Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 at 7:30 pm
The Internet’s lasting impact on the music industry goes deeper than using Google to “look” for albums. It’s also had a profound effect on how today’s music acts break ground. There are some upsides and downsides to how music is produced thanks to the internet. But which side outweighs the other?
One major positive, particularly from the financial side of things, is the internet makes collaborations much easier. Artists can drop passes, verses, instrumentals whatever you can think of as long as they have access to a computer with online access.
Many cases call for a broadband connection and an account on a hosting site but you get the picture. Artists and bands alike have been sharing verses and tracks online for years and this trend isn’t going to change; especially when even beats can be solicited and received over the net. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Yet the internet really makes it seem like you can do just that at times.
Additionally the web is a great avenue for artists and bands to test the waters. It’s the internet where these aspiring recording artists can gain their initial buzz without paying yesterday’s exorbitant fees for distributing records and videos. It may be hard for new artists to come up online since they come a dime a dozen. But persistence pays off as seen in artists like Wiz Khalifa, Drake and J. Cole construct their sizable fan bases over years of dropping songs and free tapes online that gained favorable receptions.
One key negative lies in the lack of “building” songs and albums in person. Today’s fast paced and costly world doesn’t allow for every record to develop in the studio the old fashioned way. Still, there’s something to be said about the care, or lack thereof, put into today’s music. Every era of the industry has their pool of undercooked one hit wonder artists. With that in mind it feels like today’s drop off in music is a byproduct of people being concerned with making microwave hits and tracks to keep their brand afloat rather than creating memorable, game changing records. It’s beyond difficult to assemble lofty projects in a crap shoot of links and emails. That level of production involves time, built relationships and one-to-one contact between the producer and the artist or band.
Records have to reach a considerable or mass market regardless of their artistic integrity behind. However, recording teams w/ plenty of hits attached to their name from Funk Brothers/Holland-Dozier-Holland to consistent output from today’s hit makers in Stargate and The Neptunes show how care can be put into producing hits that resonate with people. That’s not to say the aforementioned producers touch the Motown greats. But they carry on the same attention to detail when it comes to producing popular records. And, as producers like DJ Premier and Pete Rock have proven time and again, you can still make profitable music that leaves a lasting impact without having Top 40 aspirations although they’ve produced songs that charted well.
Another big negative to the internet’s prevalence in music is that it feeds into the lack of patience between the artist/band and the record label. Simply put, creating a new star or even a freeze frame artist is expensive. Labels don’t have the budgets to build up and coming talents like years past. So they tend to grab unsigned hype with visible grassroots fan followings.
Of course that’s the obvious thing to do since a label wouldn’t sign an act without a fan base. Yet it makes the internet seem like a big waiting room of heads waiting for a look. Then said artist/band gets on and, in many cases, they either don’t improve from their amateur days or change their style to the chagrin of their initial supporters. The latter instance can backfire twofold as new audiences may not be receptive to the newcomer’s mainstream approach.
Take Wale for example. “Chillin,’ ” his premiere single, had some random dude chanting on the hook. Then Lady Gaga got on the “official” mix. The song, despite her star power and Wale’s buzz at the time, didn’t make waves and left a lot of heads confused as to why he’d collaborate with her in the first place. It’s evident he didn’t want to be pigeonholed and I don’t fault him for that. With that said it didn’t sound organic, which is funny since it’s a pop/rap mash up, and it showed in the consumers’ response.
Ultimately the internet affords indie artists to build a platform for themselves without spending a considerable amount of money. Additionally it makes it easier for record labels to sift through and find their diamond in the rough. Yet it comes at the demise of a collection of records oftentimes leading to an “here today, gone tomorrow” effect. Our attention spans take some of the blame since it seems like we crave new content at an obscene pace. But fans always had fickle tastes. Back to the point, It’s just discerning to see an artist or band grind independently only to have a few moments in the sun once they get picked up.
It’s tempting to go for the home run hit on the first try. Nevertheless, it’s important to sculpt mainstays in spite of the industries insistence to go from one hit to the next on tight finances. That starts with finding hard working, skilled prospects with a profitable audience ready for the long haul. From there labels have to be careful in how they develop their careers instead of matching new artists with songs and campaigns that don’t fit them.