Before the internet, if a musician wanted to release a song, they would need a recording studio, sound equipment, the means to create physical records, and a record deal. Now, releasing a song can completely be done online and even for free. Developments in recording apps and a rise in social media use have opened doors to music production for many young people, including Berkeley High School (BHS) students who may not have had access twenty years ago.
“Anybody with a computer in their room can make a song, so it’s definitely a more diverse pool of people getting into [music production],” said BHS junior, musician, and song-writer Dexter Griffin. “You can really come from nothing and blow up huge.”
The possibility of a random song blowing up on Spotify, Instagram, or TikTok pushes artists to create more music and take risks. The sheer amount of music being released is increasing; tens of thousands of songs are released daily to Spotify alone.
“People are pushing creatively to stand out, and that’s what it takes when you have competition,” said musician and BHS senior Liam Morehouse. “You’re gonna have people innovating, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”
“It’s really cool how easy it is,” said percussionist, producer, and BHS junior Flora Sullivan. “[Accessibility to recording software] makes it so much easier for people that don’t have the money to [rent a studio] to make really good music and to show their culture through their music.”
For two hundred dollars, anybody with a computer can buy Logic, a music app that Grammy-winning pop star Billie Eilish used to record many of her earlier songs. In the past 20 years, a number of apps and websites have been created that allow artists to record out of their bedrooms, needing only a computer and microphone.
Sites like Logic also allow musicians to easily access and sample thousands of sounds made by other artists. Sullivan explained that as a drummer, she is able to integrate percussion from around the world into her music, which creates a unique sound and adds to a multitude of blended genres that have been made possible by the internet.
Access to networking over the internet has allowed BHS freshman and producer Avi Spanier to sell the beats he produces to rappers. He also meets other musicians from across the country to collaborate with. “A lot of bigger rappers will just post ‘send me beats’ and then drop their email, so I can just send a few things to them,” he explained. Even giving rappers a beat for free can boost his publicity, so it’s a worthy investment.
For Berkeley Independent Study (BIS) junior and drummer Daniel Goellner, the internet has allowed him to meet and form a band called Cabin Boy, with two of the members living in Liverpool and Boston. Although the three of them have never met in person, they have recorded an album, which was released on Spotify and Apple Music.
The process for playing and recording with people in other timezones is definitely unorthodox. One member will record themselves playing something and send it to the other members, who will then record themselves playing over the original clip and send it back. Many young artists like Goellner are looking to the internet and social media as ways to form musical projects.
While the internet has brought many positive changes for musicians, the near replacement of physical records like CDs with online streams has significantly lowered the possible income for small artists. The typical revenue on apps like Spotify is around 0.003 cents per stream, or two to four dollars per thousand streams.
“Although a lot of artists are now able to put their music pretty easily onto all these different platforms, they’re also not making any money,” Griffin explained. This means that musicians need to sell merchandise, make brand deals, and tour in order to get by.
Griffin and Morehouse have produced music together, but both acknowledged that it’s difficult to see a profit. Their song “No Alarm” has 50,000 streams on Spotify, but they only made a forty dollar return.
The blend of the music industry and the internet has created both new opportunities and new challenges for independent artists. It’s likely that the next few decades will create even more change in how we make and share music.