Just the other week I was lucky enough to attend the 2017 AES Convention at the Javits Center in New York. It just so happened to coincide with my cousin Adam's wedding, which brought me into the Empire State for the weekend so I figured what the hell? Maybe I'll meet some of "my people" and try out some expensive gear.
For those of you who you don't know, AES is the Audio Engineering Society trade show where hundreds of audio companies come to showcase their products to thousands of industry professionals. It's pretty cool.
The show was definitely a good time, even if I found it to be surprisingly as expected. I spent the day perusing the various booths feeling like a kid in a candy store. I particularly loved being able to pull up to an $8500 Telefunken U47 and try it out on my voice. Let's just say that while it may not be a wise financial decision for a budding music producer, it certainly does do magic to your voice.
Maybe it was the way that Dave Pensado casually stepped into main hall with zero fanfare (turns out he's really tall!), but I was struck by how normal everybody there was. Okay, maybe "normal" is pushing it for people that are obsessed with audio. Still, even the big names at the Mix With the Masters and Waves booths seemed like the rest of the regular guys to me, happy to be there doing their thing. Despite our various backgrounds and where we might live, we all share that passion for sound and we struggle with similar obstacles.
This led me to my big revelation: it's not just me! Everybody in this industry seems to be working on their own; handling their projects solo in a room by themselves. I think we all kind of get down about the work that we do because when you work by yourself, you don't have anybody else validating your process. I found this to be uplifting, really. What a sense of relief to find out that maybe I'm not that bad after all!
I also think that many of us feel like everybody else is judging us from afar. The fact that some people are mean and judgmental (rather than supportive) on the internet forums heightens this insecurity that many of us feel that we're just not as good as the other people who are doing this. Why? Because we don't get to talk to anyone in person anymore and it's easier to troll than to give constructive criticism on the internet.
Moreover, this trend of flying solo has a tendency to make us approach potential gigs with a sense of scarcity. We spread ourselves thin trying to take on any and all projects on our own - recording, producing mixing, mastering - doing all of it instead of collaborating. No specializing. Jack of all trades, master of none. We've grown to fear working with others lest they steal our nut.
Granted, there's a reason this has happened. The once multi-complex recording facility now fits on your laptop; artists don't stand a chance at generating direct revenue from the product we help them create. It's a tough world no doubt, but it's tougher on your own.
I think it's time as a community that we come together and support each other by meeting in person, talking shop and forging relationships. I think it's time to share our work with our peers so that we can validate the sounds that we hear. I think it's time to have each other's back and fill in the professional gaps that everybody has. We're only human after all.
I think collaboration will lead to growth in our field and at the very least help us share this journey together. I'm planning on meeting up with other audio professionals in my city and I encourage you to do the same. Let's start a conversation.