Billie Eilish’s victory at the 62nd Grammy Awards on Sunday night was impressive for many reasons. Her age, the number of awards won (5, including the ‘Big Four’), and her distinct musical style all seem to defy the music industry’s status quo, but she is now impossible to write off as a passing fad; her haul of Grammys suggests she is here to stay.

Her immense success at such a young age may come as a surprise to some, but to those with their finger on the pulse it serves only to emphasise the importance of understanding music production to young musicians.

Billie’s ascension to the top table of pop music is testament to her hardwork and talent, but it is important not to disregard the work of her producer and brother, Finneas. His work on her debut album, 'When We Fall Asleep Where Do We All Go?', earned him recognition at the Grammys too, and he was quick to acknowledge how the album was largely produced in his bedroom at their family home.

Billie Eilish won five Grammy Awards this year, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Pop Vocal Album.

Significantly, in an acceptance speech for one of their many awards, Finneas said “This is to all of the kids who are making music in their bedrooms today. You're going to get one of these”. Proudly brandishing multiple Grammys might be the ultimate goal for musicians all over the world, but that level of success may well seem unattainable. So what’s the best solution for those who are taking their tentative first steps in music production?

“The laptop is the new guitar”

Long gone are the days when expensive recording studio sessions were the first steps in kickstarting a music career. Nowadays it is possible to create music on a laptop at minimal expense in the comfort of your own home. The wide availability of digital audio workstations (DAWs) coupled with the rise of social media and streaming services means that, with a helping of entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity, many artists can start generating their own music without holding out for a lucrative record deal.

When the RSL Team visited BBC Music Introducing 2019 back in November, we had the pleasure of listening to an entertaining talk between Laurie Vincent, one half of Slaves, and BBC Radio 1 DJ, Abbie McCarthy. In this discussion, Laurie boldly declared that “the laptop is the new guitar”.

Far from dismissing the guitar as a crucial instrument for songwriting and music-making, he was instead making the point that whereas the guitar used to be the go-to way for people starting out in music to write their own songs, it has now been replaced by the laptop because of its accessibility, portability, and malleability. People still play around with chords on the guitar and compose their own tunes just as before – the difference now is that these initial ideas can be developed into fully-fledged, recorded songs in an afternoon. Never before has it been easier to record, make beats, and produce your own homemade music.

A skill in its own right

Getting started can be as simple as opening up a DAW and hitting record, but mastering the many skills that make up music production is a complex process that takes dedication and talent. The application of techniques is likely to vary significantly from genre to genre; producing a track recorded by a jazz trio for an album will require a very different approach to producing an EDM track for DJs to play in a club.

At RSL Awards we believe that music production is crucial to supplementing your progress on an instrument. We also think that it is very much a skill in its own right. Our Music Production syllabus recognises this and is unique in having a range of assessment that stretches from grades 1 to 8 in order to prepare students for the wide range of roles within production.

More and more people are acknowledging the merits of studying Music Production as part of a well-rounded music education. Who knows, maybe it will open DAWs for you just as it has for the likes of Billie Eilish and Finneas...