The tech shortcuts to musical super-stardom2/25/2015
Chasing the dream of being a musical superstar is dangerous. Comparatively, a 2013 NCAA study of athletes chasing the pro dream found one in 50 Division I college football players will be drafted into the NFL, and one in 75 Division I basketball players will get drafted by the NBA. That means there is a less than a 2 percent chance of that college players will fulfill their professional sports dreams. I’d wager for rock, pop, R&B or hip-hop stardom, it’s closer to 0.2 percent. The odds are stacked astronomically high against musicians to succeed, but chasing a dream isn’t about odds, is it? No, it’s about talent, persistence, opportunity and dumb luck. While technology can’t help you with luck, it certainly can help you with the other three.
The means to produce passable music have never been more attainable. If you can get your hands on something resembling an instrument, attempt to carry a tune, maintain a decent beat and know a guy with a computer, you can produce a song. As anyone who listens to the radio these days knows, talent is not a prerequisite. Technology has virtually excised it from the scenario. Between auto-tuned vocals, quantized drums beats (mathematically perfect percussion), arpeggiator software creating melodies and other “Pro Tools” trickery, your tone-deaf grandma can release a top 40-sounding song. And the worst part? Practically all of those blasphemic shortcuts are free.
With nearly one billion users having access to Apple’s GarageBand, the audio recording program is easily the most popular recording tool on the planet, and it’s a free application. Every Mac computer user and iOS device holder has free access to all the tools necessary to record a song, including the aforementioned tools plus a huge library of digital instruments and sound loops. Any musician or audio engineer who is reading this right now is no doubt going full snob right over the limitations and “Fischer Price” nature of Garageband. But that’s not the point. Your nephew, who was gifted a brand new iPhone for his 10th birthday, could record his rock opera tomorrow. We can agree he’s spoiled — but also a few taps away from producing sick beats.
Of course, recording a song is just the beginning. Once you have your masterpiece mixed down to an mp3, you need somewhere to distribute it, and, once again, technology has you covered. For nearly two decades the Internet has been a dumping ground for crappy bands to share their “art.” From MP3.com over a decade ago, MySpace in the mid-2000s, to today with ReverbNation, Facebook, DropBox, SoundCloud and more, there’s always been an ocean of free options to house music online.
Not only are these services free, they’re huge. SoundCloud is a behemoth of music decimation with major artists such as Drake, Skrillex, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg and Madonna all releasing music through the service. While streaming services such as Pandora, Beats and Spotify portend to be Internet radio with subscription plans, SoundCloud is an open platform for artists and audience alike to upload and sample music freely.
With Garageband, artists can record for free, and SoundCloud helps you share your sound with an audience. I guess the only thing left is a record deal. Actually, that’s the part where you need to put in some hard work. You can record, share, even film a music video for practically nothing with technology, but your technology won’t turn you into Mick Jagger or Lady Gaga. Because, unless you’re planning on plugging your laptop into a venue’s sound system and pressing play, being a live musician pretty much always requires talent. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.