Since I have been home for my latest travels and with work getting into all things JavaOne, I haven't been able to really sit down and read through my stacks of magazines I subscribe to...and when I say stacks, I mean stacks! There's Rollingstone, Spin, Paste, Paper, Lucky, Domino, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Vogue, NME and a few others that I am sure to be missing.
Being that it was a gorgeous Saturday, I grabbed my latest Rollingstone and headed out to the local park to catch some rays and catch up on some much needed music news. Thumbing through, I ran across an article by Robert Levine about the current state of music and how its delivered to us. It brought me back to SXSW once again to Lou Reed's keynote on the opening day of the music portion of the festival. I have been a huge fan of Lou's since I can remember (one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money was The Velvet Underground and Nico ;) so after a late night of listening to R.E.M. do a midnight show at Stubbs, Heidi and I headed down to the Austin Convention Center to hear Lou speak his mind. In typical Lou form, Reed spoke a lot about the current state of digital technologies saying that "it's like the technology is taking us backwards. It's making it easier to make things worse." He went on to say "here's our song reduced to a pin drop; what? what? what?.... its like no one knows any better or doesn't care so its gonna stay on a really, really low level and people who like good sound are be thought of as some kind of strange zoo animal." Although this all sounds like negativity coming from Mr. Reed, he did express hope that "you hear they've got a newer version (of MP3) that sounds better, and you suddenly hear that the other instruments that are on the song. They've got to bring up the standard. You have the world open to you now; you can get almost any song in the world as an MP3 and I suppose if you like you can try to find a version of it you can actually listen to."
So what is the point I am trying to make with all this? As technology shifts the way sounds are recorded, the music industries standards are changing. Analog tape has been replaced in most studios by Pro Tools and there are programs out there that can make not so good singers sound pitch perfect. There is even something that does the same thing for below average drummers. So is music doomed to start sounding even worse? To quote the article by Levine, "even most CD listeners have lost interest in high-end stereos as surround-sound home theater systems have become more popular and superior quality disc formats have flopped." Bendeth and other producers worry that young listeners have grown so used to dynamically compressed music and the thin sound of MP3s that the battle has already been lost. "CD's sound better, but no one is buying them," he says "The age of the audiophile is over."
I am by no means an expert about how music is made, only that I enjoy listening to it and seeing it live as often as possible. While I have friends in the industry, I leave it to them to produce it anyway they deem it best for them. In my opinion, sound has never been as good as the record, but in the day of iTunes being the modern day record store, when will we, the consumers, demand a higher quality sound?