Doctoral Research Study – Part 2c

My journey continues….

~DLP Pro Image Fun 5b small.20141020
(2014)
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2015a) for the previous blog.

Year 2015: 2nd Observation Part c

2nd Observation.P2a.renamed

Bordering my music-making practice

As mentioned in the previous blog, I came to understand within the first few months I needed to broadly explore the fields and disciplines of contemporary music-making, in order to border – and define – my music-making practice. Due to the breadth and rapid exponential growth of the music-making industry over the past century, I felt it was necessary to review the industry, fields and disciplines of music-making.

Historical development of the industry – industry standards

Industry Standards of Practice: Commercial
Historically, the music and audio industry’s standards have addressed economic and technical criteria. Both of these criteria are included in annual industry award events, well known and usually televised events the public engages in with interest, as they make up the consumer market for such music and audio artifacts (ie songs, mp3s, CDs, albums). The Grammy Awards (The US), the British Music Awards (the UK), and the ARIA Awards (Australia) acknowledge publically released artists and their music, in terms of specific criteria such as: commercial success (song sales via record companies and formal distribution channels such as i-tunes); popularity (via radio play which may or may not transfer into song sales[1]); with a few categories acknowledging the technical and creative expertise of the engineers and producers behind the artists[2]. “A successful record producer is, by definition, someone who has had multiple hits” (Burgess 1997, 162). However, the limitation of such a standard on the discipline of contemporary DIY music production is two-fold: firstly, these awards acknowledge only publically-released music through formal distribution channels, and we have already concluded a contemporary DIY music production practitioner is not likely to be motivated by economic motivations, and less likely to release their music through formal distribution channels. In fact, they are likely to deliberately choose to release their music through alternative informal independent DIY music channels, and; secondly, the awards are predominantly for non-DIY artist producers, where the artists contract the professional services of an external producer. Artists such as Lorde, who may do aspects of the music production process themselves, such as writing, and may have achieved a degree of success by engaging in informal distribution channels such as ‘Soundcloud’[3], are produced by an external professional[4], and therefore do not fit into the definition of contemporary DIY music production practitioner (Bockstedt et al 2005).

