What can we do to improve the music scene?

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
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Scodiddly
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What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by Scodiddly » Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:33 am

So with all these discussions about booking studios, artists recording on their own, etc... I'm faced with the somewhat uncomfortable question of what I personally am doing to improve the state of popular music.

And the answer, at the moment, is "very little". To some extent that's not really my fault - I'm an engineer first, a player second, and songwriting is somewhere below "jet engine maintentance" in my skill set. On the other hand, I'm plenty sick of the shitty music that I hear on the radio these days... try being positive about modern hit music when you're living in the same house as an 8-year-old girl who just bought the latest Kylie Minogue single (don't worry, I'll be OK - I leave in less than a week). So what can I do to improve the music around me?

One friend I met in the last year teaches at a local high school, and is very supportive of the student music scene as well as producing some of his own music. He puts together showcase concerts now and then, does some recording, etc. So I think I'll let him do some longer-term testing on some of my stuff (microphones, interesting old guitar amps). Who knows, maybe there will be an eventual opportunity to teach professionalism to some of those kids so they stand a better chance of producing the Next Big Thing.

I've been playing with a good songwriter on and off for a few years. I kind of doubt his stuff will really catch on, but who knows - he does some of his own recording and has gotten really good at the production side, with occasional help from a real studio for mixdowns and such. I need to keep that up, and maybe figure out a way for his skills to get wider use. I'm not that good at networking, though.

I have been doing a fair amount on these forums, mainly here and Harmony Central's "live audio" forum, answering various questions and trying to steer people towards the most cost-effective solution. In a way it can run counter to my natural desire to see more people learning gear, because in a lot of cases the best answer is to just do it the simple, dumb way and not worry about learning a whole new pile of stuff.

There are plenty of people, my songwriter friend included, who spend a lot of time and grief getting Pro Tools (or maybe an old tape machine) running when all they really wanted was to get some songs recorded. Maybe a more realistic approach to engineering is not to build a home studio, but to provide affordable help so songwriters can put together an appropriate rig on their own. For most, all they need is a Roland DAW, a couple different mics, and a couple hours help to get it running. I read a Phil Collins interview a long time ago about his home studio, and he'd brought an engineer in just to set up mics and the mixer for a "basic demo drum sound". Then he taped the knobs down and spent the rest of time writing songs and slapping together demos.

Acoustic treatment of all those home studios is a big deal these days. But it's still not especially cheap to buy a bunch of Ethan's products or to build your own. How about setting up some kind of rental deal instead? Buy a bunch of rigid fiberglass, make some panels, and rent them out. There's some risk of people packing up and moving on, but they likely won't have room for all that acoustic crap in their getaway car. Get the panels back, staple on some fresh cloth from the remnants table at the fabric store, and move on.

Realistically, there isn't going to be a lot of money in this kind of stuff. I personally don't thing there ought to be a lot of money, because that's invariably what ends up destroying the art. But if I could make the hobby pay for itself it would be well worth doing.

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by jc » Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:52 am

keep making records!

make lots and lots of records!

some the lots of records will be GOOD!

this improves the planet!

we do not last

BUT the records DO!
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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by Rigsby » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:33 am

There's always going to be shit and there's always going to be good stuff and it's always been that way, to some people kylie's good, she's just the ticket for them, so fair play. I think without pop music and all some people just wouldn't buy music, they'd listen to it if it was unchallenging and was on or if they were on holiday and some calipso group trotted by, but i don't think they'd make the commitment. Plenty of people aren't interested in art as such, but have a few pictures of cottages and what not on their walls as it's inoffensive to them and breaks up the wall space. If these pictures didn't exist they probably wouldn't put up picasso works or whatever you deem to be good stuff, they'd have bare walls, and the same with music. Some people are really into music and will spend their money on that, but they're in the minority. I get tired of this idea that musicians have that the record business owes them something (this isn't directed at you Scodiddly) and that if the stuff we often think is rubbish wasn't around there'd be more room for 'real artists' (TM) to step forward and take that limelight, that's just bullshit IMO, the record companies would be a lot smaller is all. They are after all about taking opportunities to make money, money from music, most are a business first, no matter how they may have started out, that's just the modern world for you.

