Gino Robair is former editor of EM

Archive for February, 2010

Show Me the Money

Loquat (Anthony Gordon, second from right)

Loquat (Anthony Gordon, second from right)

One of my favorite quotes attributed to Frank Zappa is: “Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.? Of course, I don’t completely buy the premise that if you can’t make money from your creations, you’re not an artist. (The list of artists who couldn’t sell their work during their lifetime is a long one.)

However, Zappa’s quote does make me wonder about the ways in which we can earn money with our songs, beyond overtly commercial gigs where we’re asked to write “music to order.? The question comes up as I prepare to give a lecture at Mills College about publishing, with an emphasis on starting an independent record label. At a time when music sales are plummeting, many music professionals would call your sanity into question if you decided to start a label. It’s even crazier than opening a recording studio.

Yet, the collapse of the economic model that sustained the major labels hasn’t killed the thousands of independents that cater to niche markets. Often, this level of indie label is run by the recording artists themselves, and their long-term expectations as a business are much different than that of the entertainment empire owned by a multi-national conglomerate. more

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Longterm Investing

Tom Oberheim SEM

Tom Oberheim SEM

Although it’s easy to imagine analog synths as big, expensive contraptions, they don’t have to be. I just spent several weeks comparing table-top analog modules priced under $1,000—the Tom Oberheim SEM, the Doepfer Dark Energy, and the Dave Smith Instruments Mopho—for an EM feature. Without giving away the results of my work, let me just say that I had a blast.

At an average price of $641, these instruments are not impulse buys. But they’re not meant to be. They’re well built, boutique items designed to last a lifetime. For example, I have an original Oberheim SEM (35 years old, serial number 100) that I used for an A/B comparison in the article. I certainly don’t regret the $600 I paid for it (used), as it continues to serve me well. I wish I felt that confident when I buy software.

Because in 15 years, I will still be using my hardware synths and effects, but I can guarantee that every bit of software I’m using today—along with its sessions, patches, and stored settings—will be inaccessible, either through lack of developer support, because the host computer has died, or because subsequent upgrades no longer open the files I created with today’s version. more

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