Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Are You Playing It?

Here's a video excerpt from the DVD that goes with my book How To Make Your Band Sound Great. It's all about a short but key phrase that every pro musician uses frequently - "How Are You Playing It?"

When a part that you're playing doesn't sound right, ask your band members - "How are you playing it?" In no time you'll discover any phrasing, timing or articulation differences between what you're playing and everyone else.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Online Royalty Rates Keeps Internet Radio In Business

A new agreement between Internet broadcasters and the online royalty collection agency SoundExchange has finally been struck, with no one totally happy about it but everyone willing to accept it. SoundExchange represents the artists and record labels in much the same way that ASCAP and BMI represents publishers and songwriters.

Online radio stations had cried that they'd go out of business if they didn't get an alternative to the higher royalty rates imposed in 2007 by the Copyright Royalty Board. While they no longer claim that today, they are wincing a bit at the deal.

The previous rate structure started at 0.08 cent per song per listener retroactively to 2006, and rose to 0.19 cent by 2010 which stations claimed would cause them to go under.

Under the new rate scheme larger online services earning more than $1.25 million in revenue must pay whichever is higher; either 25% of gross revenue or 0.093 cent per listener per song. The rates rise each year until they hit 0.14 cent per listener per song by 2015. Webcasters taking in less than $1.25 million per year pay a lower rate; either 7% of expenses or a percentage of revenue starting this year at 12% for the first $250,000.

Subscription services (where people pay a monthly fee to hear music online) must pay rates starting at 0.15 cent per song per subscriber this year, rising to 0.25 cent by 2015.

Online services have an alternative to the new deal by sticking with the Copyright Royalty Board rates, or negotiating rates separately with individual artists and labels, something that I'm sure no one wants to do. Some services like Pandora (who claims they will stream over a billion hours of music this year) will now impose limits on their free users as a result of the ruling to keep their royalty payments in check.

This agreement is a compromise that's good for everyone. The artists and labels get paid and the online broadcast services aren't crippled so much by the rate increase that they can't stay in business. It'll be interesting to see who ultimately gets the bulk of the money - the artist or the label.

Getting more popular all the time, about 42 million Americans tune into online radio each week, which is up from 19 million in 2004, according to the media research companies Arbitron Inc. and Edison Research Inc.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Live Nation Tries Another Promotion


Despite what you hear from the industry, concert attendance is flagging. While no new attendance numbers have been released, it's pretty apparent that the industry is plenty worried, given some of the promotions they're running.

The best example of this is concert promoter LiveNation (never a company known to give breaks to customers), who has just instituted yet another price concession, offering a one-price, all-inclusive ticket for $29.99, one that includes a lawn ticket, parking, all fees, and even a hot dog and soda on Wednesdays at their amphitheaters around the country. This on the heels of their "No service charge Wednesdays" indicates that maybe that promotion wasn't enough to lure customers to the cheap seats, so some additional enticements were required.

There's a lot of fat cats in the industry, not the least are the artists that command high prices that have gone ever higher every year. But those days may be coming to an end as concert-goers begin to watch their pennies. When the face value of a ticket is no longer the real price of that ticket, and you're overcharged at every turn while you're at the show, it's no wonder that music fans no longer run out to see anyone but their absolute favorite artists anymore.

Let's see if the promotion is extended to beyond Wednesdays or to other house seats as the summer goes along.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oblique Strategies


Ever run into a creative block (sometimes called "writer's block") and don't know what to do? Sometimes you know a song or a part needs something to go to another level but you just can't come up with a suitable idea. It’s easy enough to leave it for the next day when you're fresh, and chances are that a new idea will indeed spring forth. But in those few times when you and everyone else you're working with runs up against a total creative block, there’s always Oblique Strategies.

Oblique Strategies is a set of published cards created by producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt used to get any kind of artist beyond creative block or even to find a new direction. First published in 1975 and now in its fifth edition, each Strategy card contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation.

Here are a few examples (only one phrase per card):
▪ State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
▪ Only one element of each kind.
▪ What would your closest friend do?
▪ What to increase? What to reduce?
▪ Are there sections? Consider transitions.
▪ Try faking it!
▪ Honour the error as a hidden intention.

Oblique Strategies are easy to use. You pick a random card or select on the website and follow its direction no matter how unusual it might seem. Before you know it, your block will be removed.

Try Oblique Strategies online or go the Oblique Strategies website for more info. There's also a handy Oblique Strategies iPhone app available.

Distorted Sound Checklist

It's not uncommon for someone in their home studio to come up against an age-old problem - trying to record something and getting a distorted sound instead of something nice and clean. This sometimes lead to user being baffled and uncertain what to do, but if you think it through you can find the problem in no time.

Here's a checklist to follow the next time this happens. Follow it in this order.

1. Is the cable working correctly? Try a different microphone cable.

2. Is the mic working correctly? Try a different mic as a comparison.

3. Is the mic being overloaded? Try a different mic to see if the signal level from the source is too loud, or move the mic back about 3 feet to see if the distortion goes away.

4. Is the microphone preamp working correctly? Try a different preamp or console channel.

5. Is the microphone preamp being overloaded? Check to see if any overload indicators are lit. Turn the input level of the preamp down or move the mic back 3 feet to see if the distortion goes away. Try a different preamp, console or interface channel to see if the problem is resolved.

6. Is the signal chain after the mic preamp being overloaded? Check to see if any overload indicators are lit on your interface and DAW. Decrease the output control of the preamp or bypass any compressors in the signal chain. Play back the signal from the DAW to make sure it’s clean.

7. Is the monitoring chain working correctly? Is the stereo or control room buss being overloaded? Try a different set of amplifiers and speakers.

These tips and more can be found in the Recording Engineer's Handbook.

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