Fad­ing away

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Arrange Tracks Like A Pro -

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...

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