Recording Technology Has Nothing to do With It
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Last week I announced my coming book Musician’s Survival Guide to a Killer Record, and unveiled my Indiegogo Campaign to fund the effort. I’m happy to report that I’m currently–as I write this–52% from goal. This is dynamic so go ahead and check the current tally, and while you’re there, do preorder a book.
Thank you to everyone who has preordered so far
For those of you who still are not convinced–and even those who are–here’s an excerpt, which I wrote last night. I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of the book throughout the writing of it. Hopefully, this particular passage will give you a better idea of what to expect, and you can expect a lot.
Oh, one last thing. These are early drafts that I’m sharing with you. They will have errors, and the verbiage will change. The book will not have errors, because it will be refined. What’s important right now are the concepts, even if they’re slightly rough around the edges, I’m thinking I might like it stylistically rough for this book anyway. Here it is.
You know, when it comes right down to it, you can record with anything you like. Hit records have been recorded live off the floor straight to a wire and to vinyl. They’ve been recorded live to 2-track (Stereophonic!). They’ve been recorded on 4-track machines, which allowed for overdubs with bouncing techniques. They’ve been recorded on 8-track analog machines. 16-track analog machines. 24-track analog machines. 2-track cassette recorders. 4-track cassette recorders. Midi. Two 24 track machines linked together into a Large Frame Analog console with full automation and complete recall. Three 24 track machines linked together. 32 track digital tape machines. 48 track digital tape. ADATs. DA-88s. HDRs. Garageband. DAWs. Then even more DAWs, each of which seem to approach the creative process in unique manners.
Before I continue, I would just like to say, if you can make a hit record on an ADAT, you can make a hit record on anything. If you didn’t live through ADATs, consider yourself lucky.
Okay, so yeah, those hit records were mostly made with the technology of the time. And a great act live off the floor to a wire recorder is certainly not going to have the same kind of impact as the same act into a DAW.
But I kind of laid out that (super abbreviated) list in order. And you’ll notice that right smack dab in the middle of 24-track analog machines is 2-track and 4-track cassette recorders. That’s because those technologies occurred concurrently. For me as a lad, 4-track cassette was the technology of the time. Oh, and I can’t actually say for sure that a hit record was ever made on a 4-track cassette, but there was quite a bit of hip hop charting in the eighties recorded straight into a cassette deck.
That’s the crazy thing that we tend to lose sight of because we always feel like we have to compete. It’s been like that my whole life, it’s just in hyper-drive now. We don’t actually have to use the technology of the time to make a Killer Record. The technology has nothing to do with a hit. Someone, somewhere will figure out a way to make a hit record using only the resources available to them, whatever those are. It may as well be you.
Now, let me just address this whole “hit record” shit because I know that some of you just can’t fathom why I’m making this about hits and not quality. I mean, there have been lots and lots of terrible songs that have been hits, right?
Put simply: Quality is subjective. Hits are quantifiable.
Now, I recognize that a hit record is not always the goal. I mean, certainly we all dream of hits and stardom at some point in our journey, but that isn’t what drives us to make records. It’s our artistry—our absolute need to create that pushes us forward through our artistic endeavors. Of course, we do seek an audience.
You see, whether a hit record is even feasible is almost irrelevant, because surely your goal is to cause a reaction. You want people to respond to your music, even if it’s just 100.
Hits are just songs that got huge reactions. The quality is irrelevant. The recording is irrelevant. Many people loved the song and still do today. When you think about it, the only difference between a hit record and your record is scale.
Let me put it this way to you: If somehow I managed to mix the worst sounding piece of dog shit record known to man, and it becomes a hit? That track will go prominently on my discography forever amen and mother fuckers will hire me because of it.
So, let’s not pretend that this whole record-making shit is about quality. It’s about tapping a vein.
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