What am i going to do? I'm going to make the best record possible as judged by my own ideals, not think about the market or the potentila sales or the target audience (save me), what else can you do? But i'm an 'artist', not a business.
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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by BJohnston » Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:52 am

This post got me to think about the evolution of this whole music thing. I started out with big goals in mind about what I wanted to accomplish in music. Shooting for the stars while trying to keep my Punk Rock Ethic. I'm not even sure it was a concious thing. I just always loved playing, recording, listening to... music. With a lot of stubborness and a ton of luck I accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. Then something funny happened. I became very unsatisfied. I think with the State of the Music World today reflects the publics discontent with subpar regurgated(?)
Crap. That ,along with technology and the fact that the Dinosaur Record Lables can't think there way out of 4 sided room with doors on each side, has forced the plummeting cycle we see today. In return it's made it very difficult for a guy to even make a buck or 2. Not saying it's about the money, but when you're married with children it does change things. And who wants to be that Old Dried Up Has Been that can't come to grips with the everchanging tides. So I've stopped trying to make into something that it's not for me anymore and I've got back to loving it again for what it is. Just some chords and some melodies, that at the end of the day doesn't have to change the word, just maybe my world.


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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by kayagum » Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:35 am

Be a fan, not a hustler.

That is, go to shows because the band is good, not because they're hyped or you happen to know someone in the band, three times removed.

Even more powerful than your right to vote is the right to vote with your pocketbook. If you don't like a scene, don't participate by paying the cover.

Rather than badmouthing bands, ignore them. Save your breath for bands that deserve word-of-mouth recognition.

If you really don't like what you're seeing, start your own band.

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by MT » Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:54 am

kayagum wrote:If you really don't like what you're seeing, start your own band.
More bands? Just what every music scene needs...

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by Knights Who Say Neve » Tue Feb 08, 2005 11:31 am

Honestly, you could just be getting older...like it or not, popular Music styles are primarily by and for the teenage mentality. I hear bands now that I know I would have liked when I was younger and just kind of yawn. The problem is, Musicians can't seem to lift themselves out of that adolescent mindset. The industry certainly isn't geared for it either. Most music marketed at adults is marshmellow-soft or nostalgic or both. Ugh.

(Insert rant about the shallowness of popular culture here).
"What you're saying is, unlike all the other writers, if it was really new, you'd know it was new when you heard it, and you'd love it. <b>That's a hell of an assumption</b>". -B. Marsalis

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by kayagum » Tue Feb 08, 2005 11:57 am

MT wrote:
kayagum wrote:If you really don't like what you're seeing, start your own band.
More bands? Just what every music scene needs...
Actually, we could use more better bands. I'm also thinking in terms of "put up or shut up". Plenty of whining going around, including this board.

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by lutopia » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:35 pm

MT wrote:
kayagum wrote:If you really don't like what you're seeing, start your own band.
More bands? Just what every music scene needs...
Is that sarcasm? Because I think a thriving music scene will be one with many bands and hopefully a number of them will be good.
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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by jmligt » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:51 pm

I think the initial question being asked here is way to vague for any meaningful discussion. I think what you are going for is "How do we get rid of MTV, commercial radio, greedy record labels, etc.?" Sure, there is some crap out there, but I choose to ignore it for the most part. This kind of thing used to get me all riled up, but then I realized I was wasting a lot of energy belly-aching that I could be using in a more productive way. So, I ditched cable, stopped listening to commercial radio and started putting more energy towards seeking out new and innovative music I liked. And guess what? I found plenty of great music out there.

