Inside Apple’s GarageBand, the app that’s ruling the sound of modern music

“Musicians’ applause for Apple’s Garageband — which celebrates its 15th birthday this year, humbly, still living in the media shadow of many of the tech giant’s more glittering products — is similar across genres and skill levels,” Amy X. Wang writes for Rolling Stone. “Artists from Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar have used the app to demo, produce and sometimes even finalize master recordings. ‘It allows you to not be constrained by what you can or can’t play,’ Dan Smith, frontman of British band Bastille, tells Rolling Stone. ‘I can quickly get something out of my head. Or I can write a song from start to finish in a couple of hours.'”

“Producer Oak Felder, who’s worked with artists like Ariana Grande, Usher and Alicia Keys, says Garageband has made collaboration much easier by allowing even the most tech-unsavvy people to explain their ideas with self-cut tracks, rather than with an abstract tangle of words,” Wang writes. “T-Pain, in 2005, made his whole first album Rappa Ternt Sanga with the Garageband app on his laptop. ‘The Hand That Feeds,’ a Nine Inch Nails anthem, came out as a Garageband project file for fans to play around with on their own computers that same year; Radiohead offered up the same idea with ‘Nude’ in 2008. Haim, St. Vincent, Rihanna, Duran Duran, and Usher are among artists who’ve all released music using Garageband’s suite of free sounds or audio loops.”

“What’s been in it for Apple, which has not only declined to make money on the app for 15 years but spent millions meticulously refining it?” Wang writes. “In unveiling the app on stage at Macworld in 2004 with a guitar-brandishing John Mayer at his side, Steve Jobs gave only one raison d’être: He wanted Garageband to ‘democratize music-making’ … As much as it encourages audio democracy, the app — which has been preinstalled on more a billion Macs, iPhones and iPads to date, with mobile and tablet versions introduced in 2011 — has also created audio homogeneity. Garageband’s fingerprints are all over the sound of modern music. Which raises a more precarious question: Just how tight is Silicon Valley’s vise on on the music industry — its makers as well as its listeners?”

Much more about GarageBand, Logic, Steve Jobs, and more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This is a great behind-the-scenes article with interesting info throughout, including: “In the first media visit Apple has ever allowed to its under-the-radar Music Apps studio, the team of engineers showed Rolling Stone how the creation process for Garageband’s two types of sounds — synthetic and ‘real’ — can span weeks or sometimes months per instrument, with new hurdles at every turn.”

We don’t think there’s any question that GarageBand has colored the sound of a significant portion of modern music. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the listener to decide, but we will say that if you’re a SiriusXM subscriber who listens to “70s on 7” or an Apple Music member playing a 70s playlist for an hour or so, you’ll likely recognize the quality of the artists that made the “Top 40” music back then was higher than the “Top 40” of today. Ditto for the diversity of songs. Technology has made it possible for those who might not be as accomplished a singer and/or musician the chart a hit song. Artists had to really be a talented live singer and/or live musician in order to land a recording contract back in the 1970s and before. Of course, there are some very talented artists today who would’ve thrived in any decade with or without technology like GarageBand or Logic.

22 Comments

  1. Yes, GarageBand democratized the composition of rap and pop, it also democratized the composition of marginally creative music. Yes, it’s creative in the sense of new but the creativity is limited and flat. Richness and variation in instrumentation is as gone as emphasis in education is gone from MSM and from FoxNews.

    So, just add some notes around a predetermined GarageBand beat — add some words, mattering little what they are — and you have Ariana Grande, Juice WRLD, Pitbull, Taylor Swift, et ali, going back to the blandness of Grunge or U2 although U2’s Bono and Edge seemed to have achieve a level of sameness in tenor and emotion the traditional way, you know, without GarageBand.

    1. But isn’t it always true that when you democratize something, you get more chaff, less wheat?

      The internet democratized publishing and you have a LOT of noise out there. Even MDN, when you think about it, has benefitted, but 30 years ago, all news would be curated. Essentially, we used to TRUST the news and the news used to engender trust… now, OTOH, even major news outlets have been forced to appeal the the lowest common denominator to compete with the “salacious web”

      As they have to compete for eyeballs and because people are too flooded with information to care or look into things, they are able to resort to not-so-true statements.

      They lack integrity. Music is the same… it lacks integrity.

      Is it because we not longer value integrity or is it because it’s so rare that we’ve stripped integrity of all its lustre…

    2. Many of the comments here refer to GarageBand as some evil being, some alien transformer with ready made plans for destroying the music industry. No, the record companies did that to themselves in the late 1990s if I remember history correctly! GarageBand was simply the best tool Apple could come up with at that time in order to create a music editing app to go with the rest of the iLIFE package for Mac. Nothing about GarageBand was intended to stop real talented musicians from going the directions they did. Ridiculous to think GarageBand conspired to limit creativity when it actually brought music creation out of the lofty studios and into an aspiring musicians home regardless of age or experience. It’s just a beginning creative tool never meant for such Godly attributes or wild criticisms I’ve read. Let’s get a grip here.. I started with GarageBand but quickly graduated to the Pro Apps for making serious music. The Kats in the Studios are Not Finishing an Album in GarageBand. Seriously, guys It’s not all that. Fun? Yes! Creativity here is only limited by a few missing features which is what Paid Pro Apps are for! GarageBand was the key or gateway to some really kewel things for me including a complete CD quality recording studio using only a Mac, Akai MPC keyboard, a microphone, and Logic Pro X. Now that’s the point of this whole article.

