Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Music Industry and the Artists: Vocally Speaking... in Suspended Animation?

It’s no secret that the music industry is currently struggling to find out how to generate revenue in the Internet age. Many have suggested focusing on providing music for video games, films, commercials, etc. Artists such as U2 and Britney Spears have made their concerts into event spectacles that cost a lot of money to produce, which actually end up being must see happenings – and not so much for the musical performance as for the lights, stage setup and the overall concert experience. But these types of “theatre” and “circus” are not options for the new and emerging artists, who cannot afford to invest millions in a stage setup. And even if they could they would never be able to recover the investment as they do not have a big, well established international name yet. Besides which, those big name “Circus” artists are getting older and eventually the industry will need a new generation of real artists. Therefore, the question is: would it not be cheaper to coach them to sing properly and perform authentically without any circus props?

In many ways the music industry is currently in a type of suspended animation, due to the sheer fact that they keep producing and reproducing the same so to speak “templates”, ie. Britney Spears like artists and in the recent past “popping out” boy bands and girl groups that were completely alike and indistinguishable. People, meanwhile, quite evidently are getting fed up with listening and watching the same thing over and over. For some reason the music professionals are acting like telephone solicitors who are on a consistent basis are trying to pull out another donation from the people that have donated already several times. And these people are beginning to hang up the phone with obvious anger and are feeling harassed and, thus, are naturally resistant to give anything else. You would wonder why they would not call somebody else who has not donated yet? This is still a riddle.

In terms of music production, a type of suspended animation is also present. Recordings are so overproduced that there is very little room left for the voice. And the vocals are often so processed that they sound very cold and flat and devoid of any warmth or humanity, kind of like the heartbeat has been slowed down and the entire body has been frozen. Is there a hope that the music industry and the artists will come out of their living comas and regain their vital signs and their new fresh disposition would infuse music with something resembling life?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vocally Speaking – Passing Off the Beautiful Hair Wig as the Real Deal

Please, my dear reader, try to imagine a beautiful, sexy woman with long blond hair. Wow! You would say! And then imagine your disappointment when you find out that underneath of a beautiful blond wig is a partially or completely bald head. And that would have actually been fine if you had known about it in the first place rather than being shocked by the sudden discovery. Similarly, the concert ticket buyer is very often shocked when hearing that their favourite lead singer or solo artist does not even remotely resemble what they have heard on the record. The entourage, the show, the lighting and the musicians are exciting and glamourous - but the voice of the artist often sounds like they were run down by a truck and they have been using their “wigged” head as a brake. Then all of a sudden the “wig” falls off and the naked truth is revealed. The singer is “bald” and has been “heavily camouflaged” and apparently at best “toupeed”. Now almost everybody has lost when the truth has been revealed. The artist, the management, the audience and …who else you might ask? Let’s see. It is a documented fact that there are only a handful of major record companies and apparently their record labels are a very small part of a multinational corporation that also sells films, video games, publishing, clothing, detergent, light bulbs, etc. To those gigantic companies, as it appears to be, a loss on a music project can sometimes even be advantageous. How so? Apparently through creative accounting a loss of investment can actually result in tax advantages for another blockbuster CD release or even – go figure - a non-related division within the larger corporation that has been far more financially successful! With that in mind, needless to say, the manager, producer and the artist have to ensure that their production (in the studio and live on stage) has to be super successful in order to reach the TOP and not lose the deal. Therefore, the parties at the bottom of this structure must be especially vigilant that they are offering and promoting the real deal rather than the fake act.

How to Cure Today’s Ill Music Industry - Mystery Diagnosis or…. Vocal Misconceptions?

For the last several years there has been a big concern among music industry professionals that the music industry is broken. Bigwigs and music industry gurus are exclaiming, “How can we fix it?” Last year I attended Music Expo Europe in London, England. The very first thing that was shown to delegates was a documentary film about the problems which the music industry at large is experiencing today. After the film the delegates were asked for their input for a future documentary film on how to fix the music industry. And the delegates, most of whom were also music industry professionals, were suggesting taking the music elsewhere – to the movies, videogames, Internet and what have you. Not one delegate, until I stood up and spoke on camera, speculated as to why it got broken in the first place. I said, “Please pay attention to the artists. Teach them how to sing properly - and in tune preferably, thus, complying with the standards of professional singing – and teach them how to express themselves authentically on stage and, thus, enable them to give a sincere performance on stage.” And maybe then, I suggested, the records will not be dropped or put on “hiatus” before they see the Record Store shelves. And maybe then people would not ask for their money back after attending a concert in which they were completely disappointed that they had heard an entirely different thing on stage than what they had heard on the record, obviously cleverly fabricated (auto tuned and melodyned) in a high tech recording studio. Milli Vanilli or Ashley Simpson, you ask? Them and quite a few others along with them... The truth of the matter is that, yes, the artists are being picked from the cream of the crop of good looking people and, yes, also from the cream of the crop of somewhat talented people. And then they have been surrounded by the best musicians and producers who have presumed that the singing voice is a minor detail. The songs are good they exclaim! And, oh yeah, “she looks so beautiful and sexy!” Not even once did it occur in anybody’s mind that the artist does not know how to use his or her God given voice and, thus, is in jeopardy to wear it out to the “bone” and even lose it completely. And when that happens – God forbid – everybody is in awe and exclaims, “What should we do now?” There is a lot of money that has been invested into the whole production and entourage and the question becomes, “How can we save the project?” That is the question indeed. The answer is that they would not even have had to raise this question if they had treated the artist’s voice as an instrument that needs care, attention and nurturing in order to always be ready to reciprocate the high standards of today’s audiences and not to die in the process. You can read more in my next blog, “Vocally Speaking – Passing Off the Beautiful Hair Wig as the Real Deal”.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vocally Speaking – Working on the Stove When the Fridge is Broken

As you read the above title you probably asked yourself, “Why would anybody work on the stove when the fridge is broken?” Most would answer that it is absurd and that nobody does it. Well, I have news for you. Music Industry professionals are doing it every day on an every artist basis. Why is that you may ask? Because the truth comes out in the wash. The fact is that the majority of artists cannot sing without syllable by syllable comping, auto tuning and melodyning. After the so-called “authentic” performance has been fertilized in the studio it is time for the artist to go on stage and perform live. And then that performance flops. The audience begins to talk and walk away, while in some cases booing the artist off the stage. Then the so-called professionals from the Record Label often make the “wise” decision to implement a change in strategy. For example, the beautiful artist with long brown hair portraying the image of a pop diva is obviously not working, so let’s get her hair cut real short and make her blond. This way she will look like a standard jazz singer and they can hire jazz musicians and a jazz producer to organize her next musical project. They are hoping that nobody will be able to recognize her as they will have given her a new image and sound. They will even use the same comp, melodyne and auto tune. And the result would be that nothing has actually changed. The artist still cannot sing live and is even doing it worse than before, as they are not even themselves anymore with the music industry professionals having changed them to a completely different genre. Now they don’t know how to power their voice and are extremely confused. Some even turn to drugs as their dreams are now shattered once and for all. This sad result is as obvious as the reality that you shouldn’t work on the stove when the fridge is broken. The stove may or may not actually work better, but the fridge will definitely still be broken.