The changing field of music production
Twenty-first century music production exists as a fragmented field of practice, in part as a result of increasing decentralisation in the audio and music industry since the 1980’s. A range of factors influenced this decentralization, including the development and adoption of digital recording technologies (Zagorski-Thomas 2005; Leyshon 2009; Huber and Runstein 2013; Izhaki 2013; Théberge 1997; Burgess 2013) and the exponential influence of global communication networks on music production and consumption practices (Spencer 2005; Moran 2011; Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010; Watson 2012).
Ever increasing levels of access
Throughout the 1970’s technology continued to advanced with “quality digital recording equipment more widely available” at progressively decreasing cost to the consumer (Wallis 2001, 11). Offering an alternative music production option to the large format console studio continued, all levels of the field actively engaged with the technology. Springsteen released his solo album ‘Nebraska’, made in his bedroom (Springsteen 1984a).
Intended to be a ‘demo’, it was decided the aesthetic of the DIY recording was preferred to the studio-produced album (TEAC/TASCAM 2015b; Burke 2011, 119,188). “Evidence from the 1980’s showed that multi-track cassette based recording technologies spread at a high pace to virtually every nation” (Wallis 2001, 11).
A decade later, low cost digital synthesisers and samplers were available with a single key trigger for sounds, chords or multiple instrument emulation. Whilst initially limited, over time development has been exponential, allowing music producers innumerable instrumentation options to integrate into any one of their music productions as their creativity desires. This technological development enabled the creation and development of specific electronic music genres, and social and cultural events such as the 1990’s based rave parties (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010, 295). Technology continued to develop at an exponential rate, with increasing “interest and wider adoption of DIY cultures and practices through 1) easy access to and affordability of tools and 2) the emergence of new sharing mechanisms” such as the internet having a prolific effect on the widespread interest of music production (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010, 295; Wallis 2001,10). Numerous companies commenced manufacturing to fill “a tremendous need for good and affordable sound equipment”, entrenching the “prosumer or home-recording market” (Music Group 2015). Continuing technological developments influenced the increase of music production setups in the home, based around a personal computer, a sound card, and some form of digital audio workstation to either record or arrange the music. Referred to as project studios, “the hiring of expensive studios was no longer a requisite” (Izhaki 2013, xiiii), and more major artists were being recorded in these evironments  . As Leyshon highlighted, “the recording studio sector is not a particularly profitable or efficient part of the musical economy overall” (2009, 1315), and therefore from an industry perspective, it was positive that alternative options evolved. The development of the digital audio workstation, along with virtual instruments and sample libraries, provided resources ready to include into productions (Gilreath 2010). The project studio now had virtual technology accessible by both novice and professional producers alike. This “brought about monumental changes in the business of music and professional audio”, with music producers able to “select from a wide range of tools and toys to generate specific sounds – or to get the particular sounds that he or she likes”, without needing to have that instrument or musician capable of playing that instrument, on hand (Huber and Runstein 2013,76). Other professionals moved their workflow entirely within a digital audio workstation.
 In 2005, Stuart Price used his home-based project studio, based around an Apple computer with a range of analogue outboard hardware and synthesizers to produce Madonna’s commercially successful ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ album (Doyle 2008).
 Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ album” achieved commercial success reaching the US Music charts (Doyle 2008).
 Grammy award winning Mix Engineer Leslie Braithwaite mixed the Grammy Award winning song “Happy” entirely within a digital audio workstation. He explains his recent change of workflow to a DAW-only workflow: “With my workload increasing and me also trying to meet the demands for smaller budget projects, going into the box made total sense” (Tingen 2014).
This blog will continue next month History of Music Production Part 5a – The Rise of DIY Practitioners.
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Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 15th December, 2014
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Springsteen, Bruce. 1982b. Nebraska. image courtesy of Discogs Accessed 21st May, 2015.
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TEAC/TASCAM. 2015a. TEAC/TASCAM 144 Portastudio advertising image courtesy of Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording Accessed 24th July, 2015
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– ©David L Page 21/05/2015
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