Rising Damp: The ascension of Quantity Over Quality

Quality Or Quantity Directions On A Signpost

This is a topic very close to my heart. I have battled for well over 2 decades trying to make music that has a overall finish and quality to it so that,

1: no ones holding there ears with screaming, random frequencies that could paralyze a dog at 100 paces

2: That the production and finish is as integral as the musicality of the piece.

Therefore as i see it, one cannot set sail in the absence of the other. But somewhere around the late 90’s when we just started to get affordable computing with some believable power, and virtual instruments that resembled there chosen mark, we entered a revolution that has changed EVERYTHING about music making, the industry, the expectations and the complete industry landscape forever more.

Now we all know that this is definitely a good thing no matter how your knickers twist. We didnt really want to have to mortgage the house 2-3 times to fund a studio, nor did we relish those ill gotten days of setting up a dozen synths and outboard just to work through a single session, cue.

It just had to happen. So where does that leave you and me right now??

For those of us writing music for commercial usage ie: for placement, for game audio, promotional ,advertising, film score et al, what are we now dealing with and how does it affect us??

The flood gates and the cliche that it rode on the back of, dictate that every revolution such as this comes with huge consequences. Not only can i write music through the day, export and print stems and then progress to a new project, i can engage on Skype with a client, order new equipment and buy new sound libs in the same day and hit the ground running.

My life, your life, has changed for the better indeed. But when you lower any bar be it financially or geographically, the gates dont just open, they alter the framework of the place you work. Your cues are worth less. Your cues get heard less. The client base is bigger than ever before. Start ups are as common place in their birth as new composers.

Id love to know the ratio of that hand to mouth “math” right now but i suspect we as creatives, greatly out number all our possible avenues of potential income and then some.

So the battle today, tomorrow and the next, is to deliver faster, more polished, more colourful music that wipes the floor with the competition. But how do you get that exposure?  I will be blogging heartily on all the methods of how to gain some headlines later in the coming weeks.

The problem i see right now which is the biggest hurdle is the competition ranges from me and you, the bloke next door who writes part time and aspires for greater things. (he i can relate to on every level), the teenager Xbox fanboy who thinks he can score the next big blockbuster first person shooter, and then everyone inbetween.

The argument that we cannot produce music at a fast rate died 10 odd years ago at least. The reply “i live on the other side of the world therefore i cant compete in those markets” died in the early 2000’s when broadband became common place. Even my older relatives have tablets, laptops and broadband connections.So the problem right now is a deluge of OK music. The mediocre.

Now lets set the statement in stone. I dont claim to be a big shot who can judge everyones music and say what is good and whats less so. But come on, we all have ears. We all know deep down what is good and what is utter lifeless crap.

Cant we???

Well all of us crammed into small studios busy in our “nerderies” tweaking away at Kontakt synths, building templates, monkeying around with advanced scripting etc, yeah we can tell the difference. Id hope thats the case!

But can ALL your potential clients hear what is great and what is not?? Well sadly not so much. The guy who delivers a fast set of cues is running away with half the market and the other guy is selling his cues for a fraction of the value and sometimes for free.

So the quality then becomes a side issue. A lot of developers are hearing some ok music and then pitching for it on the basis of game credits or a micro fee.

The swath of composers seeking experience with scoring will hand over all the musical rights and sometimes hundreds of hours of hard graft because they want to earn their chops = small fee to non existent. The same said composers might also crop up 6 months later in a heated argument wondering why they cannot achieve a decent project fee or creative fee alone. Why cant i have a budget for real performers?? why cant i record at Abbey Road??  im giving away All my share for what exactly??
Its the curse of todays technological gifts. The lord of code giveth, and he taketh away.

Suggesting that is both Intel© and or Corsair© are both deities is perhaps a step to far ok but you get the point.

The position i maintain and fight for is a little of both. Quantity, in that you have worked so damn hard you know how to dress good music for commercial usage, and quantity, that your not afraid to make quick decisions and write for the job at hand.

I think one of the biggest obstacles that are determined by any composer, is they wont let any music go out the door. We over reach on some projects. Sometimes it is just underscore, sometimes it is just a padding cue. Understand what the actual tv,film etc needs and write accordingly.

I get asked daily about how to write for TV show. Music libraries practically own reality TV. Its now highly unusual to see anyone solely writing for this specific market. Its a collaborative affair. The place where big blanket deals are strewn across your potential for future earnings, where choices are made on a handshake and a glass of wine rather than reviewing each cue by each artist.

You need to be able to write with a sense of detachment that permits the music to be finalised and delivered. The world sped up at an incredible rate and we now need to hang on before we lose all gravity.  The solutions to being seen and heard, i will try and cover shortly. Methods which i think can make a better mark out there than just posting up random new sound cloud pieces. Or once in a while updates that sheepishly nod to a new project.

The biggest changes to the musical world all just happened. Just over a decade. Its nothing in the history of musical growth. Its a blip, but boy oh boy what a crater it left.

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