    3. Jacob Collier won 2 grammys for compositions he created in Logic Pro in his bedroom. Listen to these and you will hear not only why he won, but that his creativity was in any way limited by Apple’s ecosystem, is laughable. In fact, it only helped him onto much higher and more creative plateaus! Those who blame a piece of software for their own lack of talent is pretty pathetic. PIck up and instrument and start practicing fool!

  2. My guess is that real musicians will agree that modern music is more repetitive and has a limited range of sounds. (There are studies, easily found online, that prove the same thing.) Modern music fans, knowing virtually nothing about music and having little or no musical skills, will insult them and disagree.

    Music teacher friends of mine say that students are rapidly just becoming consumers, rarely getting past prelim or first grade on their instrument, or just copying a couple of things from YouTube.

    A lighthearted (but too true to be funny for some of us) look at writing a modern pop song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV2s0UIPOQY

    And a quote from Fake Steve Jobs: “Can you imagine if Robin Trower came along today? He couldn’t even get a record deal. It’s hard to believe today that only 30 years ago there was a market for guys who were just flat-out virtuoso musicians, guys who could fill a stadium with people who just came to hear some amazing dude play his instrument. No back-up dancers, no flashing video screens, no lip-synching. Just three guys on a stage. And people would sit there and listen. We all agreed that the music business sucks today.”

    GarageBand fits right into this obvious (to some of us) trend.

    1. “He couldn’t even get a record deal.”
      So quaint 🙂 As if anyone needs a record deal! Anyone can self-publish and whether your audience is 50 or 5 million they will find you.

      Remember the archaic “stadiums” model were primarily to cheat musicians out of their money. The ONLY way they could bank on their talent was to play over and over all over the world and sell stuff. Now, they can record a set of YouTube videos, invite users to a Patreon with special bonus content and make way more money without any of the soul sucking travel.

      For those that get big enough to tour, they’re making money on the sales through download and streaming sites AND what they make when on tour. If getting paid for what you do is “the music business sucks”, then I hope it continues to be that way… such that less comes between an artist and their fans.

    2. Jacob Collier won 2 grammys for compositions he created in Logic Pro in his bedroom. Listen to these and you will hear not only why he won, but that his creativity was in any way limited by Apple’s ecosystem, is laughable. In fact, it only helped him onto much higher and more creative plateaus! Those who blame a piece of software for their own lack of creativity is pretty pathetic. PIck up and instrument and start practicing fool!

  3. GarageBand democratized the artists and music industry, that’s true. In a way that’s impressive, but reminds on a greek form of democracy – with elites and slaves. GarageBand never was intended to bring Freedom for YOUsers, but they start to understand. That’s why AAPL is below 200, isn’t it? Since Free Open-Source Software was competitive for years, and is going to lead innovation now, imho this piece of propriety software won’t keep up with the freedoms and progress open-source has to offer. Just look how professional they are already…
    https://gfkdsgn.wordpress.com/2018/12/25/free-audio/

    1. FREE OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE!!!!
      Brought to you by commercial ad ridden pages (4 links to read what could have been on one page) and commercial hosting solutions. 🙂
      Which defines precisely why FOSS will never be more than a curiosity or a tool for those that really desire to build their own solution. Commercial software (and hosting solutions and ad networks) will always be easier to use as they MUST be worth something.

      1. your wrong again?… wordpress is open-source! 😀 but development costs pizza and cola, that’s what the ads for. OS-X is apples own solution, isn’t it? can’t you load it as BSD for free? isn’t that divine? so your god MUST be in the clouds? and your nickname looks like you experienced this situation before, don’t you?

        1. From WordPress’s website:
          “Free to start, with room to grow.”
          Quite a clear distinction from FREE. 🙂 Just take the F off of FOSS since there IS a free version, but the hardware and skill required to implement the free solutions costs so much money, your average person would save money using WordPress’s commercial offering.

          macOS is free and has been for some time. Certainly far more “free” than an ad riddled webpage. As long as the commercial software packages (who also like pizza and cola) offer a free version, the user community of the OSS software will be lower.

          1. Of course, you have no problem with Free TV, Free Youtube ads, but stood up like a man to defend other IP products against Free products. Is your intention based on your salary, or is it a spiritual thing for you? Mac evangelist’s been always known for their fundamental approach on Apple’s ideology. Let me teach you that MacOS always was bundled with your hardware investments, never free. All unlicensed downloads of Shake & Maya been criminal acts, but today You have the option to use Natron & blender. Guess what Marvel did? So why don’t You reset the horizon and go Free today? It’s your salary, isn’t it? So you are, wrong again? nice to meet you.

  4. Many of the comments refer to GarageBand as is evil being, some alien transformer ready with plans laid out for destroying the music industry. No the record companies did that to themselves from the 70s to the 90s if I remember history correctly. It was simply the best free tool Apple could come up with the current technology in order to create a music editing app to go with the rest of the iLIFE package. Nothing conspired to stop real talented musicians from going the directions they did. It’s just a beginning creative tool never meant for such Godly attributes or criticism either. Let’s get a grip here.. I started with GarageBand but quickly graduated to the Pro Apps for making serious music. The Kats in the Studios are Not Finishing an Album in GarageBand. Seriously, It’s not all that.

  5. Jacob Collier won 2 grammys for compositions he created in Logic Pro in his bedroom. Listen to these and you will see not only why he won, but that his creativity was was in any way limited by Apple’s ecosystem. In fact it only helped him onto much higher and more creative plateaus! Those who blame a piece of software for their own lack of talent is pretty pathetic. PIck up and instrument and start practicing fool!

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