Submitted by Peter Åstedt
Seems like people think technology should be able to save everything. One thing for sure, technology can create better demos but at the same time done all the releases weaker. I have been going through the intake material for both a festival and the radio station and found a kind of interesting observation.
Back in the days when artists sent me demos since I was the A&R on the record label, I have heard thousands of tracks.
I calculated that I probably have listened to over 50,000 artists over the years. Back in the days of the cassettes, the usual problem was the recording. Getting into a studio and making a professional recording costs money so mainly most of the demos were recorded live in a rehearsal room or in a four-channel porta recorder. Because of that, you had to go on whether the song was good or not. You knew to press the music onto a record you needed to re-record everything anyway. Back then the songs usually had a good quality. Mainly because even if you had limited recording resources they still cost dollars, so when you got into the recording situation you had to have your shit together. The song you were recording you had rehearsed several times, probably a hundred times. Then you also played them live to see how the reaction of the audience was to them. With that info, you could make changes and get the song into a better position. When you enter the recording studio, the song was finished and ready.
Today it is the opposite. Demos no longer exist. Today it’s the final recording that you hear as an A&R, to be honest, there is almost no A&R’s left either. And with that, you can release anything in a second who needs them. What people don’t understand is that if you put your song on SoundCloud or even Facebook it’s published, given out. On the other hand that might be good suddenly, you as an artist can get anything you want out with a press of a button to an audience.
What technology also has done is that you now have all the plugins and technical stuff that makes your music sounds like a professional recording. Even if you can’t play, the price to hire a session musician on the other side of the world is so cheap anyone can do it. This has made all songs that I process sound quite professional recorded. Finding really bad recording is really hard. I process a lot of songs I just checked, and I have listened to over 500 songs just from January this year. Most of them with the recording you just dreamt of thirty years ago and a price tag that is almost close to a meal at a fast-food joint.
Unfortunately, what has happened is that the songwriting is so much worse. Back in the days of 500 songs, I would have found at least 100 that were good songs. Now I looked and I found 10 that were good songs since January. Since the artist now has all the chance just sitting in their room making a song. It’s lesser input from other musicians. It’s no testing with the audience. You just record and get it through your plugins and then you just throw it out there hoping it will stick. There is no way you can do a good song that way. Someone told me that writing is rewriting. You toss and turn on things as a writer and also for that as a songwriter.
Yes, in the end there were better songs in the old days, but shitter recordings. Today we have better recordings but shittier songs. I actually prefer better songs with less quality recordings in this case since I know when we find machines to write our songs we are in a really bad place.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 35 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes futureechoes.se/. Peter is a Managing Partner and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.