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Monday, December 31, 2012

Predictions From Last Year

Tablet Audio from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog Last year at this time I made 7 predictions about things that would happen in 2012. Let's take a look at how I did. My current comments in italics.

1. Tablets take off for music production. For such a relatively new class of products, tablets like the iPad have quickly become a must-have device. While we've had some great music software available for it in 2011 (Garageband is insanely good for only $5), 2012 brings us the serious I/O and accessories needed to take advantage of it's portability. Hit this one on the head. Tablets took off in a big way with both some serious I/O and software entering the market late in the year. 

2. Plugins hit the wall. Yes, plugins sound great these days but that's the problem. Where do you go from here? When all the great analog hardware is successfully digitally duplicated by multiple companies (and even surpassed in some cases), it's harder and harder to come up with something new. Add to that the fact that the market is saturated, and you'll see some software companies falling on hard times in 2012. While there seems to be some plugin fatigue due to a lot of duplication (just how many compressors, flangers, chorus and delays can you make?), plugins still haven't hit the wall. This prediction may have been a year too early.

3. Pro Tools weathers the storm. While it may seem like this is the time when the Pro Tools hold on the audio industry is finally broken, let's not get too hasty. It's still the standard of the music and post business, and the pros (especially the big facilities) can't afford to make any changes now even if they wanted to (and they don't). If the pros use Pro Tools, than those aspiring to be pros must use it as well. We very well may see a new contender to the throne in 2012, but don't expect any big industry changes. Pro Tools does indeed look more vulnerable than ever, but there's been little erosion of their user base in 2012. I suspect that what will happen is that something new will sneak up on us in a way that before you know, everyone will be using it without much fanfare (Reaper perhaps?), but that's not happening as of yet. Scored on this one.

4. Studios make a comeback. Finally gear owners everywhere are beginning to realize that just owning the gear isn't the key to great sounding music (although it can be if you know how to use it, so keep buying those books, please) and the benefits of recording in a real studio. Look for the trend to continue in 2012 with even some new facilities coming online. Most of the larger studios are relatively busy, but they're not turning away business either. While it seemed like there was a major comeback underway there for a minute or two, it hasn't materialized as I thought it would. A miss.

5. SSD's are everywhere. I predicted this last year, but it was a bit premature. In 2012 you'll see the beginning of the end of the spinning mechanical hard drive and the inclusion of solid state memory in just about every newly designed piece of music gear. Add to that the fact that hard drives have actually gone up in price thanks to the recent floods in Thailand while SSDs (solid state drives) have continued to fall, and you'll find that you might have bought your last ever mechanical hard drive. Missed on this one too. SSDs may be the way of the future, but even the hard drive shortage didn't bring down the prices enough for everyone to forget about spinning magnetic drives.

6. Apple gets into the television business. This isn't directly about music production, but it does apply in a round about way. It's been rumored for a while that Apple will be introducing their own branded television soon, and that seems inevitable at this point. The bigger rumor is the fact that the user interface is every bit as groundbreaking as just about every other Apple hardware or software product. As a result, the digital living room will finally come pass in 2012. Virtually every other product that the company has released has affected music production, from their desktops to the Macbook Pro to the iPod to the iPhone (have you heard some of the music recorded on it?) and iPad. I predict that elements of the user interface of the iTelevision (or whatever it's called) will find it's way into the gear that we use to produce music, making things simpler and easier in the process. And this will happen in 2012. I think I missed this by a hair. The Apple TV was reportedly scheduled to make its debut late in the year but was pulled back to work on some interface and licensing issues. The rumors now are that we'll see it at MacWorld in late January. How will that affect the audio business? We'll still have to see.

7. EDM breaks out in a big way. Electronic Dance Music is the biggest trend that the mainstream music world still doesn't know about, but not for long. 2012 will be the year that it finally breaks out. Here's another one that I hit on the head. EDM definitely broke out big time in 2012.

