For a number of reasons, the fadeout – a gradually diminishing, repeated hook – used to be the go-to way to end a pop song. The legendary SSL mixing consoles found in large studios in the 80s had a magic ‘Auto Fade’ button in the centre section, and there was even an urban myth amongst studio folk in the 90s about the existence of a world-class session fadeout artist, known as Johnny Bag’o’Doughnuts, who would put a top-notch fadeout on your song for the session fee of… yep, a bag of doughnuts. Yet although reports indicate that the peak year for the fadeout was 1985, since then it seems gradually to have fallen out of favour with producers across all genres, with only a handful of recent chart hits ending with a fade. So why is this?
Well, in terms of current trends, the fadeout has obviously had its day, but there may be deeper reasons for its decline than mere fashion. According to veteran 70s recording engineer Ron Albert: “The fade happened because we had to give the DJ a cue that the record was ending, so they could talk over that and segue into the next record. If the record company decided an album track would become a single, we’d usually have to edit and fade it to keep it under the three-minute mark. It was all about radio.”
In this digital age of streaming, however, music consumption has changed immeasurably, to the point that songs are now a completely different product, so it looks like the fadeout may have faded out for good.
Thanks very much, fadeout, but your services are no longer required...