Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Recording Among the Dinosaurs

In my last post I mentioned I bought a new modern, up to date computer. It was hard to let go of the old one as I had invested a lot in it, specifically for recording. In its heyday it was at the center of a recording studio I had set up costing several thousand dollars. I had a midi rig with several synths, effects and modules all of which I could control without getting up from my chair and a MOTU DAW with an 828 firewire interface. I didn't play a single note I couldn't edit down to the microsecond or single cycle wave.
What this did to me was make me more of an editor than a musician. It also frequently required me to be an expert computer technician. I lost hours digging around my extensions folder, downloading drivers, keeping on top of updates, tweaking buffers and running hard drive diagnostic programs. Making music started to feel like work and we all know work sucks.
When I moved and broke I down my studio I did so with the full intention of duplicating it in my new location. When I went to do so, however, I gave some thought to what I wanted from it and decided that all I really wanted to do was make music and simply make a record of it. I set up my rig as if I was playing live, did away with midi and just started playing straight to two track mixing in real time and guess what? I was having fun again and started becoming a real musician.
When I bought my new Mac Mini for the unbelievably cheap price of $700 including flat screen monitor and printer, I remembered that Mac OsX (I was running the ancient Os9 on the old Blue and White) comes with Garage Band. Free is good I thought. I bought a $100 M-Audio interface, fired it up and was up and running within a half hour. Since all I needed was two track I was good but even if I wanted a set up like I had before I could still do that. Free.
What I've been leading up to is this: Pro Tools should pack up and go the way of all the other recording industry dinosaurs. Digidesign (Manufacturers of Pro Tools) got a lot of people hooked into their product in the early days and studios spent hundreds of thousands on set ups that had a lot of bells and whistles and cool controllers with flying faders and racks full of expensive interfaces. The simple truth is that digital recording is so vastly superior in terms of what goes in comes out than the old analogue equipment that a good musician could make a studio grade record for next to nothing. But who wants to believe that after investing so much money?
The reason the studios bought into this was because companies like Digidesign took advantage of the fact that studio owners were used to spending beaucoup bucks on gear back in the analogue days. Analogue recording is an art in and of itself and in its case the expense is justified. With digital... Bullshit. The whole 90's electronica revolution was based on this. Kids with creative energy and talent were making awesome music and recording it on PC's (Macs were expensive after all) often using freeware (or illegally downloaded software) and if you were reading the recording magazines back then that were dependent on the advertising money from Digidesign and their ilk you didn't read a word about it.
Now, studios are folding and falling into the black hole of the music industry implosion. What's left? How about a bunch of restless kids with Garage Band increasingly pissed off at the big screw they've just been given by corporate America. Can you see a revolution brewing? I hope so.

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