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Live Vs. Produced: Which side of music is best?

September 15, 2023

We all know and love the sound of acoustic music. From the nostalgia of remembering how such-and-such Disney character serenaded the female protagonist with just a guitar, an original song, and the picturesque scenery of a lake (Camp Rock anyone?) to Taylor Swift’s famed folklore, acoustic music has captured the hearts of this generation far more than the generations before. And don’t forget how excited people get when they hear that a LIVE version of their favorite worship album will be released… and even better if they can claim that they were a part of the recording! But is acoustic or live music “better” than the studio-produced versions? What really defines “better”? I polled 20 students from Liberty to see what they thought, and though that number is hardly representative of the entire student body, the results surprised me: acoustic and live were preferred over produced but only at 60%.

So why did students pick acoustic and live over produced? A Music Education major, Laura Carey expressed that “there is more attention on the musicians and the piece of music than the added effects” in acoustic and live music. Storm Nickerson, a Music Recording major and staff on Student Activities, brought a fresh perspective to the table: “Live performances remove the masking of editing and postproduction, leaving nothing but the raw talent that the artist is actually capable of bringing to a stage and audience. In a way, I see it as a test of character and professionalism.”

A common thread was woven through the responses of the students who chose live and acoustic recordings – words like raw, emotion, natural, authentic, genuine, and personality. That shouldn’t surprise any of us. After all, isn’t our generation known for craving authenticity? We were the first generation to grow up with the world at our fingertips, but we were also the first generation to wear the mask for the world. When the world shut down, we found ourselves stuck on our own little planets, craving that which is real. In the wake of world change, apps like BeReal came to the forefront, promoting the message that we can in fact share our true selves with the world.

But have you ever thought that there may be a point in time when the real actually becomes fake? When the raw emotion becomes so prioritized over everything else (in the context of music) that artists are forced to fabricate something they do not feel to gain a following? And what then of those artists who practice over twenty hours a week, along with their producers who lose sleep editing all night in the studio? Is their work any less valuable because they have put time into perfecting it? I think sometimes a fine line exists between what is sensational and what is genuine.

Now by no means am I devaluing acoustic music. I personally love acoustic tracks and would listen to a whole playlist of solely acoustic for weeks on end. But I often find myself chasing after the musical “high” instead of consistency and truth. Emotion is good, but it can also be a distraction. Those who chose produced music in the survey explained that they didn’t want to constantly listen to crowd noise or the singer’s comments. They wanted to hear the music. We say that acoustic and live tracks are “stripped,” but maybe the produced ones are the “stripped” versions, rid of all the disruptions and diversions.

A topic like this could be debated around in circles, but at the end of the day, our call as believers is to write and perform music – whether sacred or secular – that ultimately glorifies God. But who’s to say we can’t find enjoyment in the music, too? Which is why I love listening to the music of up-and-coming singer-songwriters. If you can relate, come on out to Student Activities’ Couch Acoustics on September 19th, where you will have the opportunity to hear the talented student artists Chloe Bea, Pierce Lyons, and Kailee Dishmon! This event will be happening in Montview Starbucks at 7:00 p.m.


Written by Moriah Joseph

Moriah is a sophomore dual major, studying Music & Worship and Elementary Education. She loves to spend her time experimenting on the piano, serving at her church, and hanging out with friends and family. But you also won’t hear her complaining about a good book, mountain views, or dark chocolate. She has always loved writing, so she is so happy to be a part of the Student Activities blog team!