Why RECORDED MUSIC is BETTER THAN LIVE


Live music is lifeblood.It’s community.It’s a synchronous sharing with strangers and friends.It’s where music was born.And yes this is the same exact intro from last week’s edition.But there’s a different point.It’s that while live music is great, and often revered as the pinnacle of music, I contend it’s rarely ever either of those things. Instead, I’m going to tell you why recorded music is WAY MORE OFTEN as close as humans have come to music perfection.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because of our current social condition.We can’t do in-person live, but we can very much do real-time live online, which has been awesome. As of this podcast, I’ve done nearly 50 online shows, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.It’s been a thrill on almost every level.But I’ll tell you this: The more live I do – in-person or virtual, the more I believe that the vast majority of live music is LAME when compared to the recorded versions.

Let’s bust a myth: Spontaneity & surprise & beautifully flawed idiosyncrasies can only come from live music.Ehnnt! (wrong answer buzzer sound)Inspiration & happy accidents can happen anywhere.As a veteran recording artist & producer, I can tell you that quite often the best parts of my songs have come from the “wild” takes or happy accidents I always leave room for.You get all that live too, but it’s fleeting, almost never integral, and both sonically & musically it’s almost always lesser quality.

Here’s another myth: Live is always more dynamic and visceral.Ehnnt! Musicians can be equally “in the zone” in the studio, and they have the advantage of finding & using the best version of that.Every good recording artist knows how to be dynamic in any setting, and every good producer knows how to bring that out of artists – even the not-so-good-at-recording ones.As a listener, when you’re in a car, or wearing headphones, or playing music LOUD in a room, a song can affect you so much you start to tingle or shout or cry or sing along.

And another: Live is more human and more connected.Ehnnt!EVERYTHING humans create is human – acoustic, electric, electronic, programmed, whatever.And what better way to connect directly with an artist than to hear their song in your head exactly as intended.Artists appreciate this immensely – I know I do.When a recording is done right, when the essence of a song is brought to its fullest realization, it’s the truest version and the closest to the original inspiration.

Okay, in every case here you can get all this from the live experience too.And for those artists & listeners who live & die by live, much respect and deference.So why then is recorded music better than live?Ultimately it comes down to one thing.It’s as close to immortality as we can get.Live music lives & dies just like we do. It’s a one-night stand. Recorded lasts as long as our media & media conversions allow it to.That goes for sheet music as much as sound capturing.Recorded music is commitment. Sameness and repetition can fool us into numbness.But follow down that road ALL THE WAY – listen AT LEAST THREE TIMES to a song, and then 10 and 100 and 1000.And what you get is infinity.Nuance.The mantra of organized sound.

Oh and for those of you who say, “What about live albums?”The VAAAAAAST majority of those are basically the worst of both worlds.None of the real-time visceral experience, coupled with none of the artistic intimacy/nuance a recording artist strives for.So one last huge EHNNT to that.

But let’s use that here to further prove my point.Go pick a song that has both a fully produced recording and a live version, listen to them AT LEAST three times each. Write down all the details that hit your ears, including the things that move you.Then step away from the speakers for a long while, and tell me: Which one stays with you the most?

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© 2018 by Nick DeMatteo

New York, NY