Okay, so I only hit 3 out of 7, but that doesn't mean that the other 4 won't come to pass. In fact, you may see them all as a mainstay by the end of 2013. Have a happy new year everyone!
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Of The Biggest Stories For 2013

2013 image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
I don't normally cross-post between my Music 3.0 music industry blog and Big Picture production blog, but the topics below apply to both. As 2012 draws to a close, now is the time to take a look at what might be ahead in 2013. Here are 10 story lines to look out for in the year ahead, in no particular order of importance. In some cases we can clearly see what might happen, while in others it's still an open question.

1. A new trend in music. In case you haven't noticed, we in living in the middle of two musical trends with EDM going mainstream and the folk-roots movement led by Mumford and Sons breaking big. Is 2013 going to be more of the same as both trends peak, or will there be something completely new that captures our attention?

2. Streaming music takes over. 2012 was a year for pushing the streaming music ball up the hill and so many people were converted. When Apple announces their plans for streaming in 2013, the ball will begin rolling down the other side of the mountain and downloads will join the ranks of the CD - still in use, but no longer the music distribution mainstay.

3. Guitar Center's decline. The king of the music equipment retailers is in trouble, with falling sales and reportedly a huge balloon payment due. Don't be surprised if you see some changes in the marketplace, with a smaller more nimble GC facing some real competition. All in all, good for the business.

4. The Big 3 provide a boost to DIY. With the Universal Music takeover of EMI now complete, we've moved to a 3 major label world. Although you still need a major to become an international superstar, will this be the year that mold is broken and we see a true DIY breakout?

5. Hi-res music comes to the forefront. Bandwidth and storage are now cheap, and in a world where we're streaming hi-res video with monetary impunity, why should we still be listening to the lowly MP3? With Apple now moving to hi-res with their Mastered for iTunes program, Neil Young's Pono (if it gets off the ground), and sites like HD Tracks, is it possible that the mass market can finally move beyond CD quality?

6. Avid's decline. Talk about a sinking ship, Avid's stock has fallen like a rock (although it's been up a little in recent days), many of their best people have jumped ship, and Pro Tools looks vulnerable for the first time in years. It will still take a lot to get the entrenched pro market to change, but the upcoming NAMM show may hold a few surprises.

7. The tablet takes control. There's no doubt that the tablet computer has taken the world by storm even to the extent that PC sales are way down. While 2012 saw a few new serious audio creation programs come to the platform, will 2013 be the year where we cross the threshold into doing serious projects on it?

8. Diminished trade show importance. With the Internet, we no longer have to go to a trade show to see what's new. With so many of the industry trade shows faltering to the point where some of the biggest manufacturers don't attend, look to see the trend continue toward irrelevance.

9. The increased importance of the Cloud. So much of our every day world now takes place in the cloud that it's almost become transparent to us. Will music creation and storage switch completely to the cloud in order to increase security and eliminate leaks? Will more online collaboration make studios even less relevant than they currently are?

10. Can the album be saved? We now live in a singles world again, and although the album hasn't totally fallen by the wayside, it's becoming less and less important all the time. Every year a new electronic form of the album enters the marketplace, but none have yet to catch on. Will 2013 be the year that a new format wins our hearts and our pocketbooks?

There are many more than these 10 issues, but I thought that these were particularly interesting to watch for, at least in the beginning of the year. As always, it will be fun to look back at this time next year to see how each story developed.

Have a very happy New Year, and may you find it profitable and fulfilling. And once again, thanks for reading!

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Sound Of The International Space Station

We always think of being in space as the ultimate in silence. Now wind, no ambient noise, only the absence of sound. Being in the International Space Station is different though, as it's apparently not as quiet as one would think. Take a listen to the clip below.



What you're hearing in the background is the various computer fans, life support systems, and lab experiments polluting their closed environment with the same thing we face on earth.

It looks like you can't get away from our modern noise even 250 miles in space.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What A NIN Concert Looks Like From On Stage

I thought this was a lot of fun. Most musicians who have gigged a lot know what it's like on stage, but I think we're all curious what it's like to be on stage with other bands. In February of 2009 Rob Sheridan was allowed onstage for a song ("Burn") when Nine Inch Nails played in Melbourne. He gives us a musician's-eye view of what it's like to be in the band that night.



