If we continue the path we are on, the future is bleak for those studying to be recording engineers. Recording studios need artists in order to stay in business. While they do not require that the artists themselves be financially successful, it is certainly true that a healthier fiscal environment for artists leads to more income for studios. You won’t get a lot of repeat business if every band you record goes bankrupt immediately after producing an album. So, if it is nearly impossible for artists to make decent money on their recordings (the current digitally based trend), then a very small number of artists will be able to justify using the services of a professional studio. If only a few artists need studios, only a few studios need to be in business.
Fortunately, if you shift the focus towards artists releasing albums as apps, there is suddenly the potential for a revitalization of both the artist and studio communities. The evidence is mounting that apps are becoming the best way to distribute art and make a profit.
For Album 2.0 projects to come to fruition, somebody needs to build an app. Recording engineers are in an unique position to add the necessary skill set to their arsenal. Building Album 2.0 apps will require understanding music, the ability to communicate with artists, being comfortable using tools that manipulate audio data, and having some ability to code. Most decent engineers only need to add the coding part to their repertoire. Eventually, much of the necessary coding will be mitigated by tools that are developed to service the emerging Album 2.0 industry.
Having someone on staff at a studio who is capable of building Album 2.0 apps also has the potential to improve both the efficiency of the workflow and the quality of the final product. That person would have immediate, intimate knowledge of all of the audio files for the project, and how they are related. Such access and awareness would make it easier to understand the dynamism the artist is seeking, and speed development.
So, where will engineers find this specialized training? There are already institutions with models requiring only modest tweaking. Full Sail is a well known educator for entertainment, media, and the arts. They currently offer Bachelor of Science degrees in both Recording Arts and Software Development. It certainly doesn’t seem like it would be much of a stretch to create a hybrid Album 2.0 track. Full Sail is one of many institutions which could develop such a program.
Over time, it will get easier for engineers to add the ability to make Album 2.0 apps. In addition to creating tools that manage audio assets destined for an Album 2.0 project, we can encourage the community to develop open source code templates for Album 2.0 projects on GitHub. The first Album 2.0 apps will likely require a lot of bespoke code. They are going to be very “manually” created. Over time, however, as the available tools and open source code gets better, it will be more about understanding the workflow than doing the nitty gritty coding.
Album 2.0 has great potential for creating jobs in the industry. Recording engineers and producers may add coding skills to their knowledge base to increase marketability. Some studios may choose to hire Album 2.0 specialists to round out their team. Studios that can offer Album 2.0 as an in-house service will have a competitive edge. Additionally, much like the mastering process, third party Album 2.0 service companies could work with the studios to create the finished project.
Let’s not forget about another advantage to being a recording engineer who knows how to code: when the shit hits the fan and you need another gig, you have a secondary skill. A skill which is highly sought after and can be very lucrative.