The current state of tech has made all of us artists. From your little brother to your grandma, that smart phone in their pocket has made a photographer out of anyone with a telephone.
A similar trend is happening with music production. It used to be that records cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. Now, with just a few hundred dollars, aspiring musicians can make records at home that sound good.
The lowering of these barriers to entry into mediums which were once dependent upon heavy financial support is both scary as well as exciting. On the one hand, the field is much wider, which makes “standing out” more difficult than it once was.
However, the ability for an artist to see a project through every phase of music production single-handedly is a phenomenon that makes up for the sheer volume of content being put out in this new age of recorded music. With the right skills and outlook, you can stand out from other artists and have more control over your product than was ever possible before.
I like to use the artist Grimes as an example of a contemporary recording artist who is doing an amazing job of navigating the changes the industry has experienced in the last couple of decades. Grimes’ albums sound like huge expensive pop albums, despite the fact that they are recorded almost single-handedly by the project’s creator, Claire Boucher.
By developing the recording skills necessary to put out a quality product, Boucher armed herself with tools which allowed her to exist independent of the courtships between record label and artist, which often result in dead ends for artists who do not have access to recording equipment.
Add to this the fact that Boucher directs and produces much of her own music videos and you have a completely self-sustaining project that expresses one individual’s creative goals from start to finish.
GAMES OF CHANCE
Another great example of a recording artist who embodies the qualities of our “Artist of the Future” is Chance the Rapper. Chance has collaborated with Madonna and Kanye West and, despite being associated with these heavy-hitting acts, has accomplished a great deal without the help of a record label.
By honing his production and rapping skills, Chance was able to successfully release two full-length albums without having access to the huge platform enjoyed by many rappers who are signed to major labels.
The release of Chance’s free-to-download Acid Rap is a perfect example of an artist understanding the times. By producing a product of such high quality and then releasing it widely and for free, Chance became an overnight success.
His latest mixtape, Coloring Book, was released as an exclusive stream on Apple Music. Clearly, without the acclaim following Acid Rap, Chance the Rapper would not have become such a household name.
Even without a record label, Chance the Rapper’s mixtapes have been downloaded more than a million times! (Photo: Chanceraps.com)
A MOVE TOWARD GREATER QUALITY
I’ve heard people make reference to a “cult of the amateur,” or a trend in culture where the barriers to entry into the arts are so low that the quality of the product is reduced. While it is true that there have never been more artists alive in human history, I think this fact alone promises a bright future for our culture.
By producing art, we grow to understand the process more intimately, which makes us crave the consumption of truly great art. The examples above demonstrate an emphasis that has shifted toward quality and away from financial backing.
By doing away with the monetary filters that once existed in the recording industry, we are presented with a purer product. The music should come straight from the artists’ minds and into ours and, now that the means of production are so much more accessible, we’re getting closer to that goal all the time.