are better than average carpenters, come to think of it. Esp. if you built your own studio!
  18. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    I don't even worry about the state of the recording business anymore. I know that until I put my studio somewhere more pleasant, I'll never be part of it. So like leopopolopolopodous says, its just about what I can do to maximise what I've got - good recording gear, plenty of rehearsal space. Vocal coaching, teaching seminars, workshopping, 'day in a studio' days, hen parties, work with disadvantaged kids, sponsorship, etc, I've got plenty of strings to my bow. Unfortunately none of them are desirable strings (G-strings?) - I do 4-5 good albums per year, and the rest is demos and karaoke.

    If I can get to my nice country house with outbuildings where people can come and live and record (not as unrealistic as it may sound, I'll get there, but I will be 40 - ouch!) then I can maybe comment. But at present about 5% of my dollar comes from work I'd class as gen-up, class A 'recording industry' work. So I'm less well placed to comment, but doing fine commercially on the stopgaps.
  19. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    For so many years now the record industry has screwed the artist and the fans in their A-holes. Is there salvation for the kingdom of slutty inbred tone deaf generation xyz chromatic catacombatomic generation of silly putty brained weasels?? No!!!! Hell with the next generation if they are too brain dead and bored to hear what the past 100 years has done for music. I say now is the time to break it down and hopefully realize that there is something to salvage from the heap of crap that is the top 100. I would recommend to anyone out there to not look towards art of music to increase their capital gains. I say this, in the respect, that it might be the time to start making great music for themselves from their hearts. It's like when you put all the pressure on the star of team and they fail... Well blame the others for counting on that one person for god's sake!! If you want to save music then start doing it cuz You love it!! and nothing less!! Other wise your just a money grubbing piece of warner this and warner Bros that, and I could care less about those folks. I enjoy all that put their hearts into the trade, but too many in this business are mere traitors rather than purists of thought. Good luck to all those that I did not offend.
  20. cla

    cla Active Member

    Man, have some respect. Just because not everyone has your high-class (or at least high music-class) tastes and fine culture means you should discount them as worthless human beings.

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