Algorithmic mastering tools like Landr are revolutionizing the way we make music, but there's another technological phenomenon happening in the recording studio: portability.
"Working remotely is probably a good half of my business," says recording engineer and songwriter Warren Huart. "I play keyboards on most of my stuff, but I also have a programmer I use who lives elsewhere. We just email backwards and forwards all day. He works in Logic; I work in Pro Tools."
While Huart—who worked on Aerosmith’s last album Music From Another Dimension as well as the first two albums from The Fray—may just use email most of the time to trade tracks, part of the remote working boom is coming from tools that can help bridge the gap between people.
Musistic, for example, is one of those tools. The plug-in allows you to share raw tracks regardless of the recording software being used. The transfer is uncompressed and happens quickly, meaning collaboration could be happening in different locations at the same time.
"The time it took to ship hard drives or import files from Dropbox just sucked the life out of any creativity we had," says Musistic CMO Joel Halpern. "Problems with the non-compatibility of DAW software, even different versions of the same software (Pro Tools in particular), added to this downtime."
This type of audio plug-in isn’t something you’d notice walking into a million-dollar recording studio, but it is a big part of the evolution happening. It also isn't exactly new, it’s been happening and getting better ever since Waves introduced the first audio plug-in in 1992.
One of the people that helped spark the algorithm revolution at Waves was Shachar Gilad.
"I do think these algorithms, presets, and plug-ins really do help in two ways," says Gilad. "First, they get musicians closer to being independent. Getting you closer—even if not all the way—is important. And second, they are great learning tools. They offer insight and you can play with them in your home for as long as you want, A/Bing, choosing different presets and trying to understand what sounds good and why."
Gilad has since started SoundBetter, a services marketplace to find audio professionals. Because although the new wave of software tools are great for beginners and home enthusiasts, that’s not where the recording industry stops.
Music recording is still, and always will be, a highly trained skill. Even though the next evolution for the recording studio is more access to anyone interested, the tools don't guarantee quality. That's why the professionals shouldn't be worried about an algorithm taking their job.
Access shouldn’t be discounted, it allows those with a passion to gain the experience and training, but access also shouldn’t be confused with skill.
"Will the algorithm help the guy with the average to not very good mix to make it sound really even, and loud, and crunchy, and all things that he wants to get? Yeah, of course it will," says recording engineer Warren Huart. "I think all the mastering engineers that are upset, all the people that are upset, have to remember that it’s not about them. It’s fulfilling the home recordist."
While the recording studio is being revolutionized by Internet based tools, its story is also part of the larger sharing economy trend. Technology is connecting people to inactive equipment, similar to how Airbnb is leveraging people’s apartments, and that’s extending into music.
FreshSessions, for example, is like Airbnb for recording artists, voice-over talent, and anyone else interested find available studio space to rent on a temporary basis. It helps studios of all sizes cover downtime and gives individuals more opportunities to use spaces possibly cost-prohibitive before.
"Companies operating in the sharing economy space are most valuable to me when their products revolve around sharing skills," says FreshSessions founder and CEO Dan Miller. "Although the barriers are increasingly being lowered to acquire knowledge and new skills, many people will not fully invest the time to do so, which is fine, because that presents an opportunity for platforms that can easily connect the two parties."
The music sharing economy is also bigger than any new app or service, these startups are finding creative ways to harness the power of individuals into cold hard cash. The Internet’s promise, and why it destroyed music sales, was always in leveraging connectedness.
SparkPlug.it is tapping into that potential as well by letting people with unused instruments rent them out. Everything from traveling to wanting a specific model of guitar to record an album with, there’s a million different reasons why someone might need to borrow/rent some gear for day or two. Before SparkPlug.it, there wasn’t a good option for it.
"This new economy allows musicians to make some money from their resources when they aren't using them. They can offer their apartment when they're on tour, rent out their instruments and equipment when they're between albums, or carve out the times when they aren't using their rehearsal space to supplement the rent," says SparkPlug.it cofounder Jennifer Newman Sharpe.