What Has Technology Done to the Music?

For the second day of Blogfest the theme is Technology. As we have seen in the past decade or so, technology has played a large role in shaping music and how it is accessed. The first thing I thought of when considering music and technology was Lars Ulrich’s foresight in how pirating would become a problem.

I have touched upon Ulrich’s involvement with the Napster controversy in a previous post but I did not discuss just how right he was. initially, the general feeling from the public was that Napster and file sharing was not such an issue. Now, a little over a decade later, the music industry has been brought to its knees because of it. Many people called Ulrich out at the time saying that he was just some big shot trying to squeeze more money out of his fans. Indeed there were many videos parodying him and the controversy. Although the accusations may be something to consider, no one can deny just how true his foresight was.

More recently, Metallica’s latest album Death Magnetic drew criticism from fans due to it’s compression of sound.  Fans did not enjoy the sound of the album because it was overmixed. Many fans went so far as to argue that the less compromised tracks on Guitar Hero were better. There is even a petition to re-mix or remaster Death Magnetic. This kind of issue has been called “The Industry Loudness War”. One piece of technology that has created a controversy in music production like this is Auto-tune. This feature has taken away the raw sound of many singers voices. Personally, I do not approve of Auto-tune; I prefer my singers’ voices just the way they are.

What do you think? Is there anything to be done to stop file-sharing from destroying the music industry? Is Auto-tune and other forms of music technology contributing to or fixing the problem?



~ by metalosophy on March 22, 2011.

4 Responses to “What Has Technology Done to the Music?”

  1. While I think file sharing and mediafire style sites are hurting music, I think it’s up to the artist too to create a good album. Maybe someone downloaded that album to check it out, if it’s real good chances are said person will pick it up. The way I’ve been discovering bands is through Youtube, there’s such a huge amount of great music to be discovered, you can check out a bunch of songs to see if you like the album, and a lot of times there are good recommendations.
    Metallica may have gone a little overboard with the mixing on Death Magnetic, but it wasn’t that bad and it was a highly enjoyable album. If it wasn’t for some great mixing software there wouldn’t be some great symphonic metal albums(Blind Guardians latest “At the Edge of Time”, a masterpiece, and mad props to the guy that mixed that one, and the latest Moonsorrow also).
    The auto tune, belongs in the garbage. One of the most emotional instruments in the band, the voice, should not be regulated by a computer, unless it’s for a specific effect to create a specific atmosphere. Luckily, I haven’t heard any metal bands stooping low enough to use it :)

  2. I do the same with Youtube. It’s actually one way I find out about newer bands. Whenever someone recommencs an artist to check out, the first thing I do is look at some Youtube videos. If I find something I really like then I’ll go out and buy the album because to me, nothing beats holding the CD in your hand and looking at the album booklet.

  3. I feel the same about having the actual physical album. I’m planning on writing a post on album collecting and trying to find a middle ground between digital downloading and physical copies(I really hope they don’t ever go away). I did the Itunes thing for a while and besides the problems I had with apple, the digital copies didn’t cut it for me and I found myself repurchasing quite a few albums on cd.

  4. The realtionship between music and technology has always been an interesting one: imagine a world where Antonio Stradivari hadn’t built his famous violins; if Edison hadn’t invented the phonograph; without Jim Marshall’s amplifiers … and on and on … The thing about tech is that it’s unstoppable and the only real limit is human imagination. There’s always a double-edged sword aspect to new inventions but real artists learn quickly to make the best of it and for the most part recognise that the commerce side of things is secondary. I don’t think the music industry will die it’ll simply – if slowly – adapt to new circumstances.

    ‘Artists’ are on a hiding to nothing with Autotune: I agree with Matt that vocal effects are fine insofar as they can be used to create specific ambiences – e.g. the ‘operatic’ layered vocal parts used to such great effect by Queen, or for a more ‘Metal’ example, Burton Bell in Fear Factory – but in general they can make singers lazy, thinking that they only need to approximate a decent vocal and the studio will ‘fix’ the rest. The pop/rock world is full of technically unremarkable singers – Dylan, Lemmy, Ozzy, Ian Brown… – whose distinctive delivery nonetheless became an integral part of their bands’ sound. Autotune ruins that and contributes to a certain ubiquity and blandness which is actually counterproductive in an age where music is increasingly accessible: it’s never been more important for artists to be instantly recognisable and distinct in those precious opening bars.

    Wars are generally destructive and futile and the ‘Loudness War’ is no exeption. I think in the digital era we need to find a compromise between sound fidelity and cheapness/accessibility. Cheap home recording is a real boon for musicians and easy file sharing is especially beneficial to young, emerging talent for getting their name out there in the digital world. MP3 files have been popular because the files are relatively small and easy to upload, share and compile into playlists etc. To do these things with much larger, CD-quality lossless files would inevitably be more expensive and it’s doubtful whether the majority of the listening public would appreciate it. I’m actually not that bothered myself, I’m no audiophile, but it still kinda niggles that big names like Rush and Coldplay seem happy to release sonically inferior ‘compressed’ sounding records when clearly cost is no object to them. The problem there is the big record companies who rather like compressed ‘loud’ records because research has shown that they make more ‘impact’ on the radio.

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