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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

7 Tips For Keeping Your Voice Healthy

Superior Vocal Health Throat Saver from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Since the vocalist is the only musician who can not put their instrument away in a protective case after the gig or rehearsal, it’s important to take very good care of it. Eventually every singer has some vocal trouble, and if you’re not careful, it can really lead to long term damage. That’s why it’s important for a singer to learn to be especially aware of the need to take care of himself. Here's an excerpt from the band improvement book How To Make Your Band Sound Great with 7 tips to help vocalists keep their voices healthy and ready to sing at every gig and recording session.

1 - Aside from being sick, the number one cause of vocal problems is not getting enough sleep. When you’re tired, all the parts of your body needed to support your vocal cords tend to weaken a bit, which leads improper breathing and thus throat problems shortly after you begin to sing. Get as much sleep as you can (preferably seven or eight hours) the night before a gig, or at least take a nap on the day of the gig so you can feel somewhat refreshed.

2 - The next thing is to avoid milk (and any dairy products for that matter) from three to six hours before you sing. Anything with milk in it will cause an excess production of phlegm around your vocal chords, so that’s a definite no-no.  The old remedy of milk and honey for a rough throat is very soothing after the gig, but not before!

3 - If you are hungry before a gig, don’t be afraid to eat, but just eat until you’re satisfied and don't stuff yourself with a seven course meal. Try not to eat in the last hour before your performance in order to avoid that excess phlegm again. If you do feel phlegmy, you’ll have the strongest temptation to clear your throat (which can be harmful) immediately after eating, but waiting an hour is usually enough time for your meal to settle.

4 - And speaking of clearing your throat, there are some that say that you should never try to clear your throat because it can cause some damage, but it’s usually necessary because excess mucous inhibits really inhibits your singing. The trick is to find a way to clear your throat without irritating it and the best way is to do a gentle "whispered cough" and then swallow and repeat. If this doesn't work, you need to deal with the excess mucous production. Squeeze a 1/4 of a lemon into a tall glass of water and sip over a period of about twenty minutes. This should cut through a lot of the excess mucous.

5 - Other things to avoid are alcohol, tea (despite popular belief), coffee, cola and anything else with caffeine, since these actually have a dehydrating effect, which is quite the opposite of what you really need.

6 - One thing you should do is drink lots and lots of water (ideally two to three quarts a day - the more the better) because a dry throat leads to a sore throat. If you live in an arid climate like Arizona, sleep with a humidifier next to your bed and try to warm up your voice in the shower. The moisture can be an incredible help for your voice. Also, learn to breathe in through your nose as much as possible. This will help moisten the air before it reaches your vocal cords.

7 - Finally, some singers swear by Entertainer’s Secret, a spray mixture that lubricates the vocal cords and was developed by an ear, nose and throat specialist. Others really like Superior Vocal Health's Throat Saver, a completely organic vocal lubrication, also developed by a singer.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Bruce Springsteen

Let's celebrate the holiday with one of the best versions of a Christmas standard that you'll ever hear. It's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band from the famous 1978 concert at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. This version really smokes!

Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks so much for reading.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Greatest Selling Record Of All Time

White Christmas cover image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog What's the best selling record of all time? No, it's not Thriller by Michael Jackson (reported numbers are said to be inflated so it's difficult to even tell how many copies it's sold). It's actually "White Christmas," recorded by Bing Crosby and written by songwriting legend Irving Berlin. The single is said to have sold over 50 million copies alone, with sales of the album putting the total over 100 million.

Recorded in 1942 just after the World War II started for the US and debuted in the movie "Holiday Inn" with Crosby and Fred Astaire, it's widely held that the war actually had a lot to do with the song gaining popularity. Since millions of troops were overseas and longing for family, the song brought a little bit of comfort and the feel of home. From that point, it's become ingrained in our consciousness as a standard that's played constantly (over and over and over again) throughout the holiday season.

