Prior to the obligations of a full-time job, I was fully committed to my relationship with SoundCloud. Every Tuesday entailed chaining myself to my laptop for an exciting date with my online dealer of beats as we explored the depths of New Music Tuesdays.
Faithful as I was to this ritual, I began to ask myself if I could ever feasibly keep up with the amount of music that is being produced and distributed – especially in the realm of EDM. New Music Tuesdays began to transform from a casual hobby to a full-blown weekly challenge, as I began to drown in more and more tracks adhering to the same generic big-room house sound structures.
Such an abundance of these thoughtless productions only fuels the stigma of EDM songs having “the same beat.” However, that does not negate the fact that quality EDM exists. It’s just becoming more and more difficult to find. Thus, the conflict between quality versus quantity poses a debate that has become increasingly relevant as we enter an age where music can be shared instantaneously, across multiple platforms that reach an ever increasing population of people.
So, is it better to have more music readily consumable, or is that hindering our ability to appreciate the entire creative process behind these works? After watching the short documentary The Distortion of Sound, it is easier to grasp why this debate is so important to the direction in which music production is heading.
The film begins with anecdotes from various artists across all genres, including Snoop Dogg, Mike Shinoda and Steve Aoki. They all reminisce about the earlier methods of recording music that eventually has led to the hyper compression of today’s MP3 files.
These highly esteemed artists explain that the quality of music created within the studio is largely lost when it is compressed into easily distributable files, stripping the listener of experiencing much of the intricate sounds that were meant to be highlighted as part of the entire track. In doing so, the listener unintentionally fails to appreciate all of the thought that went into producing such work.
One of the largest issues spawned by the disabling effect of compression is that this creates an opportunity for less talented artists to produce work that would otherwise go unrecognized for lack of creativity. However, the ease of sharing and collecting compressed music makes it easier for people to produce music effortlessly, lowering not only the standards of players within the music industry, but consequently the standards of the listener.
Sure, more music is always something to look forward to. But when the artist’s true message fails to be fully conveyed to their audience, both the integrity of music production as a whole as well as the framework behind production is compromised. Hans Zimmer captures this idea perfectly in saying that “we have a McDonald’s generation of music consumers,” where mass consumption presides over innovation.
A solution in rectifying this conflict would require a commitment by artists to stray away from platforms where compression is essential; however that inherently restricts the potential for profit. Alas, mix messages remain a nagging issue in the relationship between music and fan, when compression makes it easier to access an audience at the expense of thoroughly presenting their art.
For a better idea of the impact sound distortion has on the creative process versus its benefits in accessibility, check out The Distortion of Sound below: