Ah, the end of a decade. Some humble thoughts for the New Year...
After 10 years of an internet-centric age, T-Bone Burnett famously said this year that musicians should steer clear of the internet. Heh heh. Let the backlash begin. Some folks went berserk but I think his main point was to remind musicians of why any of this "newfangled" technology matters; the music. I'm a big fan of the new tools, but if you have nothing to say and can't write a song, it's all for nada. That being said, it sure is nice to be able to connect with your fans with the click of a button. I agree with T-Bone in spirit, even though I'm pretty sure he's not suggesting that we go back to the days when we delivered upcoming tour dates via stage coach.
In a similar vein, recording engineer Bobby Owsinski recently blogged that 2011 will be the year of musicians getting realistic and I think it's already true. I've heard a lot fewer musicians seriously discussing "getting signed" or becoming "rock stars." Is this the end of hope or just the death of posers? All of the cats who got into this because they thought it was a fast ticket to US Weekly and driving a Bentley... good luck (and by the way, it NEVER was, even when times were good... take a look at this chart). Talented people deserve to make a living but music is not a popularity or beauty contest.
For anybody who cares about audio fidelity, it's been a painful decade. It took a while for everybody to get used to the software, but I'm finally starting to hear mixes and records that sound great again. All of the "analog" snobs (you know who you are) started off this decade saying they'd never sit in front of a computer screen all day or use amp-modeling technology. Ha ha. Yeah, right. Tom Petty's "Mojo" comes to mind (it was recorded and mixed entirely "in the box"). At this point it's like taking a stand against electric drills in favor of screwdrivers. Or chocolate vs. peanut butter. Does it sound good? If so, who cares how you got there? The important part of anything is always the idea and craftsmanship. That's it. Just don't tell that to the boy with the most expensive toys.
Mastering has obviously had it's own challenges. There's nothing quite as lame as the so called "Loudness Wars" that have marred this decade. How many records were ruined because somebody was in the volume equivalent of a dick measuring contest? Yes, I said it and I apologize to those of you who have more sensitive constitutions, but it's the truth. I am, however, eternally optimistic. I'm finally starting to hear more musical approaches in the records that I'm buying. Or at least that's all I'm listening to. And more importantly, I didn't hear one client this year say, "can you make it louder?" Right on.
Onwards and upwards. Have a great 2011 and as always, I'm grateful to be working with you guys.