Industry Standards of Practice: Technical
Other standards exist within the audio industry, addressing technical criteria. The Audio Engineering Society {AES}, formed in 1948 in New York as a body offering industry expertise to the developing recording and broadcast industry (AES 2015). A significant outcome of the AES was the creation of standards for which the industry could operate, and that manufacturers of any recording and broadcast industry equipment could comply with. This was very beneficial as the development of certain equipment such as microphones were being constructed with a variety of unique fittings that meant that microphones were not universal, requiring different microphone cables for each manufacturer’s device. The AES was instrumental in influencing a universal standard over time (AES 2015; Huber and Runstein 2010, 111-179). However, the majority of standards developed were technical or theoretical to audio engineering, not process or workflow-based for the more global discipline of music production (AES 2015). As access was limited to recording studios up until the 1980’s, such music production process or workflow remained to those in the one of the specific skilled roles previously referred to, or as an artist. ‘Practice’ was aligned to the typical corporate organisational effectiveness objectives, to maximise profitability. Music production practice was controlled by the management of the commercial radio and television studios or the recording studios; the skilled scientists, technicians or manufacturers creating the technology or the processes, with the focus on correct use and application of technology, inline with the studio management’s directives of conservatism to preserve the organisational objectives; or the music producers who had successfully produced recordings for artists, contracted to abide by management’s directives to meet the organisational objectives (Robbins et al 2009, 708-710; Burgess 2014, 38-41, 42-55, 82-97; Emerick and Massey 2006, 54).
As technology developed and music production related equipment became available to the developing prosumer market in the 1970’s and 1980’s, user manuals provided by the manufacturer instructing the user how they were best to use the unit was one of the few mediums of effective practice being made available outside of the professional studio environment[5]. One of the first units with such a user manual was for the TASCAM series 144 model Portastudio user manual (TEAC 1979); A decade later, the first industry functional text, sponsored by one of the major manufacturers on the sector was released. Initiated by two audio engineers, arranging sponsorship from the Yamaha Music Corporation to be able to write it, the “Yamaha-The Sound Reinforcement Handbook” was at the time the only comprehensive audio engineering textbook of its kind, and instantly became a standard reference book to the industry. The text remained for more than a decade as the only text book comprehensively, outlining audio engineering theory and techniques for ‘sound reinforcement’[6]. The industry to date has only a few disparate best practice documents such as The Recording Producers and Engineers Wing (2008) “Digital Audio Workstation Guidelines for Music Production”. Whilst it offers some good advice for DAW setup and standardized protocols when dealing with DAW Sessions, it does not comprehensively cover contemporary music production practice.
The industry has progressed from the traditional music production model, where exemplars existed across the different roles and skills. However, now within the decentralized music production era, the disparate roles across the music production process tend to be fused and completed by the one person, the contemporary DIY music producer. Traditional standards of effective practice are therefore being challenged by DIY culture and their interpretation of practice.
Contemporary DIY music production practitioners have access to a large range of ancillary services and products, such industry trade magazines, texts, forums and blogs. Audio industry magazines such as “Sound on Sound” and “Audio Technology” are recognized as reputable magazines within the audio industry and music production discipline. But do they truly reflect the contemporary music production practice, or are their roots from the traditional music production model causing a widening gap of relevance? Alternative press options such as “Computer Music” (2015) and “MusicTech Focus” (2015) magazines have their origins in the development of digital technology. But do their roots limit their relevance by not including the more creative and musical requirements of the contemporary music production practice? Other alternative press includes “Wire”, which focuses more on the cultural and aesthetic aspects of music culture and practice. There is a vast range of support for music practitioners in the form of forums and blogs, with some of these operated by recognised industry professionals[7]. However, many of these are run by hobbyists with well intentioned advice, whilst others are commercially driven, with some of their marketing tactics, products and advice is at best, questionable.
Some scholars refer to the current field of DIY music production as being in transition (Hracs 2012), although it can also be thought of as a fusion or hybrid of two prior developments: that of traditional large format console studio music production and computer-based sound generation. Irrespective of the definition, twenty-first century contemporary DIY music production illustrates the ways that practitioners have broken with previously accepted industry practices, with consensus about effective or best practice now difficult to identify, or indeed where the idea of best practice has been actively challenged through social and cultural changes in the practices of cultural production. As such, the discipline of contemporary DIY music production lacks the infrastructure of an established and mature industry where consensus of what effective practice is, might be found.
The notion of effective practice[8] originated in business centred on notions of effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity (Montana and Charnov 2000,12; Robbins et al 2009, 313; Griffin 1996). In this way, effective practice is a quantifiable measure and assumes the ‘organisation’ or practice has commercial or technical objectives. In contrast, contemporary DIY music production practitioners may not be motivated by either commercial or technical objectives, and therefore effective practice measures may not apply to many practices within the discipline (Rogers 2013, 168). In fact, contemporary DIY music production is a discipline in which notions of effective practice may actually be actively disregarded due to the perception that other motivations such as creativity, emotional connection and free-spiritedness are more important (McWilliam 2008, 38; Davie 2012, 41). As a result, the term best practice is perhaps more appropriate in the discipline of contemporary DIY music production, bringing with it the idea of benchmarking, or “analysing and copying the methods of the leaders” in the field (Robbins et al 2009, 313). However, without accepted discipline standards, and consensus of what best practice is, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately and effectively benchmark amongst the discipline and its practitioners. Further, if the contemporary DIY music production practice is lacking in organisational characteristics of a mature industry such as robust management processes and procedures, sophisticated vision and strategic planning, then the contemporary DIY music production practitioner is less likely able to measure quality standards should they exist, nor consciously position their practice within the field in order to optimise the chance of success (Robbins et al 2009, 708-710, 716-717).
