Dissertation – general ideas

‘The creating and consuming of music in the digital age’

This is the basic idea of what I will be researching for my third year dissertation.  I am still interested in understanding the impact technology has had on the world of music, with the internet being an important factor.  It is something that we all use today and has completely revolutionised the way in which people share and consume music.  It is an area that is constantly changing and expanding into new territories and it is because of its importance in music today that I have chosen to study this topic.

I agree with the conclusions I reached in my dissertation literature review but they are not detailed or precise enough.  I will need to expand on my ideas and also give strong alternative arguments against them to make it a reasonable and accurate discussion.  This will come when I start researching this topic properly in the third year.   The dissertation literature review was extremely useful in teaching me what other musicians, philosophers and other writers thought on the topic and it gave me an excellent starting point which I can now work from.

Questions I am trying to answer include:

  • Have new technologies and the internet made artists do more or do less?
  • Have new technologies been positive or negative for the music business?
  • Do people rely on technology too much these days?

These are all relevant in questions in the study of music in 2014. The possibilities now available when creating, sharing and selling music are at an extremely advanced stage and there are no signs of it slowing down.  It seems as though everyday there is something new happening in music technology.  In 2014, we are far enough through the digital age to be able to analyse what has happened, what is happening and what will happen next.  It is important for musicians and those who work in the music business to slow down and take a look at what is going on around them and if it is benefiting them.  If not, then they must think about how they can make a change.  These questions will provide me with plenty of possible directions to take my dissertation.

I am not currently reading any books but now the term has started again and I can access the library I am going to make sure I read more books more regularly.  Over the summer I have however been looking at a lot of debates over the use of auto tune and how it has affected the ‘realness’ of music.  This is something that may be useful for me to look at in more depth as it is a clear example of the way technology has impacted music and it would be a great topic for me to apply to my three questions.  Some people will say it has had a negative impact on music while others are not too bothered either way.  It is my aim to understand why people react to it in the way they do.

I plan to structure this essay in the form of a two sided argument.  I will break up the piece of writing into main categories first, and then talk about different topics within that category.  So, categories may include music editing software, downloading and streaming services, social media and portable devices.

So, in the category of music editing software, I may include a discussion on Pro Tools for example, and give the positive aspects and negative aspects of its presence in the music world.  Perhaps it has made recording and mixing music easier, but what are the consequences?  Has it made artists and producers lazier?  Has it made all music sound too similar and perfect?  I will ask questions like this and attempt to offer both sides to the argument fairly.  I am hoping this technique will give me a clear, educated conclusion by the time I finish this dissertation.


Welcome back!

I have officially entered my third and final year of university!  I am eager to get stuck in and see what this year holds. There will be new pages for my production module and my live module.  Also, following on from my dissertation literature review last year, I will be posting updates on my progress with my dissertation this year.  Check back soon!


Everything for the Project Development and Applied Research is now complete!  Check the work experience, applied research and original work pages to see the results.  It has probably been my favourite module in university so far and I look forward to continuing the project next year.

Also, head on over to the Advanced Production Techniques to see how I progressed in that module.  You can now hear my drum recording, samples track, mixtape and final original recording!

Revenue and Funding

My main aim behind this project is not to make money but to represent the place I live by making music that I like.  However, if I were to think about it in terms of revenue, I would need to take advantage of the internet and the various DIY ways of releasing music that are now available.  For example, like Cofa Tree, the Coventry duo who were mentioned in my comparative projects, I could make my music available on iTunes for a suitable amount of money.  That could be a full album download or individual song downloads.  iTunes is still a very popular way of accessing music and although I have never used it to sell my own music before, it might be something to consider.

Another possible platform is the site CD Baby. This site is designed for independent musicians to release their music.  The artist decides a price and CD Baby keeps the equivalent of $4 and the rest of the money gets paid to the musician on a weekly basis.  There are other fees that are attached such as an album fee which is paid once per album.


Outside funding for this project is not essential but it is still something to think about.  With extra money I would be able to record at a studio with people who have more knowledge and equipment.  However, the one thing I do not want with this project is it to be over produced.  I want it to sound raw and loose so perhaps in some ways a high end professional recording may not be the route to go down.  Funding could go towards other things though, such as musical equipment or CD’s and packaging for example.

Crowd funding is one option for an artist on my level but the reality of that coming to anything may be minimal.  I would need to first share some of my music so people actually know what they are paying for.  Even then, it is not something many people are interested in.  With illegal downloading and streaming sites, people won’t even pay money for the most popular music so the chances of people paying money to hear someone on my level release their first solo album is unlikely.

However, funding could also come from more organised sources.  For example, I looked at a Welsh site called Wales Arts International.  This site offers funding programmes that help Welsh musicians take their projects to an international level.  It is designed so Welsh musicians can develop their practice and present it to a wider audience.


