Robair Report: Let Them Make Music

Mar 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Gino Robair


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One only has to look at a popular service such as Jammit (, which offers instrumentalists access to multitrack material by well-known artists for educational purposes. Once you download the song you want to play, you can isolate the part you’d like to learn, slow it down if you need to, remove the recorded version from the mix so you can jam along, and even do a video-capture of yourself as you jam with the track. Each song costs a couple of bucks: Fun for the fans, and another revenue stream for artists and rights holders.

By the time my students are old enough to attend my college-level recording course, they already know how to use a mixer and how to source a cappella vocals from their favorite songs to create mash-ups. They’re merely taking my class to learn how a mic works and to increase the quality of their work. The technology is already second nature to them.

I’m always amazed to hear professional musicians and producers complain that “there’s already too much music out there,” or that “no one is making good music anymore.” It’s easy to feel that way if all you do is listen to Clear Channel stations or read Billboard magazine. Gain the trust of a high-schooler, and he or she might share their favorite music with you: That’s often where the innovation is. To put it in corporate-speak: There are vast populations of young people who are not being served by the music industry, so they’ve created their own ecosystem to fill the vacuum.

We all agree that music sales will never return to the way they were. Fortunately, the artists who were born in the ’90s are blissfully unaware of earlier paradigms, so they don’t carry the expectations of previous generations. They make and distribute art, period. They find clever ways to sell music and merch, play concerts in places that are off the radar of the local press, and communicate using social media that you won’t hear about for a year or two. Most importantly, they don’t think in terms of scarcity like we do. Exposure is their currency. Even if they’re just posting their mash-ups or machinima on YouTube, their goal is to put as much compelling content online as possible and use it to build an audience (while generating serious Google AdSense revenue).

It’s important to note that the concepts of sharing, collaboration and community are ingrained in these youngsters, and they gravitate naturally toward technologies that enable them. Good ol’ MIDI 1.0 remains an integral part of it.

And despite what some of the NAMM panelists suggested, there is indeed a concerted effort by many manufacturers and developers in the MI space to collaborate on the follow-up to the MIDI 1.0 spec, as evidenced by the move toward finalizing the HD Protocol Specification ( What few realize is that this project will play an important role in saving the music business by enabling innovation that helps future audiences regain an appreciation and respect for content creators.

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