Shamans of Tech

By Audio Pervert - 4/14/2019

Are you a newbie to electronic music and production? Are you looking for ways to make your music and beats sound better? You, a budding talent that is aspiring for the global charts? Are you struggling with your mixes and getting frustrated in the process? Is your mix not good as Drake's or Jay Z? Are you looking for a mentor or guru to solve your audio-crisis? Welcome and Beware! The internet, especially youtube is flooded with 'shamans', who are here to solve all your music problems, promising you the 'holy-grail' of success and even a place amongst the stars. These self-styled 'gurus' and experts of audio technology have all the answers, secrets and tricks laid out for you. It seems that making music has never been easier, faster - menu and 'mantra' driven. Speedy routines and industry approved methods have nearly obliterated idyllic creativity and individual character. We are taking a critical look, searching for the reasons and consequences behind the spiralling rise of online music experts and the culture of slap-dash knowledge. The 'Shamans Of Tech'. A generation riding the last crest of the wave, of the electronic music revolution, which is audibly and visibly over as of now. Electronic music's delirious collectivity is done-with, now replaced by industrial grade labor and routine.

The age of slap-dash experts. 
Thousands of tech-experts with thousands of videos, all driven to blow your mind, however please don't forget to subscribe, like and share. Harking at you is an armada of tech-propaganda, rolled-out continuously like a treadmill. So what's the big deal, since it's free, open and dispensable (unlike institutional music education)? However it's not actually free nor dispensable, albeit often misleading and at times regressive. Almost always with a covert agenda, replete with exclusive goods, services, content and needless recourses. We call it corporate DIY! Yet again, it's your time, attention and resources being pledged by big market driven forces and exploitation. Hack producers, has-been industry stars, software and hardware brands along-with cherry picked musicians have butchered and sequestered what was once a brilliant global underground culture (and philosophy) just about a decade ago. Industry experts point to the sharp rise of online alternatives as a backlash of institutional elitism and exorbitantly priced courseware, which bars access to formal and technical music education for most aspiring artists. Box Artist and Talent, an agency based in London, states "Electronic musicians generally don't go for formal music education and institutionalised courses. Nor did they care much about working in big studios with the major labels. We can see it through and through with artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Orbital, William Orbit, Massive Attack and Underworld in the 90s. Today it's considered important that a newbie goes to some brand loyal academy or big institution, in order to learn electronic music. Acquire knowledge via industry approved experts and methods. The business of education has made a big shift online because of the sheer unaffordable rates and norms of formal education". 

Cancel your own future?
Into the rabbit hole of expert solution videos, we are promptly bombarded with catchy baits like "Instantly Better" "Master Faster" "Perfect Beats" "The Fattest Drums" "Lush Chords" "Insane Drops" "Crystal Clear Voices" "Pro Solutions" "Best Plugins" "Crazy Transformation" "Banging Bass" and on and on. The frame is pre-set, with the given producer (80% male white) saddled in front of a well-lit backdrop, next to a multichannel console, dabbling with a drop-down menu on a giant LCD screen, constantly talking away - A capsule size spectacle which is often out-sizing their actual talent and discourse. On close inspection of the content, we found ourselves grappling inside an echo-chamber of celebrity cults, hipster hegemony, artistic and technical mediocrity, a general lack of any individualism plus running disdain for the unconventional. These nuggets of knowledge (so they claim) then become the precursor to sell sound libraries, loops, exclusive course material, teeshirts, caps, socks, mugs and even custom designed usb pen-drives. A hard-boiled salesman may sympathise with such a routine. Exceptions matter, yet after a two month period of interrogation, interaction and dialogue with many experts-of-the-scene, it becomes evident that there's very little uniqueness or shared equity between these folks. Most of the upstart producers, Pro-DJs and Ableton certified experts seem to spend less and less time making music, and more and more time online with the aim of netting hit- counts, likes and subscribers, via click-bait ethics and aggressive loud marketing. Add tons of gimmicks, memes and inane intermittent jokes and sound-effects. 'Roasting tracks with their girlfriend' on You-tube, however with no published music and none visible credentials. The cacophony aside, it's rather obvious that this combined fracas is not sustainable, far from a progressive playing field. A 'Snake Oil' Paradise. As leading theorist Mark Fisher commented circa 2016 "Culture which is agreeable and taken for granted, is gradually rendered worthless given the rate of reproduction and it's incapacity to innovate. Our capacity to buy into rubbish has become endless, from what we see everyday on instagram, youtube and across all online media empires." A vast number of artists cancelling their own futures perhaps without even knowing?