Another source is the Arts Council of Wales.  This Welsh organisation is set up so that it offers musicians living in Wales a chance to get their projects up and running.  Small grants up to £5000 and large which are over £5000 can be applied for.


Marketing and Audience

To start, I will talk about where this kind of music is performed.  It has designated festivals that have only been around for a few years.  There is one called Desertfest, which began in London and Berlin and has now expanded to Antwerp.


There is also Freak Valley festival, Stoned from the Underground, Keep It Low festival and Void Fest, which take place in Germany.





Sonic Blast Moledo and Reverence Valada in Portugal…



Riff Ritual and Kristonfest in Spain…



Roadburn in the Netherlands…


and finally, Lake on Fire in Austria.


Duna Jam is another example of this, although it is only available to attend by request via email.  Only a handful of people get selected.  Taking place in various landscapes including beaches and mountains, it is still only small and somewhat secret but they do have some big names in the scene playing there including Colour Haze and Yawning Man.


Lots of these festivals have only appeared in recent years meaning that this scene is seeing a major rise in popularity.  It is clear that Europe is where the main audiences for this music are.  The majority of music from this scene now comes from Europe and it is performed to European fans.  This is not to say that America for example has no market for it, but it seems as though Europe is the place that is thriving and is the place my music would be best received.  With the return of masters of the genre Black Sabbath in recent years, the scene has had a major boost and bands have started moving up to more mainstream festivals such as Reading and Download.

Next, I will talk about the online presence of the scene.  The main place I go to hear the latest is the YouTube channel Stoned Meadow of Doom.  This user uploads full albums of various bands in the genre.  On this channel you will find discussion amongst fans and recommendations on who to listen to next.  It is a definite bookmark for anyone interested in this scene.


Another YouTube channel I came across was AnotherTime AnotherSpace.  Again, this user uploads psychedelic, space music albums and it’s a good channel to visit when looking for instrumental music in this scene.


The main blog to go to for this music is Heavy Planet.  I have been visiting this blog for a while and it has always been useful in giving me the fairest and most unbiased reviews on albums and concerts as well as sharing interviews with bands and offering new music.  They offer free downloads of their own compilations, made up from tracks they enjoy and even include an email address you can send your own tracks to and they will review and even upload it if they like it.


Another good blog I have accessed is Sleeping Shaman.  Again, this provides visitors with detailed albums reviews, photos, interviews and general news within the scene.


Other blogs I have looked at that look good have not been in use for a while and so at this point in time are not ideal reference points.  Stoner Hive was the next best blog I could find.  It is up to date and constantly updated with new tracks, reviews and stats.  It is certainly one for me to keep my eye on in the future.


Another interesting online post I found on the genre was presented in a chronological order of the history of the genre.  Entitled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Doom and Stoner Rock’, the post is almost like a family tree of the genre.  This speaks volumes for what I mentioned earlier that there is a sense of togetherness and community in this scene – bands and fans have respect for each other equally.


There are independent record companies that are dedicated to this style including Rise Above Records, Catacomb Records, Sound Zero and more.




I also found this blog which linked me to many other record labels that specialise in this area of music.


However, I haven’t been able to find any magazines, venues or independent stores that are primarily for this scene and I put that down to it not being big enough.  However, with the evident rise the scene is experiencing it may not be long before these things start appearing.

Comparative Projects

The main area of influence for this project was the Palm Desert scene, which includes a group of bands and musicians from Palm Desert in Southern California.  Traditionally, the music from this scene is played with drums, guitar and bass.  Vocals are part of it sometimes, but it does include a lot of instrumental ‘free jams’.  So, in the two songs I have recorded so far, I have used only the typical instruments that are used and had one song include vocals and one without.  I did this to position myself in the song writing mentality of musicians in the scene I am attempting to emerge myself into.  This scene has become popular because of bands like Queens of the Stone Age – a band who saw more mainstream success than any other band from the scene.


The scene is famous for its outdoor gigs – often in the desert as the name would suggest.  This scene is still alive and well today and the reason for its success is the relationship between musicians and fans.  The fans never paid to see these bands in the desert and there were no barriers or security.  There was trust and loyalty and I believe this is why this scene has been successful – the respect everyone has. Bands would take all of their gear out into the desert, plug it into generators and play all night to a crowd of about one hundred people.  What draws me to this idea is the feeling of travelling out into the desert with your friends and staying there all night – miles away from any civilisation.  You would listen to the music and each individual person, although being in the same place listening to the same music, has a different experience – a different journey.  This is where the comparison with my project and this scene happens.  I wanted to capture that feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere and experiencing a personal journey.

A main influence from the Palm Desert scene is Brant Bjork.  He has played in various bands including Kyuss and Fu Manchu who are both big names within the scene.  However, like me, he wanted to have a break from that and create his own ‘trip’ as he puts it.  In a two part documentary about his first solo album ‘Jalamanta’, he talks about his motives and routines around the time of the album.



