gear sniping = toxic af

this past weekend in SF i went to see Standing On The Corner ensemble at the smartbomb x SFJazz collab show. it was pretty awesome. i felt inspired by all the vendors and music and got a bunch of cassette tapes and vinyls. i love when people can get together and listen to good music , but there was something specific that’s been on my mind since seeing the show.

the band posted this today on their instagram:

oh man, there’s a lot to break down here.

on a personal note; during the show i went around behind the stage to get a better look at their setup cause i was so interested. it was amazing how many different machines and systems were working together, and i could see the sheet of paper that was helping them guide and navigate it all. that’s a lot of skill! 

i noticed several of the guitar pedals were duck-taped over the front so it was impossible to see what they were, and i was interested by that. i assumed they covered these pedals to prevent people from seeing what they were. my first impression that people might be trying to figure out this sound. 

 

is asking about gear setups (on the internet) such a bad thing? Ofc we see youtube videos all over of musicians showing the exact plugins or synths or hardware they are using, and is this different? how about anthony marinelli who walks through every hardware he used on the thriller album??? i’m seeing a collision of different music cultures here. certain musicians might value the mystery and mystique behind this incredible sound that Standing on the Corner has built. other musicians feel the desire to incorporate this sound for themselves.

my take: if the sound was purely plugins and computer software, i think openly discussing the setup is reasonable. access to software and computer hardware is pretty much infinite, and gatekeeping software doesn’t make sense when considering access, especially as it’s growing so quickly.

on the other hand, vintage music hardware is incredibly low supply, and when demand increases, it can often throw the equilibrium out of balance and force prices to skyrocket or reduce supply completely so only collectors own these pieces. collectors who won’t create music using them.

I believe bands like Standing on the Corner have probably felt the impact of people knowing every exact piece of equipment they use. how?

  • if something breaks or goes out, access to secondary market is limited and they have to then adjust
  • prices are increased and this changes their margin / bottomline (this could be their only source of income)

 

what will make my music sound good ?

in my opinion, people having the same equipment will not make SotC worse of a band, or make a bunch of other people better. but it points to an issue music producers and creators think they have which is “what equipment do i need to buy to make my music sound good”?

it takes a lot of time and skill to develop musical systems like this. they don’t work automatically, they don’t work perfectly, and u probably need to know the basics of soldering and electronics (or someone who does) to keep them functioning. and that is part of being connected and inspired by your tools.

i think the interview of Mike Dean by Anthony Marinelli is a great example of these problems in multiple ways. Mike dean is someone who has spent a lot of his life crafting his synth room and collection of gear. if u know him, he’s a master of synths, and if you watch the video, you can see how deeply connected to the music technology he is. he feels it in his whole body, he doesn’t have to think about the electronics , it’s part of his system. this is one reason he is so great at his work.

many of the synths in his room are incredibly expensive (over priced), low supply, and require a lot of repair and support to keep functioning. there’s a lot of people that buy these synths to use, or buy them to look a certain way because a wall of synths gives you a certain aesthetic. he has the money to afford these synths, keep buying new ones, and pay for constant repairs and upkeep. other musicians who might make equally beautiful music or even better music using the same equipment can’t do so because of access.

with a general understanding of the secondary market for SotC’s setup; it’s pretty fragile. if just 30 people went onto reverb and purchased 2-3 of the same drum machines they use, the market would dry up very quickly. and unless SotC  are making a bunch of money, they could be barred from finding these pieces in the future.

im believing things

when we see musicians being deeply connected to technology, some people want to replicate how it looks without figuring out how it may look for themselves. for some, buying the exact drum machines Standing on the Corner uses will make you look like them, regardless if you can actually use the stuff.

this is what amazing and impactful ART will do. for people that want the look and feel, it will drive them to seek what creates it, so they can mimic it. this exists in a lot of human activities like fashion, food, art & more.

the alternative of this; we should explore our local music store, craigslist, thrift stores, and find cool and unique equipment all around that can inspire us and help us create a unique sound that fits us. i think that equipment that lives and exists in our local environment will give more value than buying our favorite bands drum machine from reverb. we can also have conversations with people and be genuine and not trying to steal sauce.

i’m sure that’s how Standing on the Corner developed their love for gear, and their love for gear allows them to connect deeply to their tools to create impactful sounds.

this is the relationship between technology and humans <3