I think you're doing enough just by being in a place like this and whole-heartedly trying to make music that you enjoy. Will the system reward every good musician, producer, engineer, etc.? No, but hopefully enough will be successful to the point that they can keep doing what they are doing to keep the flag flying. I realise that some people here have been hurt by the advent of cheap home recording, but along with the internet I think it has gone a long way towards democratizing the music industry. Yes, you can say that this has given a lot of people the ability to churn out more bad music, but it has also given some others a chance to do something good where they would've gone unrecognized before.

So, until the day comes when I can't find anything new to listen to, I'm going to stay happy with what I got and try my best to contribute...

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by MT » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:57 pm

lutopia wrote:Is that sarcasm? Because I think a thriving music scene will be one with many bands and hopefully a number of them will be good.
Yes, it is. But, inline with what you guys are thinking, the good ones will always rise out of the crap.

There's just too much shit out there right now (dead horse).

MT

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by sloanfiske » Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:00 pm

play out and support other bands. "scenes" tend to revolve around bands that get along and play together, or at least show up to see their friends.

make friends with other bands...you never know. and besides...sometimes the other bands are the only ones who show up.

now if it's the state of pop/rock music...i don't know. i'd have to be another kind of epiphany in the industry like Nirvana. which, of course, will eventually be ruined.
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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by theistheman » Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:34 pm

I, for one, like Kylie.

That shit rules.

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by bannerj » Tue Feb 08, 2005 2:46 pm

I think it is important to note that there really is no money in this. The coolest thing here in OKC is a venue called the Blue Door. At one time Greg actually lived in the place (he may still...I don't know...he got married). It was an old corner store that got re-zoned residential. He gutted the place, threw up a little stage, bought some nice EAWs and started books shows as part of the "house tour." He has been doing it for so long that he now has a very faithful list of regulars and he gets in real top notch artists. It is really not my thing any more, but he gets guys like Ellis Paul, John Gorka, Escovado, Peter Case, Bill Malonee....the alt country stuff. It only seats some 60 people or so, and every show is $20. Then in the summer he does a Woody Guthrie fest up in Guthrie. For a while Greg had a radio show on Sunday afternoons on the local classic rock station. He does a lot for the music scene. It is thankless for him, and I am pretty sure he makes nothing on it all.

A music scene will grow when there is enough of all of the production elements: artists, studios, venues, fans, eventually booking agents and large concert promoters and all that. I tried promotion for a while and burned out in a few years. It is hard work. I have reverted to something more tangible: I am trying to provide high quality recordings for beginners/novices at a very cheap cost. I don't want to be free because these artists need to learn how to save money and understand the business of it all too. I loved that article a few months ago about Aaron Espinoza--how he keeps the cost low by having affordable gear...so that he doesn't scare the artists away and is able to create a comfortable (low stress) enviornment. This is especially helpful for people doing their first EP or demo.

So I say being a quality and affordable engineer is very helpful to a music scene.

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Re: What can we do to improve the music scene?

Post by Moonshiner » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:36 pm

Sorry to butt in, (long time lurker), but this topic really got me going. I have played/lived in major cities where the "scene" was nearly impenetrable (Atlanta and Minneapolis being two). Yes, it is possible that my bands sucked and I didn't deserve a second look from other bands, but I really went out of my way for folks. There are lots of examples like the time that I tried to get the 3 other bands on a bill (I didn't know any of them personally) to get together and do some of those HUGE posters... I couldn't even get people to return my calls.

As luck would have it, I have also lived in cities where the players were great to each other (Vegas, believe it or not, and now Portland, OR). The big difference seems to be that bands don't look at shows as "contests" or "competitions" but as rock shows. Bands buy each-others CD's and do T-Shirt swaps and go to each others gigs, and play on (and help make) each other's records. It really is as simple as going out and not thinking that you are God's gift to Rock and Roll, and being truly happy when one of your peer's has some success. Let's face it, all of us are slugging it out in clubs, trying to get our music listened too. Nobody that is sharing a bill has any right to "Rockstar" someone else on that same bill.

So, I guess what I am saying is, don't be a dick. Be genuine and pat your peers on the back when they get it right... You can make your "scene" better.

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