Friday, 8 February 2008

'Creative Destruction' - A Few Questions

Having had some time to consider my initial blog on the relationship between 00's music and the internet. I have a few questions.

In an age of transferable media and 6 song MySpace profiles is the Album an appropriate format for music?
Many believe that the album is a dead format. If the future of music is going to be on the Internet does it make sense to stick to a format designed for a physical form? The recording of a whole album is long process. It can often take more than 6 months from recording the album to it actually arriving in the shops (or in the itunes store). Eric Beall (Music Writer, Making Music Make Money) in his blog 'Creative Destruction' argues that "Like every other business, the music industry is going to have to come to grips with creative destruction. Either we destroy the old dinosaur, and get creative about building a new model– or we watch the old dinosaur destroy a once creative business.". Beall believes that labels should focus on producing "one song at a time" in the same way unsigned artists add a few songs to their MySpace profiles every few months as a way of attracting people to visit their webpage regularly. However this seems to create more problems than it solves for the music industry. It has always been the case, especially with Rock music, that singles are a promotional tool to sell albums. This way record labels may be depriving themselves of any product whatsoever. This approach is especially problematic when you consider that many modern genres such as Progressive Rock are inseperable from the album format. The 'Single' can only work for artists who use short, traditional songform and is too restrictive for most modern artists.

Destruction of the art of engineering?
One of the concerns often expressed is that the digital revolution certainly hasn't helped the quality of audio. Such is the need for audio tracks to be archived that lossy formats such as MP3 are used that often diminish the quality. With so many audio files now coming from peer-to-peer networks, myspace and legal downloading, there is legitimate fears that audio engineering is a dying art form. What is the use of producing high quality audio if it is seldom ever heard at that quality?

In a January 2007 edition of The Guardian, writer Tim Anderson reported on an ongoing trend in music production to use heavy amounts of compression when mastering in order to achieve the loudest possible volume. In this article remastering engineer Steve Hoffman claimed:

"Now you have digital workstations that mercilessly zap all the dynamics out of music. The other problem is overuse of equalisation. Equalisation done digitally is very harsh, and most mastering engineers tend to overuse it. You just crank up the EQ and then you compress it digitally so everything sounds like a machine gun...It doesn't sound loud any more. The only way that something can sound loud is if there' s something quiet that precedes it, or else there's no frame of reference"

Perhaps the problem is that the freedom and ease in which music is available and can be shared (for the time being at least) means there has to be a compromise in sound quality. However the biggest risk is that music fans get used bad quality at except this as the norm.


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