If anyone should be listened to about the state of the music business and increased use of technology in music production, it's Tony Visconti. This is the man who has worked on 'over 20' David Bowie records, and produced a vast range of artists including Thin Lizzy, T Rex and Sparks.
In a recent interview with Super Deluxe Edition, he let rip at the state of the biz today, why there's no room for a new Bowie, and why 'some young person who is a whiz on the laptop' is the only target of today's record company execs.
And you can guess what he thinks of Auto-Tune…
The Visconti interview was conducted in celebration of the launch of a new vinyl and CD boxset, Produced by Tony Visconti, which contains releases spanning the producer's complete career. Visconti discussed that career and how both the music business and studio technology have changed over that six decades, so there was a lot to cover.
But a producer of his ilk and back catalogue has every right to (quite) a few 'it was better in my day' digs.
"The '70s was such a golden decade," Tony said, "because people were making real records [in] real studios, with great musicians and we didn’t have Auto-Tune. Record labels signed people who were great, they didn’t sign a cute looking person and then fix the voice, fix the image, [and] Photoshop the photos. Everything’s repeated, everything is fixed to death. There is no idiosyncrasy in the vocals anymore, unless they do Auto-Tune on purpose."
He's got a point, we guess.
And on the record industry now, Visconti had this to say: "They almost bypass producers completely and go with some young person who is a whiz on the laptop and makes their own stuff."
Although he did have some good words for such computer productions, so don't bin your laptops just yet.
"People now have studios in their laptop. They send me like these enormous demos. And sometimes we just take them and put them into my Pro Tools. And we just build up the demos, because they’re so good."
So it's certainly not musicians and producers that earn the ire of the iconic producer, but more the industry behind it, as Visconti concludes.
"People are still making organic music, but labels are frightened of that. Labels never had courage to break new ground; it happened in spite of them. You get someone like Marc Bolan coming up, or a Bowie. The times now aren’t right for a new Bowie to come out. He would be too radical. You wouldn’t sound like the top 10. We don’t have enough geniuses making records anymore."
He's got another point. Here's Heroes.
Finally, Visconti summed up his long career on a positive note: “I’m very pleased with my life’s work. I’ve worked over five decades, and I’m still working!“