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Archive for March, 2010

Musicians Wanted by YouTube

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At South-by-Southwest, YouTube announced a new partner program (Musicians Wanted) aimed at getting independent musicians to post original video content and share in YouTube’s partner benefits, something that was previously only available to selected artists. Artists whose videos generate a lot of traffic stand to benefit monetarily through this program.

Check out this (rather silly) video from YouTube that explains more, find out more about the Partners benefits here, and read an article from the L.A. Times about this announcement.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

Fascinating Overview of the Music Biz

I just listened to an extremely interesting episode of NPR’s On the Media, available on podcast, which spends an entire hour looking at the state of the music industry, including the plight of the record labels, legal vs. illegal sampling (the segment focuses on Girl Talk and Hank Shocklee from the Bomb Squad), the rise in ticket prices due to consolidation in the concert business, the increasing irrelevance of the music sales charts (like the Billboard 200 etc.), and how musicians are changing their strategies for making money. It’s all fascinating stuff, and is presented in a balanced way by guest host Rick Karr.

Because it covers so much territory, it doesn’t go into great depth on any one subject, but as an overview for the state of the business today, it’s really useful, not to mention entertaining. In the process of setting context for the current issues faced by the business, it covers some fascinating recent-historical ground, such as how the advent of SoundScan technology in the early ’90s led labels to realize just how they’d been underestimating the popularity of hip-hop and country, which led to both genres getting more publicity and promotion. Contrast that to now, where SoundScan, which measures purchased music through CD sales and legal downloading, does not necessarily factor in a lot of the ways that young listeners consume music, which can skew things toward baby-boomer acts, whose fans are more likely to buy actual CDs.

When looking at the problems with the concert industry, Karr points out that in 1975, you could see the Rolling Stones live for $8.50 ($34 in today’s money with inflation factored in) but during the last Rolling Stones tour four years ago, the typical ticket price was $100. As you know, that’s cheap for a lot of concerts these days. If you want to see a really big act, especially one that appeals to baby boomers (who have more money to spend, on average), expect to spend double that $100 and more. Personally, I don’t think I’d ever pay $250 for a concert, that’s way too much money for just one show–I don’t care how good it is. (Okay, maybe if they figured out a way to resurrect Jim Hendrix, Duane Allman, and Stevie Ray Vaughan for an all-star jam session, I might consider it.) As the podcast points out, you could buy five live Rolling Stones live albums for less than the cost of one of those $100 concert tickets.

The last section of Karr’s On the Media show deals with how musicians are changing their ways of making money, and focuses on Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, and how she is using new media to drive her band’s income. It’s an interesting segment, but doesn’t go into the kind of depth I would have liked on that particular subject. Overall, though, the entire episode (which was originally broadcast last October) is a fascinating listen, and gets you up to speed on a lot of the big issues of the day in the music biz. Check it out. If you go to the main page for the episode, you can listen to the segments individually.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

A Message from Nathaniel Kunkel

For the last couple of years, EM has been lucky enough to have Nathaniel Kunkel’s In Session column on our back page. Nate is moving on to other things (his last column is in the March issue), but he wanted to pass this message along to the EM readers:

Dear Friends and Readers,

Since I started writing here at Electronic Musician over two years ago I have always struggled with one thing; the readership of this magazine tends to slant a little bit more towards computer-generated forms of music than my experiences do. My experiences are more based in live recording, its methodologies, and the assorted pitfalls of label and band relations. While this may not have been, due to my brilliant editors, that obvious, the retooling of my articles to fit this magazines readership has been a fairly regular occurrence. Magnifying this is the fact that I have recently started touching on subjects that I feel require a more in depth viewing than I am capable of covering in my allotted 700 or so words.

At the same time the music industry is now facing some new and very serious issues that I feel need to be tackled head on. It is these questions and their ilk that I find myself spending more and more time focusing on; and thusly writing about. As that happens more, I obviously risk pushing my connection to the core EM readership further away.

With these, among other things in mind, I feel it is time for me to respectfully take my leave from EM as a contributing author. While my time working here with this team has been fantastic, I feel it is time for me to move on.

I would like to take this moment to again thank all of the people that wrote to me, approached me at parties, or phoned me to tell me they appreciated the articles. Your feedback was the inspiration for me to really focus on bringing something good to the readership every month. You were the people I was writing to, you brought the responses that magnified my effort, and you were the source of my desire to actually say something real. It is because of what you told me that I know that there is a thirst for honest dialog in our industry. You gave me hope. So for that, I sincerely thank you.

In the near future I plan to continue to write editorial pieces that I feel are timely. (You see in truth that is how all of this started. I do this anyway it seems.)
Evidently I’m not even able to resign in under 300 words. So if you would still like to be subject to my musings on a quasi bi-monthly-ish basis go to www.studiowithoutwalls.com and join my mailing list.

I wish you all good health and prosperity. I have enjoyed writing for you very much and I look forward to our next forum.

Respectfully yours,

Nathaniel Kunkel

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Home Studio Basic-Tracking Session

I did a tracking session recently with my band, in which myself and the keyboard player pooled our gear to come up with the best setup we could. We recorded at his house, and achieved total separation by putting the drums in the basement and running a snake up to his third floor studio, which served as the control room.

My guitar amp went into a room adjoining the control room, and was miked with an Shure SM58 (our only SM57 was in use for the snare drum). I ran cables into the control room and so was able to record from in there. Also in there was our bass player, whose Fender Precision was run direct into an ART Tube MP Studio V3 (which works really well as a bass DI). The lead vocalist did her scratch vocals from the control room, and the keyboard player was in there, too, playing his Nord Stage keyboard (which was DI’ed as well). We recorded into MOTU Digital Performer, with a Mackie Onyx 800R multiple audio interface, and a PreSonus Central Station monitor controller.

Meanwhile, in the basement, the drum kit was miked with an Audix D6 on the kick, the aforementioned 57 on the snare, two Neumann KM184s for overheads, an Audio-Technica stereo mic placed between the two rack toms, and Sennheiser 421 on the floor tom. A Rolls headphone amp, connected to the snake, provided cue for the drummer.

So essentially, we had all the sources going in discretely—that is, no bleed between instruments. It’s a good thing because although we got five songs worth of basics done, we’re probably going to replace a lot of the non-drum parts. I wasn’t thrilled with my guitar parts, and plan to re-record many of them at home, on my own time, when I can do my customary DI-recording-and-amp-simulator-software routine to get the sounds and performances I like.

Both the bassist and keyboardist want to redo some of their parts, too, so what begun as a live session will eventually end up as more of an layered project. But overall, we were very pleased. The drum miking setup worked really well, and sounded really good before any compression, reverb, or mixing of the drum inputs was even tried. We also had very good communication between the four of us in the control room and the drummer in the basement, by virtue of all the open mics on the kit, which picked up his voice, and the scratch-vocal mic in the control room and the talkback mic in the Central Station unit, which picked up our voices.

I look forward to finishing the project.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

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The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.

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