If you thought the Internet was finished disrupting the music industry, hang tight. With music consumption and distribution having been fully upended, the other side of the equation is ripe for change: Production. Accessible music creation software has been around for years, but a new wave of cloud-powered tools aims to revolutionize things even further.
LANDR is a new service that's likely to rattle some cages by providing recording mastering online and automatically. Traditionally, mastering is a skilled task performed by a recording engineer, but LANDR uses a sophisticated learning algorithm in order to eliminate the manual, human-powered work.
First, a song gets recorded, then mixed. Finally, it’s mastered as the final step in the recording process. Mastering involves finely adjusting the audio for things most people won’t be able to audibly detect without guidance. The mastering process also involves properly preparing the audio for a vinyl format versus a digital one.
"Our system does many different tasks, including the standard mastering processes like equalization, limiting, excitation, compression, tape emulation, and more," says Justin Evans, VP of products and innovations at MixGenius. "Which processors are used and how they are applied depends on the analysis of the incoming content."
LANDR is attempting to crunch big data in order to provide unique tweaks and improvements to songs automatically. The system isn’t applying generic presets or any other blanket method to cover multiple songs. Instead, the service is using techniques similar to what Pandora and Shazam use to automatically analyze music.
"The algorithms were built by analyzing thousands of tracks, and by doing significant research and analysis of engineers' self-perceived behavior of what they are doing vs. the actual spectral and frequency changes that happened," Evans explains.
The mastering aspect is just the latest, but it isn’t the only part of the recording studio being dramatically changed by the Internet. There are quite a few different services trying to alleviating the need for musicians to be in the same physical space for instance.
With Gobbler, different producers or engineers can easily sync tracks in different locations. Gobbler offers a Dropbox-like service targeted at musicians which can plug into their digital audio workstations (DAWs). It also offers an online backup done automatically to save the individual tracking recordings.
Splice is a similar service in that it automatically backs up an engineer’s latest updates. The app’s other big features is that it brings direct collaboration by showing a change log and allowing commenting. It’s similar to the functionality of GitHub, but designed for the pro audio space.
Wavestack is yet another service providing the syncing of individual tracks across the web. It offers playback right on the site and the ability to mute or solo the different instruments as a way of playing around with different arraignments.
Besides software solutions, there’s also hardware that’s making it possible for musicians to feel like they’re in the studio together even if they aren’t. The most interesting hardware might just be Google Glass.
Sound engineer Young Guru joined the Google Glass explorer program late last year and began advocating that the headset had a definite place among recording artists. The thought was that since Glass allows for hands-free, first-person video chats, the same level of in-studio collaboration could be simulated among recording artists.
Glass has the potential to solve some of the issues around getting everyone together in a studio, even if it wasn't designed for that. Professionals like Guru, who has produced the majority of Jay Z’s albums, are at the forefront of transforming what a recording studio looks like.
The recording studio will never fully disappear, just like physical media or live concerts won’t ever go away. But make no mistake: The recording studio will never be the same.
[Image: Flickr user Vancouver Film School]