As music changes, so do the musicians – Music these days can be found in any form, and this has allowed for a new type of musician to step forward.
2013 was an interesting year for connoisseurs of electronic music. The resurgence of vinyl (buying and releasing in the form) continued, as the 90s New York and Detroit vibes made their strongest comeback yet in an underground, full of tech threat to burst into the open. In house music, a more commercial push was made, with strong performances from Disclosure and Duke Dumont seeing house music become arguably the most popular genre of all.
In the case of Disclosure in particular, an argument could certainly be made that the young age of the brothers has contributed largely to their popularity. Guy Lawrence is 22, while Howard is 19. In June 2013, they released their universally acclaimed album “Settle”, but, in reality, their popularity came from the culmination of knowledge in music production amassed over four or five years. When they first started releasing music in 2010, Guy was 18, and Howard was just 15. When asked by Trap Magazine if the duo thought their age had anything to do with the hype surrounding them, older brother Guy replied that “most people are really quite impressed” by their age, and this is indicative of the fact that more and more people appreciate the vibrant dance music culture associated with the youth of today. More importantly, Howard makes another point in the same interview – “It’s easy to produce these days, just on your laptop, so it shouldn’t be so much of a big deal really”.
Perhaps he was being humble, but it inspires the question: How did such a young duo of producers rise to fame so quickly?
One way in which such a rise is possible for producers is through social media. When wanting to release their debut EP in 2011, the duo found that they did not have enough money to clear certain vocal samples, and so they turned to their Facebook fan page; one could download the EP if they ‘liked’ the page – Guy calls this a “huge blessing in disguise”, because the social media avalanche effect led to 10,000 people subsequently liking the page. Support from bass heavyweights live Skream quickly followed on the same site; through Facebook, and also Soundcloud, more and more people were exposed to the duo’s music. Granted, the music they made was good, but good technology is more than readily available in this day and age.
In reality, all one needs is a laptop, an internet connection and some reasonably good headphones to get started. Perhaps not even a laptop; the rise of music production apps for the iPad is well documented, with software companies seeing a huge market for such products after the inspiration provided by acts such as Disclosure. Software such as Ableton, Reason and Fruity Loops is all available to download; the illegal pirating of this software is perhaps not something that producers want to discuss, but is often a vital factor contributing to the beginning of their rises. The accessibility of ready-made loops and sounds from more experienced producers online means that it is much easier to replicate and warp sounds than ever before. But this leads to problems; there is a large feeling within the realm of electronic music that there is simply not enough originality going round, and young producers such as Martin Garrix (who released the hit “Animals” in 2013) and Cedric Gervais have had great success from replicating sounds remarkably similar to others, and this is now part of the culture in electronic music.
James Blake, nominated for “Best new Artist” at the Grammy Awards in 2014, confesses to making all of his music out of his one-bedroom flat, while Skrillex – who won three Grammys in 2013, talks of “making records on laptops and blown speakers” with some pride, and this summarises the notion that people can produce music of exceptionally high quality, through taking a minimalistic, modern approach.
This article is not a complete appraisal of such bedroom producers, and it is hard to envisage such producers as Aphex Twin or Daft Punk being able to appreciate a style of production that, simply put, requires less talent and effort than ever before. Their frequent use of live instruments and recording, bearing more in common with most other styles of music, is a world away from the examples of Martin Garrix and Skrillex. The examples of the latter two are often cited negatively when people complain about the lack of originality in music today; however, the resurgence in older music and the talents of such producers as Disclosure, James Blake, and the increasingly popular Jon Hopkins ensures there is enough originality to go round. Perhaps we should be happy at the accessibility of production material and the ability to easily use it; it provides a productive hobby for some, a viable career route for others, and – for those who hold a certain love of music – the potential to be able to chase a dream.
This article was written by Henry Weekes