It doesn't have to be "finished"
This one’s mostly for the people who are working on their own music (as opposed to making records for other people / clients / etc). But I think there are ramifications that touch all music-makers’ work!
Like many people reading this list, I grew up in a time when it was extremely burdensome to release music. Everything about recording was expensive, time-consuming, and difficult. So if you were going to put something out into the world — a CD, most likely — you really wanted to make sure that it was as perfect as you could get it.
The effect this had on younger me was to slow me down. My mindset was that I had one chance to get this piece of work right — it was expensive and difficult to make, and there were no redos!
Fast-forward twenty years, and music distribution has completely changed. Now we all primarily release music digitally. And what this means is that now we have redos! And, can I tell you something? It’s transformed how we conceive of our work.
In the past, I would agonize over mix decisions for literally weeks. Back and forth, back and forth. Half a dB up, half a dB down. Set it aside for a week so I could listen with fresh ears, then more half-dB changes. Because making that CD was fixing that mix in place for all time.
Now we have the freedom to get something of Shannon’s to a place where it’s resonating for us, and to just put it out! Because if we revisit it subsequently and realize there’s something we could have done a little better, we can just update the song online. And: I do this a LOT.
For the last few years we’ve been in the habit of releasing records as we make them, as a series of real-time singles. Often the first mix that I upload ends up being the final mix; also, sometimes I will change the mix a number of times over the ensuing days / weeks / months, quietly updating the public version of the song as I work my way through a longer process.
Because nothing’s permanent any more! When you click a song on Spotify, it’s just pulling a file from a server — and changing that underlying file is quick and easy. The song metadata doesn’t change, the stats don’t change — just the mix changes. The line between “finished work” and “work in progress” has been erased. And I think this is a wondrous development.
I’m finding myself working faster and with much less of a sense of anxiety or attachment. We can do our best, and put it out there for people to hear. If subsequently we hear something that we missed, we can amend it and update the public record. Our work can live and evolve and grow in the public phase of its life. How utterly freeing.
New technologies carry new implications — jamie