By Georgia Dunstan-Brown
In the bedrooms scattered across the world, there is a growing community of self-titled “bedroom music producers”. They spend thousands on gear to help create their music in their make-shift studios. With Massey University upgrading the facilities of their Bachelor of Commercial Music Course, it has helped bedroom music producers to evolve into professionals.
Behind closed doors, an assortment of wires leading to blinking audio gear, headphones dangled, synths staggered across stands, shiny guitars resting on their perches, sits Tyrone Caveney. He’s tapping his foot as he goes through a song he is working on, the space bar on his laptop bangs repeatedly; the audio in his ears rings on and then off.
Music has been his passion since he was year seven.
“It started as rivalry between brothers but then manifested. Drum lessons turned into guitar, keyboards…” He trails off as his concentration turns back to his computer screen.
The room he works in, resembles a small dark cave. The one window in the room is blocked with sponge cushions for acoustic treatment. Plants dangle from the ceiling and little pots sit on his vintage Hammond electric organ. His gear is dotted around the edges of the three by three room.
I ask him how much it all cost him. He gives a cheeky grin and says, “around four grand.”
But funding his passion took a while.
“I’d do jobs for family members, like painting their house. Just anything to make any money.”
“I painted my Aunty’s house, just so I could buy a keyboard.”
As Caveney is talking, you can tell he’s itching to get back to making his music. There’s the tell-tale signs of his leg going up and down, and his hands tapping his knees.
What do you enjoy most about music? I ask, edging him back to the interview.
He pauses to think.
“I enjoy the first half an hour of creating a new song.
“I enjoy having spent an hour getting frustrated about not being able to actualise the vision that I have, but then making a break through and then everything clicks.”
He shows me through his many projects on his computer, some finished, some still just an idea, ready to be developed.
You can tell he’s worked hard to get to where he is, which is why it’s easy to see how he can get frustrated about the misconceptions of bedroom music producers.
“There’s the misconception that being a producer is an easy way to get famous and anyone can do it. Sure, anyone can do it, but to do it well you need talent and to put the hours in.”
The popularity of becoming a bedroom music producer has risen in the last decade. Caveney thinks this is due to the democratisation of production that the internet has allowed.
“It’s incredibly easy to get your hands on professional grade software, a whole bunch of virtual instruments and sample packs, and just start making music.”
At the moment, Caveney is currently studying at Massey University in Wellington doing a Bachelor of Commercial Music.
It’s a new course that started up in 2016 and when Caveney heard about it, he was excited by the prospect of having a commercial music course in Wellington.
He majors in Music Technology, which covers basically everything tech related to the music industry: live sound, music hardware, studio recording and music software.
This year, the course’s facilities got a major upgrade to dedicate an entire block to tech labs, lecture spaces and professional studios for the students to work in. Previously the students were scattered across the campus in prefab rooms.
Tarrant Shepherd, the Sound Engineer Technical Demonstrator at the course, looks after the use and upkeep of the studios, teaches content for Studio Engineering and The Recorded Work courses, and mentors students on their work. He believes the facilities give the students a chance to work with industry-grade equipment.
“Giving students the opportunity to work on a large analogue console, which they would not be able to do normally, can only be a good thing, at least for thinking about music production from a different perspective than they may be used to.”
Shepherd thinks that by having a course like the Bachelor of Commercial Music available, will make students be more comfortable around studios.
“I think having the ability to use a recording console every day builds a lot of confidence in a student…
“The next time a student walks into a recording studio; it won’t be so foreign. Audio engineering won’t be some ‘dark art’ to them, and they’ll at least have a basic understanding of how everything works.”
Caveney believes that the course has helped him to explore other aspects of the music industry that he otherwise wouldn’t have known about or thought of exploring.
“The technology lab has given me the ability to both repair any broken music gear and to create new gear.”