Sweet-sounding technology

20 Dec 2002

Anyone who has ever been in a band will be all too familiar with the trials and tribulations involved. While writing songs, rehearsing and performing live shows is one challenge, a far greater one lies in finding a wider audience for your music and attracting the attention of a record label.

For many years, most bands followed a well-trodden path, which involved recording a demo tape and sending copies to every record company they could think of. However, new media technologies have begun to change the process. For a start, affordable CD production means that the cassette has begun to become obsolete. Secondly, the advent of audio over the internet in the form of MP3s means that bands now have a new channel for distributing their music.

One company that is seeking to get the most from the opportunities offered by new technologies is Mediacraft, a Dublin-based media production company. Mediacraft has just moved into a new building and construction of a new studio is now well under way.

Beginning early in the new year, the company is planning to launch an all-in-one recording and publishing solution for bands. The package on offer will involve the band coming into the studios to record a session. After editing and post-production, the band can then order a run of CDs, anything from 10 copies upwards.

Bands also have the option of showcasing their music on Latido (www.latidomusic.com), an Irish-based website offering both audio and video downloads. The deal with Latido is non-exclusive, which means a band can cease its presence at any time and also distribute its music through other outlets and websites. An internet radio show involving featured bands is also in the offing on Latido.

The man behind Mediacraft is Tony Faulkner, (pictured) who has a background in the music business. He started as a tape operator and worked his way up to assistant engineer in Dublin’s famous Windmill Lane Studios and worked with artists such as U2 and Gilbert O’Sullivan. After a spell freelancing in London during the late Eighties and early Nineties, Faulkner returned to Dublin, where he set up Mediacraft in 1996.

The company was set up to target what Faulkner saw as an opportunity of providing audio production to corporate clients in fields such as computer games and advertising. However, the company’s business quickly acquired a broad scope and skills such as graphics, animation and later web design were added to the mix. Nowadays, the company is a full media production company, specialising in localisation with a strong emphasis on audio recordings.

According to Faulkner, new technologies have had a huge impact on the music business. “The advent of PC-based audio is a similar revolution to that brought about by desktop publishing,” he said. “It is now possible to record and produce using a PC. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that just anyone can achieve professional results. It has brought a lot of amateurs into the field, although some of them have become quite talented over time. The big impact is that the cost has come down enormously,” he said.

While the PC has had a big effect on audio production, the web is having a similar effect of music distribution and Faulkner has lots to say on the matter. “As time goes by, the web has begun to affect the business considerably. I am not sure if the big corporates will be able to hold out much longer if they continue with their current practices. A lot of consumers feel as if they are being ripped off. To date, the attitude of the record companies has been one of defence. Measures such as copy protection have begun to get on people’s nerves,” he said.

Faulkner believes that astute online companies could begin to steal the market if things don’t change. “Take the example of an online company which showcases a number of bands. It would be able to monitor which band is being downloaded the most and then carefully puts its resources behind that band to promote them further,” he said. “It takes an element of uncertainty out of promoting new acts,” he added.

As for revenues, he feels that consumers don’t have a problem for paying for something they like as long as they aren’t being exploited. A flexible and less controlled business model may be the answer. “I think a lot of people would like the freedom to create their own product. They don’t want to have to buy a CD just to get a couple of good songs and 10 tracks of filler. Instead, they may prefer to download the five or six tracks they like and pay for them,” he said.

With new technology making inroads into the music industry, the number of alternative solutions available to musicians is greater than ever before. The only danger facing bands is that they get carried away with the technology and lose focus on what is most important – the music itself.