Studio Perspective: Trends and How They Kill Themselves

First official posting by junior member J Franky:

Studio Perspective: Trends and How They Kill Themselves

Hi there. As some of you may know I actually get out of bed every morning and go to a Day Job, specifically at a recording studio in Chicago. I would like from time to time to share the little observations I pick up on while watching other bands, listening to random mixes and cleaning up other people’s vomit. Let me know after this article if this is anything that you gentlemen are interested in knowing more about, and if there are specific questions that I need to get to the bottom of in the studio. I can be reaaaaaaallly sneaky if properly medicated.

Anyways, I wanted to further expand on the ever-present cycle of popular/radio music, as exhibited in the Chicago scene (which I like to think is representative of the midwest in general). My studio has a fairly large variety of acts coming through the doors, but for the most part it’s blues and rock, and sometimes rockin’ blues. We have had a lot of Irish music, and there was a guy who played the sitar really well, but again, it’s primarily a Rock studio. It’s not the Most professional/expensive studio in the city, but it does get some fairly big names and tends to attract smaller bands who have saved up and want to make a really good demo to shop around. Those bands, the younger ones, never cease to impress me with their playing ability, their energy, and most impressively their total belief that every song they record will be a huge hit.

Why this poses a problem is because these bands are all writing the same song. I can’t tell you the Exact number of bands that have come through the doors sounding like Blink-182 or Papa Roach, but it’s mind boggling. Almost every young band that comes in is trying to sound exactly like one of those two, perhaps with a bit of a ska edge thrown in. And they’re not shy about it; they ask (or the engineer even asks them) to sound like an existing record. I know that the latest Rage Against The Machine disc has been sitting next to the mixing board for two months now. The engineer will pop it in and the tweak the knobs to get it to sound as much like the disc as possible. And this is what the bands want. Now granted this is not my exact cup of tea, but most of these bands sound like they could be on the radio to my ears. They all insist that they are bringing in lots of people to their shows and will easily sell these discs right off the bat.

All of us are extremely aware of the trends in the music industry, but it’s very interesting to see it on the ground-level where all of these bands are coming in sounding exactly the same as each other, but each one fairly talented, each one feeling that they have some little hook that will make them noticed over the others. The response from the labels around here has been exactly what you would think: sign a few, make some bucks off them, get out quick. It’s already on to the next thing, and these bands are still coming in by the boat-load. What happens when they realize that this trend is nearing completion and that they’re the ones who are driving it to it’s end? Will they morph into the Next Big Thing? Or do they give it up and are never heard from again? When speaking to the Elders of the Studio the conventional wisdom is that this is how music life goes. These bands will put out one album and break up and most will give up music entirely by the time they are 25. And it never stops. Hundreds upon hundreds of young bands will come in thinking they are riding the current wave, not having the perspective of sitting back and seeing that there are hundreds of bands doing it. Wouldn’t you think that modeling your sound off of something that was on the radio last year is a sure-fire way of dating yourself into instant obscurity? I don’t know, maybe it’s just because I get to see it first-hand now. And I’m trying hard to remember whether I felt that way before when I was a wee lad, if I wanted to sound exactly like the radio. I think I did, but I’m not sure anymore. Do you guys remember?

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