This is very similar to my project.  He talks about recording some grooves and beats and riding around on his bike during sunset to see if they worked.  Again, it was all about the journey and the ride the music took you on.  He says it’s not urban music but instead it is simple, approachable music from a small town and people in small towns across the world can relate to that – similar to Cwmbran.  The album ‘Jalamanta’ has acted as a major influence for me in both the ideas behind it and the style of music.

On a smaller scale and out of my usual circle comes another project I came across that happened recently.  From Coventry, the two piece band Cofa Tree created a track that is an ode to their home city.  They say it’s about living there and what it has to offer.  On top of that, it was recorded as part of a soundtrack to an upcoming film.  They say the music has sold really well.  So, I can learn from this as it is a home grown, organic project that combines audio and visual, and focuses on home.


Description of the Project

My project is essentially a DIY solo album.  I played drums, bass, guitar and for the first time, performed vocals.  After playing in bands for years, this project was about me trying my own personal style and relying on only myself.  It is about hearing the music that directly represents me.  I had created plenty of songs over the years and this module finally gave me the platform to put them to the test.  To accompany the audio material there is added visual content, to give it more depth and texture.  Again, I did this myself.  I took all of the videos on a hand held camera and edited it all together myself.  Within the general scene of music that I am trying to pinpoint, the visual elements are often very important and they often focus on nature and landscapes.  Mountains, rivers, trees, deserts, oceans, skies and dirt tracks – these are the sort of things that are seen.

The idea was to really dive into the concept of music taking the listener on a journey.  My aim is to travel after university and it is really the idea of journeys and travelling that has captured my interest over recent years.  My idea is to finish this album for the third year project and listen to it in full whilst on my travels, meaning I can experience a very personal journey.  Being more optimistic, I would love for other people to use my album as a backing track to their own journeys once I have released it.  Visually, it is about representing the place I grew up – Cwmbran.  Viewers can get a taste of a small town in Wales through an audio/visual experience that shows them the scenery through the eyes of one resident.

Final Pieces

After some in depth research on the entire scene and project idea, I have completed 2 pieces of content.  I have written and recorded two songs, playing all instruments myself, as well as singing for the first time.  Both songs also have videos to accompany them, both recorded and mixed by me.  It was a complete solo project and I feel confident with the pieces I have that next years final project, which will lead on from this, will be both exciting and rewarding.  For more information on these two songs and videos, look at the applied research page.

Here they are:

Work Experience – Success

After rejections and no replies, I have finally been able to sort something out for work experience.  It will take place in June, after the module has finished but it seems as though it will be very useful for me.  It is at a studio called Ty Du, in Rogerstone, Newport.  I emailed a man called Alex, who has done a similar course to mine in Glamorgan university and has since recorded musicians including the Super Furry Animals at this studio.  After realising how difficult it is to get a work experience position in a studio, I could not turn this down.  Below is a link to their website where you can see examples of bands they have recorded as well as pictures and news on the studio.


Work exp success




work exp success 2

As well as doing this for the PDAR module, I aim to do some more work experience over the summer too.

I plan to apply for the BBC work experience that they offer because it would be great for me to learn new things, meet new people and make contacts.  It would look great on my CV and may help me once university has finished as applying for the BBC was one of my thoughts.

And finally I may be helping out on the sound desk at an event in Caerphilly during the summer too.  This will be good experience in live sound and again, teach me new things.


Final Project!

Here we have the final project for the Advanced Production Techniques module.  It is a recording of a song I have been developing for some time.  I played all instruments on this track and mixed and mastered it.  Even on the day of recording parts were added, removed and changed.  This has become a regular occurrence whenever I record.  I am happy that after all this time of having the song I have been able to record it to a good standard.

The drums were recorded first in the university studio, without a click, using the SSL desk.  Some minor editing and mixing was done before recording but the majority took place afterwards.  Guitar and bass were then recorded at a home studio, where all the mixing and mastering took place.  This was all done on Logic.  The guitars were double tracked through a Marshall amp and the bass was recorded directly into the desk.  Effects such as echo and reverb were added to parts of the guitar tracks and the usual compression and EQ was applied to everything.  I then grouped the drum tracks together and applied more compression.  Next, I grouped the guitar parts together and the bass parts together and along with the drum group, sorted out levels.

When mastering, I listened to the track next to some other songs I would group it with to see how it sounded.  (For an idea of my reference list, look at my mixtape track listing).  I bounced it down and listened to it on as many different speakers as possible.  I realised it needed some minor changes including rising the bass levels to create the warm sound I was going for and turning certain parts, such as the lead guitar parts, up in volume.  Finally, I needed to turn the volume up of the entire song as I realised it was a bit too quiet next to other songs.  Having a list of reference songs was important when mastering this song.

I am happy with the outcome and hope to keep up this standard of work when recording future songs.  So, here it is…