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Friday, December 5, 2008

Remix Hotel Hollywood

I'll be speaking tonite at the Remix Hotel at SAE in Hollywood, courtesy of IK Multimedia.  The presentation is on the mysterious art of mastering.  This will include a history of mastering, how the pros do it and when you should use one, and how to do it yourself while avoiding the many pitfalls.  Basically it's a super condensed version of many of the items found in my book, The Audio Mastering Handbook.

I'll be posting a few few screens from the presentation starting tomorrow.

Mastering is certainly a black art to many in the music business - musicians, engineers and suits alike.  There are some really powerful tools now available (like T-Racks 3) that can make your music sound great if you know what you're doing, or really wreck the sound if you use them haphazardly.  In the next few posts I'll try to lift the perceived veil of secrecy around just what mastering is and how you can get the most out of the process.

For more info on Remix Hotel go here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chinese Democracy A Stiff?


Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy has sold 261,000 CDs in it's first week after release, way below expectations. Much of this is being blamed on their exclusive deal with Best Buy, as compared with AC/DC's Black Ice 784,000 in first week sales at Wal-Mart.

While the Chinese Democracy floor display was hidden by larger DVD, iPod and electronics displays at Best Buy, Black Ice had it's own island at Wal-Mart that you couldn't miss. Wal-Mart also had the advantage of increased traffic due to the economy, while Best Buy traffic decreased because most of its merchandise is discretionary (not much money around for that big screen TV these days). Plus, if Best Buy has the exclusive, why isn't the CD even featured on their web site? You have to drill down before you find it.

It'll be interesting to see how the numbers shake out after the holiday season. That being said, Axl would've been better off supporting the remaining brick and mortar record stores instead of selling out to a box house for a big score. Guns could've kept some street cred while giving the industry a real shot in the arm. Looks like an opportunity lost.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Upcoming Gear Shakeout



It's right around the corner and it's coming on strong - the musical instrument/recording gear shakeout.  There are so many me-too products, so many duplications, so many cheap knock-offs, while the retail outlets that sell them are falling ever more quickly by the wayside.

What's a duplicated product?  If manufacturer A has a big hit with a product (say a USB computer interface), manufacturer B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J and I release a similar version of the product.  What's worse, it may all be coming from the same plant in China, so it's basically the same thing anyway.  The problem is, manufacturer A did all the hard work - the market research, R&D and building the market through advertising and marketing, so the other manufacturers just dilute the market for everyone.

There used to be a good reason for duplicated products.  Only a few large dealers could get the franchise for certain lines (like Fender, Gibson, Digidesign, etc.), so all the other dealers would look for an alternative product to sell (like Peavey).  With fewer dealers around these days, most gear manufacturers will sell to anyone with a heartbeat and enough cash to buy a display model and some backup inventory.

But there's about to be a pushback from large and small dealers alike.  Thanks to the economy, the market can only take a product with one or two competing products maximum.  The other 15 will soon be relegated to blow-out sales or never see the light of day.

So get ready for some cheap deals, just make sure the warranty is backed up!

Monday, December 1, 2008

4 Reasons For a CD Release, Even If Sales Are Down

Neilsen Soundscan reports that "Quarter 4 2008 is shaping up to be the worst decline in the history of the CD."  If you're signed to a major label, be very afraid.  Their business model is from days past and this news means your royalty statement is going to hurt a lot.

But for everyone else, the CD still lives.  While CD sales from the majors continues to fall, it's still a viable format for music, at least on an indie level.  Why?

1.  A CD is still a calling card.  It's really difficult to get a review, especially in print media, without a CD.  

2.  A CD makes you viable.  Downloads are great but, at least for the foreseeable future, you don't have what's considered a "real" release until there's some physical copy.  It could be a vinyl record (there's still a market, believe it or not) or it could be a CD, but only when there's something for people to hold in their hands will you be taken seriously.

3.  Some audiences prefer a round, shiny disc (I mean a CD).  It's true, and it's not just an age thing either.  The audience for some types of music (metal for instance) just prefer the CD and could care less about the download.  Some elements of the audience couldn't be bothered with downloading.

4.  A CD is a collectible.  Some members of your audience may buy the download and buy the CD as well.  It's a keepsake (if you're really into the artist) especially for the true fan.  If you're really hip, you'll give them the MP3's along with CD.

So it pays to have a CD as a part of your marketing strategy.  You'll reach an audience that may be out of reach otherwise.

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