Service and support more recently provided for budding DIY music production practitioners is a range of formal instructional courses, vocational and tertiary courses such as the likes of the Australian-based SAE Institute (originally named the School of Audio Engineering), and JMC Academy (JMC Academy 2015). SAE – supposedly the first commercial vocational course of its kind in the world – commenced in Sydney in 1976 (SAE 2015). In order to teach subject content, studio processes had to be analysed and industry-valid curriculum developed in order to justify to potential consumers and prosumers the justification of making the tuition fee investment. Burgess confirms their relevance in the discipline: “combined with a proactive DIY approach, a good school program can fill in knowledge gaps and instil a deeper understanding of the fundamentals while increasing awareness of best practice”(Burgess, 2014, 35).
Industry standards of practice – Creative, Aesthetic or Affective
As already indicated, creative, aesthetic or affective standards are extremely worthy for contemporary DIY Music Production practice. But as I have already raised, how does one effectively construct standards for these elements? Apart from subjective opinion, these are usually made by industry-based music critics in popular fan-based music magazines – such as “Rolling Stone” magazine (Wenner et al 1971) or Wire (2015), and/or via the formal industry awards as already mentioned. Apart from these two sources, I did not discover any standards – nor any guidance – that could be adopted by contemporary DIY Music Production practice.
Industry standards of practice – Soft Skills
Similarly, apart from the industry feedback to educational and training intuitions such as SAE Institute as already indicated, I could not discover any soft-skill standards that were relevant to Contemporary DIY Music Production practice.
onion-layers
Footnotes
[1] Radio play which may or may not translate into album sales such as Australia’s Triple ZZZ ‘Unearthed series’, acknowledging emerging artists, and by default, their productions (ABC 2015)
[2] Within these music and sound awards, there are numerous categories, in which the artist, the producers and the recording engineers are acknowledged. These categories cover predominantly the economic criteria (album or song sales), but there are some categories that acknowledge the technical and creative of music production. For example: ‘68. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical’, ’69 Producer of the year, Non-Classical’, ’70 Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical’, ‘72 Best Engineered Album, Classical’ (Academy Award 2015).
[3] Soundcloud.com is an informal hosting site for musicians, producers and artists. Soundcloud is not a sales based distribution site, and therefore I am classifying it an informal distribution site, as it is possible to generate interest to a potential consumer market (Souncloud 2015).
[4] Lorde’s producer of her first album was local Auckland NZ producer, Joel Little (Audio Technology 2015).
[5] The manufacturer’s user manual described ‘effective practice’ for the user to operate that unit safely, following a technically correct process
[6] Sound reinforcement is a term used to describe the live audio industry function which still remains today.
[7] Pensado’s Place is operated by Dave Pansado who has had a recognised audio industry career (Pensado 2006).
[8] The notion of effective practice originated in business and post-War Japan, centred on notions of effectiveness (“doing the right thing”), efficiency (the effort exerted in “doing the right thing”), and productivity (the relationship between input and output) (Montana and Charnov 2000, 12; Robbins et al 2009, 313; Griffin 1996).
onion-layers
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Research Study – Part 2d (Page 2015c). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
References
ABC. 2015. “Triple J Unearthed.” Accessed 20th April, 2015.
AES. 2015. “Audio Engineering Society (AES) History.” Accessed 20th April, 2015
Audio Technology Magazine. 2015 http://www.audiotechnology.com.au Accessed 20th April, 2015
Bockstedt, Jesse, Robert J Kauffman and Frederick J Riggins. 2005. “The move to artist-led online music distribution: Explaining structural changes in the digital music market.” In System Sciences, 2005. HICSS’05. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on, Hawaii, USA, edited, 1-10: IEEE.
Burgess, Richard James. 2014. The history of music production. New York: Oxford University Press.
Burgess, Richard James. 1997. The art of record production. London: Omnibus Press.
Computer Music. 2015. http://www.musicradar.com/computermusic Accessed 20th April, 2015
Davie, Mark. 2012. “The diy revolution.” Audio Technology (91): 98.
Davis, Gary and Ralph Jones. 1990. Yamaha-The Sound Reinforcement Handbook. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation.
DIY image courtesy of: DIY Accessed 5th May, 2015
Emerick, Geoff and Howard Massey. 2007. Here, there and everywhere: my life recording the music of the beatles. New York, NY: Gotham Books.
Gibson, Bill. 2006. The s.m.a.r.t. guide to becoming a successful producer/engineer Boston: Thompson Course Technology.
Grammy Awards. 2015. “The 2015 Grammy Awards.” Accessed 20th April, 2015. https://www.grammy.com/nominees.
Griffin, RW. 1996. Management. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Hracs, Brian J. 2012. “A creative industry in transition: the rise of digitally driven independent music production.” Growth and Change 43 (3): 442-461.
Huber, David Miles and Robert E Runstein. 2014. Modern recording techniques. 8th ed. Burlington: Focal Press.
JMC Academy. 2015 http://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/?gclid=CN636-HnmcsCFQGbvAod7GoMDQ  Accessed 20th April, 2015
McWilliam, Erica. 2008. The creative workforce: how to launch young people into high-flying futures. Sydney: UNSW press.
Montana, Patrick J and Bruce H Charnov. 2000. Management. 3rd ed. Vol. 333, Business Review Books. New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
MusicTech. 2015. http://www.musictech.net Accessed 20th April, 2015
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 15th December, 2014
Page, David L. 2017 2nd Observation image courtesy of David L Page  Created 10th June, 2017
Page, David L. 2015c. Doctoral Research Study – Part 2d  Accessed 29th April, 2015
Page, David L. 2015b. Doctoral Research Study – Part 2a  Accessed 20th April, 2015
Page, David L. 2015a. Doctoral Research Study – Part 1  Accessed 15th April, 2015
Page, David L. 2014 image courtesy of David L Page  Created 15th December, 2014
Pensado, David. 2006. “Secrets of the mix engineer.” Sound on Sound.com 19.
Recording Producers and Engineers Wing, The. 2008. “Digital Audio Workstation Guidelines for Music Production.” Accessed May 27, 2015. https://www.grammy.org/files/pages/DAWGuidelineLong.
Robbins, Stephen, Rolf Bergman, ID Stagg and Mary Coulter. 2009. Management 5. Sydney: Pearson Education Australia.
Rogers, I. 2013. “The hobbyist majority and the mainstream fringe: the pathways of independent music-making in Brisbane, Australia.” In Redefining mainstream popular music, edited by Sarah Baker, Andy Bennett and Jodie Taylor, 162-173. New York: Routledge.
SAE. 2015. “SAE Institute.” https://sae.edu.au/ Accessed 20th April, 2015
SoundCloud. 2015. “SoundCloud.com.”  Accessed 20th April, 2015. https://soundcloud.com.
Sound on Sound. 2015 http://www.soundonsound.com Accessed 20th April, 2015
Target image courtesy of: http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/target-skills-53658831 Accessed 15th August, 2015
TEAC. 1979. “TEAC Tascam series: model 144 Portastudio manual”, edited by TEAC Inc. www.tascam.com: TEAC Inc.
Wenner, J, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 1971. Lennon remembers: the Rolling Stone‘ interviews [with John Lennon and Yoko Ono]. New York: Penguin.
Wire. 2015. http://www.thewire.co.uk Accessed 20th April, 2015
– @David L Page 29/04/2015
– updated @David L Page 10/05/2015
– updated @David L Page 10/06/2017
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.

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