We caught up with the revered music producer to hear about how the pandemic has affected his area of the music industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the music industry hard in 2020, and it’s still recovering. While the live performance sector copped the bulk of the brunt, the restrictions forced all facets of the industry to adapt.
Last year, we caught up with Melbourne-based music producer Simon Moro to find out how the lockdown had affected his work. Now, as Victoria continues its gradual transition to a new normal, we reached out to Moro to hear about what 2020 taught him and how he’ll be incorporating those lessons into his process moving forward.
Last time we spoke, you were navigating Melbourne’s lockdown, working on a reduced basis with artists and finding other ways to remain creative. How have things changed for you since then?
Yes, recording went on hold, and we were only able to do remote production and mixing sessions. There was still work to do, but it was much less enjoyable to do via webcam. Things ramped up again at the end of 2020, just in time for the end of year break! I’ve wrapped up a few projects, while others will be finished this year.
It has been so good to get back into the studio with other people, though. I missed that connection more than I knew. If we can continue to operate as things are now, I’d pretty much be operating as normal, which is great.
Looking back at the experience of running a recording studio during lockdown, what have you learnt from the journey?
Well, for starters, I felt so lucky to have built my mix room at home two years ago! When we bought the house, I converted the garage into proper mix and production space with separate machine room for the noisy bits of gear and mainframe reverbs. This meant I was able to continue to operate that side of the business through the stage four lockdown. I did have to put all recording on hold though, as I record at other facilities. I learned how quickly life as we know it can change! I think everyone learned that lesson.
The restrictions forced us to be resourceful. I’d say it was the ‘year of recording at home’, and ‘trying to make it work’. It was beautiful to hear all the expressive music released in this way, and no doubt it will continue, as for many artists, they may have found a viable process for producing and releasing music.
I definitely struggled with the home-recorded vocals during lockdown. I had to work hard to get them to sit well in mixes. It’s the usual unwanted room ambience, lack of body and harsh sibilance from budget gear. It was so great to return the studio. My first session back was with Anthony Callea and Bonnie Anderson at Sing Sing. The second those two were in front of the mic I thought “YES! That is what a vocal is supposed to sound like.” Nothing beats great voices, in good rooms through top-shelf gear. It really helps the voice connect with the listener.
Have you made any changes to how you or the studio operates in light of the pandemic?
I have only completed unattended mix sessions, even post-stage four. I’ve been using a plugin to stream mixes live out of Pro Tools over the web to clients, and keeping track of change requests and mix versions using an app I built a few years ago called Trackbits. I think, moving forward, we need to be prepared to continue to operate with restrictions, as they could come back at a moments notice.
Let’s talk about the artists. Last time we spoke, we mentioned the challenges the downturn posed on musicians, both motivationally and creatively. What is the current attitude of artists? How are they approaching their recording?
I’m based in Melbourne, and anyone from this city understands how difficult stage four was for us. Especially the last couple of weeks. We were trapped, and in the dark about when it would end. This was a mental health challenge for everyone. The lifting of restrictions reinvigorated the scene. The period that’s followed has been hectic on my end, with projects coming back online, and artists starting to play shows again.
I think the current attitude is positive. It may be too soon to predict what changes will persist into the future and what will revert to the old way. I’m sure some aspects of the remote and home production will continue – but from my experience, it’s much less efficient – meaning it’ll either cost more for the artist, or not be viable for producers if it continues how it has been. Things definitely take a lot longer without in-person collaboration.
Have you found that artists have been productive during lockdown, in regards to writing music, networking or anything else?
Yes, I think so. It looked like a wave from my point of view. Super productive and motivated at the start, then a flattening of energy and mood, followed by a return to productivity. I know some artists that have been writing new material, working on branding and photography, video clips and release strategies… Let’s hope the coming months present some much-deserved opportunities for them.
What would you say to an artist that’s never consulted a music producer before but is looking to get more out of their music in light of the pandemic?
I suppose it depends on the artist’s current position. For example, the artist may be quite accomplished already, having studied music and production, and just looking for that next level result, or a sounding board/collaborator. In this case, they’d likely have a command of our language and a general understanding of the process. For this scenario, I’d suggest really trying to determine the goals and desired outcomes before approaching a producer. It could be helpful to ask questions like, “Why am I seeking to work with a producer?” and, “What am I struggling with?”. Maybe they just need an engineer to push buttons for them, or maybe
they need a producer to fill in the musical blanks? You’ll definitely get a better result when you have a plan.
For artists that are quite new to the process, and lack the language, I think a great place to start would be to make a playlist of songs by artists they want to sound similar to and sharing it with the producer. That way we can get a sense of the direction and production style, and ask questions based on the songs to clarify the likes and dislikes of the artist.
What are your current offerings at the moment? Do you have any special deals available for aspiring artists?
My focus is still on mixing and high-level production, but I have been building a team to offer more cost-effectively artist development for artists that are just getting started or that are looking to put together a strategy to bring their music and brand up a level.
How are you approaching 2021? Have you done any specific planning for next year or are you just taking each day as it comes?
I’m hoping 2021 can be closer to what I’d envisioned for 2020! I’ll be expanding the mixing side of my business, as I think this is where I can offer the most value to artists, and building my team for production and artist development. I also have a few other ideas up my sleeve, that we can talk about next time.
To find out more about Simon Moro or to get in touch with him about his services, head to his website. Moro is best contacted via the contact form on his website or over the phone at (03) 8373 9303.
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