The bedroom studio is an apt solution to cost reduction, continuous music creation, and sustainable connectivity; but what long-term impact would it have on the integrity of live performance and the underlining sense of community? 睡房式獨立音樂製作模式解決資源財力有限和跨區隔閡的問題,也是COVID-19 期間的及時雨。但有那些長遠的負面影響?

**feature image courtesy of Viola Gaskell

 

Independent Music Production Methods

Before the 1990s, when the internet was not as prevalent, and trans-local and national systems and networks were not as assessable and prevalent as the current day, it may be easier to look at systems of independent music as isolated ‘scenes’. Even then, seemingly independent locales were interlinked with each other. For example, during the 1990s, Hong Kong local rock band Sisters of Sharon introduced monthly publications dubbed Sharon Monthly and distributed the newsletter worldwide (Chris B). In present day, local scenes are not just confined to one ‘locale’. As music can easily be disseminated online, “people can connect easily across localities, regions, countries, and continents (Kruse 625).”

The ease of cross-locale connection can be observed with distant production methods, where musicians, producers, directors, and other crew members are not in the same physical location as each other while writing or recording, or a mode that is called “bedroom production.” This rising method of production facilitated this shift in music production methods, and helped musicians adapt quickly under COVID-19.

A bedroom studio is usually situated in the artists’ home or place of residence, with amateur or semi-professional gear situated inside the studio such as audio equipment, monitors, cables, amplifiers et cetera. Technological advancements since the 1990s saw the popularisation of home computers, and with this popularisation came advancements in audio software, decreasing costs of audio equipment used in home and bedroom studios. The universalization of the home computer not only “drastically reduced the cost of high-quality recording, but substantially decreased the gap between ‘home’ and ‘professional’ recordings (Cole).” Therefore, artists and musicians on a budget can now create music of ‘professional’ or ‘commercial’ quality with a hobbyist budget for gear and equipment; often consisting of just a laptop, a digital audio workstation, headphones, and a MIDI keyboard.

 

Choosing Bedroom Studios Over Traditional Studios

A huge factor that may influence whether an artist chooses a bedroom studio for music production, rather than a traditional studio is the factor of money. Economically, using a bedroom studio for music production may be a wise choice, due to the availability of the space, the low cost of equipment, and the lack of a rental fee. As the studio is situated in artists’ place of residence, the availability of the studio is not determined by a company or an organisation – rather, the artist can utilise the studio whenever they want. The decreasing cost of modern audio equipment and software also fuelled the transition of production methods from utilising traditional studios to bedroom studios, further decreasing in-person activity within musicians.

Some artists choose a hybrid approach as well, utilising traditional studios to supplement the bedroom studio. Percussion and vocals are two common elements for which professional acoustic treatment, equipment and space are needed for recording, and which the average bedroom studio cannot provide.

In Hong Kong, the popularity gain of the bedroom studio can be observed as well, albeit slightly lagging behind major culture exporters such as the United Kingdom and the United States (Hugo Fu).  During a personal interview, local musician and writer Hugo Fu explains his concerns within bedroom music production in Hong Kong:

“Everyone is starting to use bedroom studios to create music. Technology can help us a lot, as face-to-face sessions are not a requirement anymore for music creation. Hong Kong trails behind in this regard. As Hong Kong’s land is limited, the bedroom studio can be the ultimate solution for this problem. At the same time, this may cause community influence to dwindle. Ultimately, a community is all about interpersonal interactions. I believe that music is never about the pure technicality of a musician, or the recording skills of an engineer. Music has always been about personal relationships – no matter commercial or independent, relationships are not a shameful thing. One could play shows they normally couldn’t play or be promoted by others via personal connections.”

(Interview: Hugo Fu, 2021)

 

However, the rise in popularity of the bedroom studio also brought some consequences within the community. Hugo Fu believes that bedroom studios may lead to the decline of the indie community and its cohesiveness. As discussed earlier, proximity between artists and the opportunity for face-to-face interactions are both crucial in creating a sustainable cultural cluster. The bedroom studio, combined with the effects of COVID-19, may further decentralise and disintegrate the existing naturally formed clusters with its lack of in-person interactions and remote method of production.

 

Citation

B., Chris. Personal interview. 23 Jan 2021.

Cole, Steven James. “The Prosumer and the Project Studio: The Battle for Distinction in the Field of Music Recording.” Sociology, vol. 45, no. 3, 10 June 2011, pp. 447–463., doi:10.1177/0038038511399627.

Fu, Hugo. Personal interview. 30 Jan 2021.

Kruse, Holly. “Local Identity and Independent Music Scenes, Online and Off.” Popular Music and Society, vol. 33, no. 5, 13 Oct. 2010, pp. 625–639., doi:10.1080/03007760903302145.

Kruse, Holly. “Subcultural Identity in Alternative Music Culture.” Popular Music, vol. 12, no. 1, Jan. 1993, pp. 33–41., doi:10.1017/s026114300000533x.

 

Biography. Creative media graduate Elliott Wan is a co-founder of local promoter group Ying Dak Collective as well as the front-person for local indie rock act Strange Lives and post-punk project KVYLE. Elliott ended their bachelor’s studies by analysing how events in recent years, namely the closure of This Town Needs, the rise of localism, and the pandemic have affected the local independent music industry. They will begin their postgraduate studies at the University of Leeds fall 2021, aiming to continue their studies and research regarding the sociology, economy, and psychology within the music industry and ecosystem.

To read Part [1] [2] [3][4], and [5] of the essay