One of the inescapable realities of the music industry in the 21st century is that more musicians are recording themselves today than ever before.
Some engineers and studio owners lament this trend, citing shrinking budgets, dwindling audio fidelity – even the decimation of genres that rely on the sound of seasoned musicians coming together in real-time.
But for each of these critiques, it’s not hard to find a counter-example – some recordists owe their whole careers to this same trend. Although average budgets may have decreased, the sheer volume of self-recording musicians who seek help with basic tracking, mixing and mastering has doubtlessly contributed to the recent rise in the number of working audio engineers.
This new abundance of self-recording projects doesn’t tell a story of full-scale retreat from the conventional studio world. Instead, many of the self-recorded albums that register on our radars are ones that – just a generation ago – might never have been made at all.
Of everyone I interviewed while selecting bands for this story, none focused on the cost of recording. Although a handful of them did incredible things on rudimentary systems, a number of the musicians I asked spent far more in making their self-recorded albums than they would have for a week or two of tracking time at a mid-level studio. Even the ones for whom money was a limiting factor stressed the personal reasons behind their choices.
Likewise, not one of them told me that self-recording was simpler, easier, or faster. “I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to record quickly when you record at home,” one confided. “The process honestly, was really, really drawn out and very inefficient,” said another with the kind of laugh you make when you’re remembering something that wasn’t quite as funny when it was happening.
But for all their playful commiserating, none of these artists regretted their choice – even if they’d do things differently the next time around. That’s why I wanted to hear the stories in their own words. Too often, we studio people focus on what self-recording musicians lose, rather than on what they gain…