A window into how a producer pervades this uncertain time.
It’s become clear that the current pandemic has created a harsh ripple effect through the creative industry, hindering not only artists but live music venues, band bookers, agents, community radio stations, publishers and PA hire companies, among others.
Then there’s the music producers and engineers who make the music possible. Many recording studios usually filled with artists cutting their new album or laying down their next single are now largely empty due to the current social distancing restrictions.
For Melbourne’s Simon Moro, the revered music producer who’s worked with everyone from Allday to Russell Coight and Sammy J, it’s been an interesting period and one that has asked a lot of him creatively.
“In the early days before restrictions were so extreme, I did a couple of sessions – me engineering on my own without my assistant, one musician at a time in a studio that you’d fit an orchestra in so we had probably 200 square metres for two people,” Moro says.
But it was difficult for Moro to continue safely like this as restrictions tightened and since then he’s been largely resigned to remote works such as Arts Centre Melbourne’s weekly ‘Big Night In’ series and the odd intimate artist session here and there.
Many of Moro’s future recording projects have been stalled too with the music release schedule currently disrupted. Even when Moro looks to get off the start line, there’s an additional challenge he has to overcome.
“Everyone’s moved onto Zoom and other video chats and I think that can be fine for intellectual-type conversations. So anything that’s like, ‘These are the tasks, we’ve got to get them done, boom, boom, boom, touch base’, I think video works fine for that,” Moro says.
“Where video becomes problematic for me is anything that requires emotional intelligence and being in a room with somebody and being able to connect like that, it just disappears when you’re doing it online – you don’t get the body language read, you don’t get any of that so I think it’s really difficult to have any emotion-based meetings remotely.”
The importance for Moro to be physically present with an artist is not only crucial from a relationship-building standpoint but also from a creative and expressive standpoint.
“I was recently rehearsing with a band for a record that we’re recording shortly and before Sunday, we’d only ever spoken on email and attempted a Zoom meeting. But as soon as we’re all in the room … it’s a good energy, it’s a good vibe,” Moro says.
“It’s much harder to tell online, especially with complete strangers.”
Moro sees the current downturn as a time for writing rather than recording – a period for artists to formulate the blueprint for their larger creations. But with the world stagnated and imaginations dulled, whether artists have enough creative fodder to latch onto is another question altogether.
“I have got the sense through some industry people I’ve been speaking with and artists that I know, that at the beginning of lockdown there was this feel of, ‘Alright, let’s get to business – let’s write, let’s prepare our marketing strategies, our launch strategies, let’s do networking’, and all of this wonderful stuff,” Moro says.
“But what I got the sense from various channels is that many artists are just really enjoying Netflix and getting a bit lazy.
“If there’s nothing inspiring them in the world when life is so COVID-centric, it could make sense that it might be less about discipline and work ethic and more about ‘there’s nothing to sing about’.”
Yet when an artist or band has ambition there’s nothing stopping them from reaching their goal. For Moro, the greatest fulfilment is the conversion of success and success comes from smarts and strategy.
“I’ve had some artists that were launching stuff recently and they’ve just been working their butts off,” Moro continues. “It’s been amazing to see their marketing efforts because for me as a producer, I’m only as good as the marketing effort an artist puts in and there’s this beautiful synergy with artist and producer – this built-in, enlightened self-interest – because the best thing for me is that they’re successful.
“It’s heartbreaking when an artist releases something and does not market it because I think, ‘Well great, no one’s going to hear it’ … That’s just what’s going to happen if you throw a product into a saturated market with no effort to promote it – no one’s going to listen.”
Moro says artists should now be working harder than ever to set themselves apart from the crowd.
“Some artists have actually been really spending this time shooting videos, networking with journalists and that’s been really good to see. I think that’s actually the best thing to be doing now if I were looking to be promoting things as an artist, I would just be networking online, connecting with everyone so that I had a really good book of contacts to reach out to when we start coming out from under our rocks.”
Teaming up with a producer as renowned as Moro not only gives artists the opportunity to technically enhance their sound but also opens them up to Moro’s long list of contacts within the industry. Then there’s Moro’s ability to provide an objective viewpoint and a musician suddenly has the perfect springboard to get themselves out there.
“If someone comes to me or goes to Google and looks for a producer or asks mates who’s good to work with, it’s usually an indication that they’ve got to a point in recognising that they can’t do it on their own,” Moro says.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I have a network of other experts that I surround myself with. So if an artist has a problem, I’m going to have a solution, either personally or through my network – if it’s, ‘We’re making this record and it’s just not vibing like our live shows, I don’t know why’, I can listen to the recordings and go, ‘Well clearly, it’s because of x, y, z’.
“I’ve invested my time in learning about the nuance of production and performance … getting energy, getting a vibe, understanding the technology,” Moro continues. “So I guess the benefit is if you’ve hit a roadblock or you’re listening to your work – whether it’s been done DIY or at a project studio – and it’s just not connecting with you as an artist, then it could be helpful to come to me and discuss that problem because it’s very likely that I’ll have a solution to that.”
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.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories five times a week.