When you come across the term “recording artist” in day-to-day life, the first thing that probably pops into your head is an image of Lady Gaga, a concert violinist, or maybe your friend with a guitar and a dream. Even when you search the term in Google, a significant amount of the results link directly to some famous musician or band. News articles often preface a pop star’s name with the term: “Recording Artist So-and-so to Headline Festival.” Opportunistic websites peddle the notion of becoming a world-famous recording artist with just a little effort. In all these cases the term is being used in a very limited way, hiding the reality that most people who consider themselves practitioners of the recording arts are by no means famous and have in fact probably spent their entire careers behind the scenes.
Though certainly some popular musicians are fully trained in the recording arts, several just enter the studio or stage, perform, and go home. But in the recording arts field, this is merely one of the first steps in a lengthy and complex recording process. So what is recording arts in its fullest sense? It is an immensely technical field wherein mechanistic and scientific skills are merged with creativity in the recording, manipulating, and ultimately producing of audio for the purposes of entertainment, education, or any other expression of sound.
Thus, you should understand the term “recording artist” to mean much more than just the performer. Grammy-winning albums don’t just emerge from one person. Oscar-winning sound effects don’t just passively happen as the movie is filmed. Award-winning video game audio isn’t just thrown in carelessly in post-production. In all these cases a team of people trained in a specialized sub-field of recording arts spends months and sometimes years practicing their professional skills in a coordinated effort to produce a final project.