October 22, 2004
I've just been reading the latest rant, sorry – 'Sounding Off' column, in Sound on Sound. Usually they are just rants from people who wish things could still be the way they used to be, or they wish the music industry was just a little easier to get into.
This month's rant is different. It's by Duncan Williams, and he really does have something interesting to say. I would advise you to buy SOS and read the whole thing for yourself. but, in summary, Duncan's point is this…
Software such as Ejay, GarageBand, Fruityloops and Acid make it easy for people to quickly achieve professional sounding results. But these softwares encourage the user never to go beyond layering a couple of someone else's loops and maybe changing the tempo. (Another comment I heard on this was that if you give Fruityloops to ten different people, you'd get ten tracks that all sound the same.)
Duncan goes on to comment that there is no progression route in these softwares. They are fun to play with and that's all. In fact, the transition to professional software such as Pro Tools is all the more difficult, since with Pro Tools there is no loop library to get you started. Each track is like a painting starting on a completely blank canvas.
To put my own slant on this… Years ago when recording equipment was fiendishly expensive, it used to be a 'barrier to entry'. So only people who were really talented and determined ever got the chance to succeed. The musical riffraff couldn't get beyond this barrier and above it was a totally professional world. Now however, anyone can bash out a track in their bedroom and the recording quality is likely to be good. And these tracks get sent to record labels, publishers and TV production companies. Trouble is, they are mostly 'created' by musical riffraff who don't have the talent to produce anything of real value. All they do is create clutter in the market for composers and tunesmiths and, rather than helping people succeed, I would say that it's holding back the people who truly deserve success because they can't get heard above the noise.
So, making this an entirely circular argument, I support Ejay, GarageBand and the others because they provide a home for musical no-hopers. The rest of us can be left in peace to create wonderful music with software that allows 100% free creativity, such as Pro Tools.
By the way, Duncan Williams works at City of Westminster College, not Westminster College as stated in Sound on Sound.