Every organization related to pro audio has been affected by the democratization of content creation. New, powerful tools that aid songwriting, music creation/production and audio recording have opened the doors to many, many more individuals, whether in music, sound design or post. To illustrate the macro effects of this type of explosive growth, let’s look at the recent experience of ASCAP. According to an article on The Huffington Post by Paul Williams, president and Chairman of the Board for ASCAP, 600 people sign up with the organization every week, which “equals more than 30,000 self-declared, career-minded songwriters per year.” The issue is whether the people who want to make songwriting their career can actually do so given the today’s realities.
Let’s look at it from another angle. If I remember my basic statistics correctly, and songwriting talent follows a normal distribution, then those outside three standard deviations, the outliers, make up 0.3 percent of the total group. Focusing on just the exceptional ones, it becomes half of that. So if the group size is 30,000 songwriters, you can expect 45 exceptional writers to emerge. With 1 million, you get 1,500 potential superstars. As group size increases, so does the number of exceptional songwriters; perhaps they have a chance of being discovered.
Similar things could be said about musicians. Just scan MySpace and Facebook, and you can see that there are thousands and thousands of bands vying for attention. Audio engineers, who work closely with many of them on a daily basis, have a unique vantage point where we see more of the artist than just about anybody. We should look at ourselves as enablers and as catalysts to those who are truly talented and deserve a wider audience.
The same can be said about people dabbling in recording. We should be happy that so many people have taken an interest in what we do. Let’s show them how to do things right at every opportunity that presents itself and bring everybody’s level up, raising the overall bar.
That is what I think stewardship is about: looking to the next generation to see that our craft is preserved and that it is built upon, especially as the number of practitioners has skyrocketed.
—Kirk Imamura, president/director