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Technology is the Engine

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
  • May 2019
• Created: May 7, 2019

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Are you familiar with Billie Eilish? If not, don’t feel too bad. While millions of high-schoolers consider the singer/songwriter to be amongst the most significant artists of their lifetimes, many (most?) over the age of 25 have never heard of her. Eilish (né Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell) is amongst a new breed of breakthrough artists who first achieve notoriety without labels, traditional PR, or – and this is the part that’s relevant to MI retailers – bigtime studios. “Ocean Eyes” was written by Billie’s brother, Finneas, and recorded in his tiny bedroom studio within the siblings’ modest, two-bedroom childhood home. The cramped space is packed with instruments, synths, a MacBook Pro, monitors, headphones, outboard effects, and microphones – some more high-end than others, but generally speaking it’s all gear that a serious hobbyist with a modest budget could aspire to own. And it’s not just financial considerations that make self-recording an appealing option to some. “There’s a crazy intimacy to what we’re doing,” Finneas has said. “There’s such a private feeling… because we’re not at a recording studio where different people are there every day.”

“Ocean Eyes” comes from humble beginnings, but doesn’t necessarily sound as if that’s the case. This is fairly “pro” final product. Anyway, back in November of 2015, Billie Eilish did what innumerable bands and aspiring solo artists do each day: she posted her newly recorded track to SoundCloud and – just as Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jespen enjoyed massive viral exposure via YouTube early in their careers – the online streaming platform served as a launching pad. Within a year, Eilish had a contract and “Ocean Eyes” was released through Interscope Records imprint, Darkroom.

That the record industry is a shell of its former self isn’t news, nor is it likely shocking to MMR readers that traditional recording studios are (for the most part) a dying breed and home-recording is on the upswing. Whether “breaking news” or not, however, the continued growth both in popularity and capability of affordable recording and mixing gear merits consideration. As more and more gold- and platinum-certified singles take shape in low-budget bedroom or basement “studios,” the more ambitious musicians and producers will continue to take their own shots at the bigtime, and the more important it is that MI retailers stock – and understand – these products.

Randomly (honest!), Dan Daley also chose to examine aspects of home recording in this issue’s “Last Word” (page 76) – though upon consideration our accidental synergy isn’t really that surprising. Be it recording equipment, DJ gear (see my editorial from our March ’19 issue), live mixers (see this month’s Roundtable on page 32), or any of a number of other market segments, the rapid advancement of technology is the engine that is driving music creation, onstage and in the studio, as well as generating sales at music stores.

It’s the dealers who keep pace with these innovations who will connect with today’s music makers and MI customers. Those who don’t do so, risk becoming shadows of their former selves – like the record industry.

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