I’ve got pneumonia. The doctor took a look at my chest x-ray and told me I’ve got a full-blown case of pneumonia. If I had gone to an emergency room they would have admitted me. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I got a shot, picked up some antibiotics, an inhaler, a steamer, and some mucinex from the local CVS and hunkered down for another evening of coughing. This is not pleasant. The doctor called this morning to find out how I was feeling. Nothing much has changed. Another doctor, a radiologist, confirmed that I have lost a lot of my lung capacity and may have to be admitted to the hospital. Let’s hope the drugs kick in and I have a better night. My trip to Montana is in jeopardy.
Thus the reason for the brief rant.
One of my tenants, a young musician, engineer, remixer, and producer returned from Bogota today. We talked about what he’s got planned for the early part of the year. He does remixing for big name artists…Maroon 5 and others…for Interscope Records. And according to him, so do about 30-60 other remixers. He told me how it works. The label people enlist the services of dozens of wanna be remixers and give each one of them a copy of the “stems” for a particular hit song. The stems are the individual multitrack music elements that the band recorded in the studio. Sometimes they are grouped into “submixes” but generally speaking we’re talking about all of the instrumental and vocal elements. The job of a remixer is to reassemble the tune into a dance or alternative version with heavy beats, new parts, tempo changes etc. Big time remixers can get as much as $25,000 per mix. But the 60 or so young wanna be remixers do it for free in the hopes that the label will select their version to release. And so that someday they will be famous and highly paid.
That’s right. The labels let all of these struggling engineer/producers spent countless hours in front of their laptops or small home studios as a sort of competition. Only one “lucky” remixer is selected…the rest are told, “thanks very much but your stuff didn’t make it”.
Can the young wanna be engineers insist that they won’t work for free? Of course not! The path to fame and fortune is through these trenches. But it seems like a yank to me. It’s a system of supply and demand…and the supply far outweighs the demand. Everyone wants to be a star. I know I did when I can to LA to be part of the industry. But I can tell you that I rarely worked for free.
And how are the various mixes evaluated and judged. The label guys have small computer speakers on the desks and they listen through MP3s of the remixes that were emailed to them. They give each a brief listen and then move on to the next try. Guess which one’s grab the attention of the label gurus? The loudest ones…the ones with the biggest bass or the most distortion. The same thing happens when label executives compare masters for the original Maroon 5 tracks. The loudest one wins.
So why do we need devices like Pono or expensive power cables? To hear the great fidelity coming from the majors? No way.