By Judge Mental | January 8, 2009
This blog was written a few months ago after coming back from a conference with bags of demo CDs. The same still applies today with the thousands of mp3s in my inbox. Enjoy.
Question A: Why is it that when a DJ used to get a record from an artist it almost always had an engineered and radio quality sound, but now 75% of what DJs get acoustically sounds like crap? Answer: GDS
Question B: Why is it that DJs currently receive more new music submissions per day than they did per week only a few years ago? And even then, still receive fewer hit potential songs per week? Answer: GDS
Question C: Why is it that the average “Hit” album only has 2 “Hits” on it, and consumers are more interested in downloading a single versus buying an album? Answer: GDS
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m going through a stack of about 100 CDs handed to me one night (yes ONE night) at a music industry networking event. After listening to the first 20 songs or so, I’m angry at the amount of crap I’ve been handed and told that it was “that next hot shit”. Besides the fact that in twenty songs from twenty different artists they all had the same subject matter (money, cars, hoes, drugs), my biggest upset was the quality of the recordings. Now behind me is a wall of records with hits and misses from various artists ranging from the 70’s to early 2000. Of those records, I guarantee absolutely none of them sound acoustically as bad as any of the ones that I am subjected to listening to today.
What do I mean by acoustically bad? At some point the records behind me were a) recorded in a studio with quality equipment, b) mixed by someone with mixing experiences, most likely a professional, c) tweaked by an engineer, and d) mastered by a professional. The songs that I am critiquing now sound as if they were recorded on the cheapest microphones with no signs of an audio professional assisting with the mix down, engineering, or mastering. Yet somehow, these artists have created songs, pressed it (to CD) and are mass distributing it to the public by hand and over the internet. No, I’m not amazed by the process; technology is one of the greatest things that has happened to the music industry. I’m amazed at how even though artists CAN record a song and distribute it to the masses without anyone else’s opinion, that no one has told them that they shouldn’t! Sure you can debate me with a YouTube/Soulja Boy story, but even then I’ll tell you that he didn’t have commercial success until someone stepped in to make the song sound better than it did when he recorded it himself (believe me, I heard the distorted original.) OH WAIT, MAYBE I’M MISTAKEN….are all of these CDs just DEMOs? Demo, what the hell is a demo you ask? In case you forgot, the demo was the best recording that a struggling artist could make in order to give to a label executive that may possibly give them a deal and put them in a real studio. If these are all demos, fine, I ain’t mad at ya for the crappy recording. Just don’t expect major label treatment (club play, radio play, etc) when you have “demo” quality.
Which brings me to this sickness that has plagued the rap segment of the music industry; I call it GDS or Gatekeeper Deficiency Syndrome. Artist are jumping the gun and distributing their work to the world without checking with any of the Gatekeepers! Here come the lashings….don’t worry I can take it. Why do we need Gatekeepers you ask? Gatekeepers help you keep from distributing your unprofessional/rough demo to the world before you are ready to be heard. They help keep you from spending your entire budget recording and promoting an album all year that is not worthy of an old-school cassette walkman speaker, let alone a radio broadcast. I guarantee out of this stack of 100 CDs with poor recordings, 10 of the groups have wrapped promotional vehicles and thousands of dollars spent on promotional material like flyers, CDs, and posters.
To understand how this disease is ravaging the industry and why artists NEED Gatekeepers, let me give you some examples of whom some the Gatekeepers are (somewhat from the bottom up):
- The Ears (producers, mixers, engineers that say whether or not the music “Sounds” right)
- The DJs – People who (are supposed to) have an ear for good music and give honest opinions about bad music
- A&R Execs – People who filter out the good to find the best. Then take those and develop them into a complete package both musically and visually
- Executive Producers – those that make sure that the music has all of the right elements before presenting it to the public (tracks, writers, quality recording, etc)
- Other Label Execs – whoever cuts the check when and only when all of the gatekeepers below him think that it’s time to “push the go button” on a project.
- (Notice I did not include, your momma, your family, your smokin’ partners, your home boys, or your girlfriend/boyfriend. Trust me, they will lie to you because they care about your feelings more than your career)
I’m a professional DJ/Producer. Despite the fact that I am one of the most progressive and current DJs on the scene, I have been a DJ for a long time (I’m not however ready to admit, how long). I am a Gatekeeper. I care more about your career than your feelings; therefore I am usually labeled as Brutally Honest by my peers. By listening to all of these CDs today I will let a couple through my gate. In my case, that’s FM Radio and Mix CD exposure. The more Gatekeepers who review the music before me, the easier my job is. The more CDs that I and other DJs review, the easier the job for the Gatekeepers after us. Point being, any song that gets past any gatekeeper has proven to be a better song than those left behind and that artist will have a much more successful trip through the music industry.
Artists that suffer from GDS, choose to bypass all Gatekeepers and distribute directly to the public. If you are an artist you’re probably thinking: Yeah I have a right to skip Gatekeepers and go straight to the consumer. However if you think along the lines of being the consumer, how would you feel if you turned on the TV to watch an NBA game and all you saw were a bunch of high school kids who thought in their mind they were as good as Michael Jordon so they decided on their own that they are in the NBA. Or better yet, you go to the doctor and he says “No, I didn’t go to school and no one approved my skills as a doctor, I just got up this morning and decided that I’ve watched enough ER and Scrubs to do what doctors do…so get undressed please.” Do you get it now?
If an artist suffering from GDS does manage to earn a career, it is as short as the money they will make. Don’t get me wrong, an artist can luck up and make a hot song, maybe even without a gatekeeper, but even then, he/she won’t luck up and make a hot album. Can we say “ring tone artist” boys and girls?
Artists take your time. Develop your craft. Seek the opinions of true Gatekeepers. We are here for a reason. Consumers, the next time some new artist hands you a CD or a link to their website that has bad music, offer them this information or simply donate to the National GDS Society to save Gatekeeper Deficient musicians. Now I must go. I’ve got 80 more GDS suffers to attend to.
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