Hi-Fi+ Annual Awards Celebration
As is tradition when looking at an annual awards celebration, it's time to look back at changes in the audio world and then apply a little bit of crystall ball gazing skills to try to work out precisely what shape the business is in and where it's going. Except it doesn't work like that this year. Looking back on 2021 is impossible without taking one or two things into account; not so much talking about 'elephants in the room' more 'what are we doing in the elephant house?'.
Instead, let's look to the positive things we need to do to rebuild and restart; and one of the first is perhaps counter-intuitive for a magazine about staying at home and listening to music; get out more! While reproduced music is wonderful, music in general relies on the shared experience. Artists often try things out on their audiences, later writing those up as the next album of greats. You get to hear it first in that small venue across town. Except, we've all lost the habit. We simply don't go to concerts and gigs to the same degree at the moment.
This is in part understandable; the pandemic isn't 'over' yet, and the joy of being in a live audience is quickly tempered by 10 days of quarantine... or worse. But the absence of live music ultimately undermines your home listening in two key ways.
First, live, unamplified music played in a natural acoustic is one of the best benchmarks against which all audio should be evaluated. Granted, it also means all audio falls short of that benchmark, but without a periodic 'level check' of unamplified music, your evaluative standards can slip.
Next, and more importantly, there is a good correlation between a healthy live music scene and a healthy recorded music chart, filled with new recordings from artists old and new. If they don't tour, they either don't record (because their creativity is stuck in 'Park') or can't record (because they can't afford it). The problem quickly multiplies if you are dealing with orchestras (a year without rehearsals and shuttered concert halls means rusty musicians) and jazz combos (no chance to write new material and test it on a live audience).
While we are not being prevented from attending concerts and gigs any more, whether it's the additional 'faff' of vaccine passports or test-to-admit rules, concerns about catching or spreading COVID-19 or that we've simply forgot what a good gig is like... get out there more, so you can enjoy staying at home and listening to music!