In the intricate tapestry of music production, there’s an underlying thread that has been silently weaving its way through for years: the phenomenon of the echo chamber. Just as politics is sometimes ensnared in these chambers, the world of music production isn’t immune. While they might offer the comforting illusion of unity and harmony, these echo chambers can become a pitfall for creativity, authenticity, and growth.
Moreover, social media platforms and music streaming services with their algorithms can create a reinforcing feedback loop. An artist might gain popularity for a particular sound, and suddenly, that becomes the benchmark. New artists aiming for success tend to emulate that, leading to a saturation of similar-sounding tracks. While the initial artist might have been revolutionary, the subsequent floodwaters can drown the innovation.
In the political world, echo chambers arise when individuals surround themselves only with voices and opinions that align with theirs. In music, a similar phenomenon happens. If artists and producers only expose themselves to a narrow band of influences, it limits their growth and stifles innovation. In both spheres, these echo chambers can lead to a stagnation of ideas and a resistance to change or evolution.
For artists to grow, it’s essential to break out of their comfort zones. Collaborating with people from different genres, attending workshops that don’t directly align with their musical interests, or even actively seeking feedback from outsiders can be invaluable. A hip-hop producer might gain a fresh perspective by working with a classical musician, or a techno artist might find inspiration from folk melodies. It’s these intersections of diverse ideas that lead to the most groundbreaking music.
There’s been a huge fuss started by Guti recently about how many fake sets made by some artists have been going on for a while and to me, this is a pure side effect from an echo chamber. Artists encouraged by the industry to go with a pre-recorded show who anyone who would confront, would be pushed out of the way.
I believe the onus is on both industry veterans and newbies. Veterans should mentor and guide newcomers, encouraging them to learn the craft properly and not rely solely on tools. New artists should be hungry for knowledge, pushing boundaries, and not just following the beaten path.
This week I was watching an older video from Mr. Bill, who is a solid Youtuber with creative content and I noticed something about him that sort of irritated me. Over his video, he was explaining all kind of approaches about how to be loud and also, be cool. While I gave up on the whole debate of the loud is cool topic, i get annoyed at one thing precisely which is when someone spend time showing that his sound is cooler than my sound.
Like Deadmau5 said recently:”Who the F_ are you? The sound police?”
I understand that if you want to sound like him and since he is very confident that he is cool, then it makes sense but in a world where trends flashes so quickly, I believe that Mr. Bill is probably looking at this years old video and probably think that his newer sounds are cooler. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put him down because I love his sounds and techniques, but not to the point of putting other genres or sound design down. I want to remain far from a competitive mind and his view could encourage that mindset.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I prefer having a much moderate approach to understanding sound. I prefer remaining open.
Calling some sounds cool or others not, creates duality. And that creates echo chambers, hierarchy, ego boosting. So I prefer nondualism (advaita).
At its core, non-duality emphasizes the interconnectedness and oneness of everything. Translated to the realm of music, it suggests that genres, styles, and techniques are all part of a vast, interconnected web of musical expression. Rather than pigeonholing oneself into a single genre or style, a non-dualistic approach encourages exploration across musical landscapes. By seeing all music as interconnected, producers can cross-pollinate ideas, techniques, and inspirations from diverse genres, leading to innovative and fresh sounds.
A significant barrier to innovation and growth in music can be one’s ego. An inflated ego might make one resistant to feedback, reluctant to explore unfamiliar genres, or even dismissive of new techniques. A philosophy that promotes selflessness can help dissolve the ego, allowing the artist to be more receptive to external influences, feedback, and collaborations.
1. The Allure of the Echo Chamber
On the surface, there’s undeniable allure in surrounding oneself with like-minded enthusiasts, especially when one embarks on the journey of music production. The initial phase is fraught with uncertainties and questions. In these moments, having a community that echoes your tastes and preferences is undeniably comforting. The conversations flow smoothly, validation is often just a nod away, and a bubble of shared enthusiasm and aspiration forms.
However, beneath this surface of congeniality, a subtle drawback emerges. When we insulate ourselves within a particular genre or style, the nuances of that very style start to become our universe. And while it’s essential to understand and master a niche, the danger lies in becoming so immersed that we miss the symphony of diverse musical expressions outside.
2. The Downside of Self-Referencing
As a music label owner and sound engineer with over two decades of experience, I’ve observed an interesting pattern. Artists and producers, particularly when starting, tend to lean heavily on references that mirror their own aspirations. This is entirely natural. However, when these references are flawed or limited in scope, the resultant art can lack the depth and polish it might otherwise achieve.
A case in point: I recently mastered tracks for a techno artist. His reference tracks, though popular, had many inherent issues. This artist, having always been in his echo chamber, hadn’t realized the potential flaws. But once I introduced him to more diverse, quality references, it was like a revelation. Suddenly, he could perceive the richness and depth his tracks could achieve, and the difference was palpable when played in a club with a top-notch sound system.
3. Breaking Free with New Tools
The world of music production is ever-evolving, with tools like Izotope’s recently released Ozone version offering fresh perspectives. Such innovations are a boon, not just for their technical prowess but for their potential to act as doorways out of these echo chambers. By leveraging the new features and capabilities they bring, producers can explore uncharted territories, challenging their ingrained notions and biases.
It was interesting how tools like Ozone (Version 11 came out this week and it’s really well done – I don’t even understand how they keep improving it!), while designed to improve the mixing and mastering process, can also inadvertently perpetuate these echo chambers. In the hands of a novice, presets and popular mastering chains can quickly become a crutch. Instead of learning the core principles of mixing and mastering, many young producers just slap on a preset, thinking that’s the ‘industry standard’. These tools, if used without proper understanding, can contribute to a homogenized sound in the industry.
There’s no denying that the familiarity of an echo chamber offers solace. But for an art form as dynamic and ever-changing as music, these chambers can sometimes stifle the very creativity they aim to foster. It’s imperative to recognize when we’re in one and muster the courage to step out. Only then can we truly hear the boundless melodies that the world of music has to offer.