And The Winners Are!
AdamIvy - Constantly thumping fists and waving his arms around, Adam Ivy is a veteran of corporate music, yet one who claims to be totally independent, and not giving a damn about the power of big labels, radio, brands and institutions. His mantra in a nutshell? "Regardless if your a producer, DJ, rapper, singer, guitarist or a polka band, you have to learn to market your music and you have to position yourself as the best in the game" Yet that type of 'loose zen' can be utilised by a budding boxer or participants in a talent-show alike...

Andrew Huang - Probably the most jolly and popular online 'hipster guru' as of now. His animated presentations include fast tips to boost creativity, capsule size discourses about modular synths, '10 songs in 10 hours' or using fireworks and coconuts as sounds. The subjectivity doesn't matter here, as this type of 'zen' applies to any type of music (or mostly muzak). Now a favoured face of brands like Native Instruments and Ableton. Here today, gone tomorrow?

Kyle Beats - Emerging beat maker, producer and specialist of Trap, Dubstep and Post Hip-Hop styles. Through the dozens of videos one can't really hear or tell what the big deal about making simple beats (using prefabricated samples) is all about. However our self-styled beat-guru is selling
loops and Wav files for a whopping $99 (lifetime use). That 'beats em all' and we are not left guessing.

Cymatics - Leading sound-library and loop vendor is out to get you regardless of your genre or taste. Cymatic's founder and marketing team are known for their hilarious (totally hoodwink) mass emailers sent every week to prospective clients. Subscribe at your own risk!

Oversampled - Aiden Williams a producer from Poland with "4 years of experience" heads this tech-shop. The offered video courses are mostly aping trending artists and their sounds, like Flume, Porter Robinson, San Holo etc. The protagonist of these videos aims to grab more subscribers, hits and likes with the hope to sell sounds-libraries, drum samples and loops. Warning : Future Bass is a bogus genre to start with.

Reid Stefan - If you fancy muppets, animated effects, loads of gimmicks and memes, then head right over to Whole Loops Company. These folks are offering hundreds of packs containing plugins, loops, sound-libraries and dance beats but wait, packaged as fast food! Might you fancy some 'Hot Tropics Afro-Beats' or 'The Waves Vocal Sauce' or their 'Urban Beet Combos' or even a 'Background Sauce' ?! Anything goes in this Walmart style ready-to-consume gallery. Stupendous and abject marketing, hands down!

Computer Music Magazine  Even as CMM was a pioneer in music-tech journalism and a worthwhile read a decade ago, it too has sequestered quality and reputation, to face the intensely competitive and mediocre tech-race. Now it's mostly 'master-class' talk, laced with marketing jargons and brand loyalty (90% of the featured talent is white and male). Eventually the sales will subvert everything else.

You Suck at Producing - Well we don't, yet maybe you do? However millions of hits and likes auto-validates anything today. YSAP is all about fast and easy ways to overcome problems (technical or creative) with just some tinkering and talking. In reality what may take months if not years to overcome, is now cured via 10 to 15 minute video-capsules. That's the riding mantra behind this channel and it's producer, however with no original music to hear till date.

Outside the debris of industrially manufactured music.
The culture of over-exaggeration  by 'tech-shamans' is irritating yet understandable. Such is the norm of the day, the zeitgeist of a seething roaring mass of artists who want the visibility, the traction and the money, still clinging unto the utterly hopeless dream of making it to the top of the pops. "People can do stuff, doesn't matter what, as it always been done. The debris of industrially made music speaks for itself. As individual artists, one can give up or give into such forces. This on-going battle for public space and attention has now spilled over into our home-studios and bedrooms - right via our computers and smartphones" states T.V Agtoven, a dutch PR specialist speaking at the recent seminar of Internet and Music Rights in Amsterdam. "Online music-tech based education is big business now, yet without a sustainable future given the questionable reputation and ethics of the leading entrepreneurs. Though formal music education, theoretical or technical remains way more expensive, it still does not guarantee fair opportunity or even basic employment. The gap remains as it did 15 or 20 years ago at the advent of this business, now a rat-race of sorts" says Pooja Agarwal, faculty at the Liberal Arts Department at the Berklee School of Music, Boston. Be it online or a real school, one can hardly find any of the pioneers and path-breakers of electronic music, as faculty, experts or even guests. Be it Point Blank School London, Sonic Scoop or The OVO School, pimping star DJs and pop-icons is the new norm, used again and again to entice new students (customers). On the flip side it clearly undermines the value of education, consequently flooding the spectrum with look alike, sound-alike musicians as well eating away at their own futures. What may become of these Tech-Shamans and their slap-dash industry in the near future, is open to speculation. The industry will continue to feed on the treadmill of mediocrity.

Meanwhile, let's go back to the studio, turn on the synthesizers, and make more music...

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