A year ago I read this quote from self-proclaimed expert music biz blogger, Bob Lefsetz:
"We live in a lo-fi era. You can focus on sound quality, but most people can't hear it. There's a chance hi-fi is coming back, but do you really have to spend so much money recording what people can't hear?"
I kept thinking about it all year. I assume that in his mind he thinks every moment spent in the studio that is not a musician laying down fabulous performances is time spent by completely obsessed nerds trying to coax a little more fidelity and special, perfect sound out of some instrument. Swapping out over-priced microphones for no real reason or benefit at all. C'mon Bob, you've claimed to be in this biz long enough to know that's not true.
What takes time in the studio? Beyond the obvious setup time and simply getting everything ready to record a performance, a large part of anyone's time in the studio is spent helping a musician or vocalist work out their parts. Sure, a good musician can come in and lay something down in the right key that "works" in a given song, but most of the time these parts and performances can be refined, and that always takes time. Time spent comping vocals and suggesting notes to sing. Time spent finding the melodies and harmonies that can move a song forward. Time spent arranging a part so it has the most impact.
So what if people are listening on earbuds, via online streaming, or off MP3s. AM radio used to dominate the marketplace and was the key format in which people heard new music. Did the engineers back then decide to record everything to sound like crap since AM radio had such limited bandwidth and dynamics? No, they didn't. The argument that "if the end listening experience isn't full range enough then the recording process is being overvalued" has always been a joke. So in Bob saying that if someone heard a great new song via streaming and went out to buy a CD or vinyl copy and played it on a decent stereo, then they should have a crap listening experience. No one would agree to that.
Bob, we're not needlessly spending money chasing some audiophile fool's dream. We're making records. Real records.
-Larry Crane, Editor