Nostalgia filter or technology?

One of the consistent conversations and debates I have with my bandmate Rob is about eras of music, and how much recording technology has to do with perceived quality. To clarify a bit, Rob is a man of the 80s. He loves 80s music, cars, movies, maybe not the fashion, but you get the idea. He loves to talk about how analog recording was far superior to the digital recording of today. It's an interesting topic and he and I have had car rides listening to music and then discussing it.

There is certainly some validity to his argument. When bands used it exclusively, analog recording often gave a sound that is much more whole(encompasses more decibel range, room echo, etc), required less post-production engineering(It took more time, but less usually needed to be done), and the quality of the music was high.

I have two main problems with his argument, though. The first is that he is listening to music through the filter of time. The only consistent way to determine music that is good and long-lasting is if people are still listening to it on a wide basis 5, 10, 20, 50, etc years down the line. Sugar, Sugar was the #1 song of 1969, but I guarantee more people listen to Led Zeppelin's first album these days than the Archies. There was definitely a lot of bad music from the 80s that Rob is not applying his recording technology ears to.

My second problem is analog recording itself. It was(and still is) REALLY expensive to record on analog. In one way, Rob is right, because in order to do it within a reasonable budget and time, you had to be a decent musician, from a technical standpoint anyway. Fewer mistakes while playing meant less time and money wasted. But because of the cost, you needed a lot of money just to get in the door, and labels were the only ones with the capitol to secure enough recording time. This severely limited who got to play on an album, and thus applied another filter even before the time filter arrived.

The beauty of digital recording is how cheap it is. To give a relevant example, a year and a half ago d'Archangel recorded our first song "Situations" in Brian's basement on a laptop. Was it a high quality recording? No, but it was a recording that would have cost thousands of dollars in a studio in the 80s. Recording is still not cheap, even with digital, but it is order of magnitudes cheaper than with analog.

That means that the barrier for entry into the recording business is much lower. That means more studios doing recording, it means more artists getting recorded, and more music for people to listen to. This is a good thing. Yes, it's true that this low barrier means music that many consider just terrible gets produced, released and distributed. But it also means there's a lot of room for parody, homages and other experimental music.

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