Just as music distribution has undergone a radical change over the last couple decades, music production has also undergone a seismic shift. Many of the world’s biggest artists are self-produced, a fact that no one would believe as recently as a few years ago.
What is driving this trend? Essentially, the tools of music production have become much more accessible both in terms of cost and operational knowledge. Where a record used to require rooms full of equipment and years of expertise, software has created an environment where an average hobbyist can create a capable home studio. Many smartphones come with preinstalled production software. The double-platinum artist Flume started with software he literally got from a cereal box. Suffice it to say, it is now easier than ever to begin music production
At a bare minimum, a home studio just needs a computer. That’s it. That’s all you need with the right software to fully create a track. However, most bedroom producers also have a microphone, an audio interface, a midi keyboard, and headphones or studio monitors to assist with their workflow.
Comparing that lightweight setup to a traditional studio that charges by the hour, and you can quickly understand how software has democratized production and reshaped the industry. Further, much of the software required is free.
Bedroom producers are also quick to point out the convenience and timelines of the home studio.
Electronic music pioneer Moby says, “I think I have the shortest commute in the world. My bed is behind that camera, and my studio is about 10 feet down that hallway. … One of the good sides of living and working in the same place is I write a lot of music.”
FINNEAS, an American producer who creates solo work and produced for his sister, Billie Eilish, says, “To me it’s all about immediacy. The way I want any home studio to function is as fast as I can think of an idea, I want to be able to record it.”
Another benefit is escaping judgement while recording. Many artists perceive the creative process different when others are around. This means even if they are not explicitly giving advice, the production team can influence the record. In the modern area, artists can create a track in isolation, and then share with a select audience for feedback after they are satisfied with their creation. The influence of YouTube videos, tutorials, and blogs have taken the place of expensive specialized production experts as a production reference and feedback resource.
Advancements in technology have changed not only the cost of music production, but also music itself. Modern Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs, are capable of replicating traditional musical instruments or creating unique electronic harmonies which are rampant in modern music of virtually any genre.
FINNEAS acknowledges the role software has played in his production methods. “Being born when I was born, and just being able to afford a computer and [DAW] Logic Pro, … it was just this gift I was given of sort of time and resources.”
However, there are those that argue the analog methods still just sound better. Dave Grohl’s film “Sound City: From Reel to Reel” is about Grohl purchasing a Neve console from the defunct Sound City Recording Studios for his home studio because it has a sound that can’t be reproduced. In the film, many artists including Trent Reznor and Stevie Nicks testify to the unique character of the old consoles, which were each assembled by hand.
Thankfully, the analog versus digital production debate is not final, and many artists recognize the benefits and constraints of both methods. Neither method is mutually exclusive, and many artists will use a combination of analog and digital production over their careers. Ultimately, the more artists that are able to create music, the better, regardless if they are recording in their bedroom or a world-class studio.