There's a lot that's interesting about songwriter Irving Berlin, as well. He was self-taught and could only play using the black keys of F#. Probably because he was self-taught, he also frequently wrote with unusual cadences, and many times never bothered to write a bridge, which was contrary to the times. Still, the song has outlived hundreds of competitors over time with more introduced every year. Despite all the famous songs that Berlin wrote that everyone somehow knows, ("Alexander's Ragtime Band,""Easter Parade," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "God Bless America."), "White Christmas" will be the one he's best remembered for.

So if you really want to make your mark as a songwriter, write a holiday song.
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Likely Are You To Die From Music?

Artist Survivability Chart from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Artist Survivability With Age
The rock and roll lifestyle isn't always what it's cracked up to be and in fact can be quite risky, and now comes a study that proves it. A team of researchers in England have quantified just how much more likely a music star is to die than the rest of the general population.

The co-authors of the paper "Dying To Be Famous," which was published in the British Medical Journel, examined the lives and deaths of 1,489 rock, pop, hip-hop and punk stars from North America and Europe over the last 50 years, of whom 137 (9.2%) had died. Jazz and other non-mainstream musical genres, as well as artists from other parts of the world, were excluded from the study.

Here are the fun facts that the study brought to light:
  • Solo performers are twice as likely to die than musicians in a band. In North America, 23% of solo performers died compared to 10% of band-only stars. In Europe, the figures were lower at 10% versus 5%.
  • Nearly 39% of those who died did so from factors related to violence, alcohol or drug intake.
  • North American pop stars where 12.4% more likely to die than others of the same age and ethnicity.
  • Not surprisingly, overdosing on drugs was the most common form of death.
  • Also not surprising, the wealth and affluence brought on by stardom amplified any major childhood trauma.
  • And just as we always knew, the death toll was higher in the 60s and 70s, with the survivability after 1980 increasing. The study cited the sense of professionalism that grew within the industry as it became a major revenue source, which they said was a factor in preventing more deaths past 1980.
From what I've seen in the business, the study hit the nail right on the head in a couple of points. For someone who has been somehow damaged during childhood, suddenly having wealth, fame and freedom can be deadly. The thing is, they may be successful precisely because that early damage internally pushed them to be so. As it seems with everything in life, fame can truly be a double-edged sword.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Whole Lotta Love" Isolated Bass Track

If you like listening to isolated tracks of classic records, here's a good one. It's John Paul Jones isolated bass track for Led Zeppelin's 1969 hit "Whole Lotta Love."

There are a lot of interesting things here. First of all, JPJ plays an 8 string bass, which is why the sound of the record is so thick (ha, now we know). Other things to listen for is the slight change of the riff at :29, then the mistakes at 1:05 and 1:10. It's amazing what we'd leave in back in those days that no one ever noticed. Also, listen to the tempo speed up slightly, then pull back, another thing that you don't notice in the track.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Becoming A Producer

Music Producer image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Reader Hector Gutierrez wrote in with a couple of questions that I'm happy to answer. Here we go:

How do you become a producer?
1) You're a producer when you have a client that trusts you with their music. They have to feel comfortable with you personally first and foremost, but they also need to know that you'll help them make the right decisions. Work with as many artists as you can in as many different genres that you can so you can have a portfolio of projects that you can play for someone.

Here's a short excerpt from The Music Producer's Handbook:
"I don’t remember who said it, but the following phrase is really true. “How do you know when you are a producer? When you have a client!”, meaning that as long as someone believes you can do it, then you’ve joined the production ranks. And while becoming a producer can sometimes follow an improbable path, usually there are two career tracks that take you there: being either a musician or engineer. 
The time-honored way to break into production is to discover a young artist looking for a break. If you’ve been coming up through the ranks by working in the various capacities above, you can probably ask for a favor for some musical, arranging and studio help to get a short project recorded. Or, you can pay for it out of your own pocket. Either way, you can be on your way at that point, or not.
An artist or band member that meets with some music business success usually has a pretty good head start into the production world by virtue of that success. If you find an artist that you want to produce, a record label is usually inclined to let you do it, figuring that your success might rub off on the new artist. Sometimes they’ll let you do it just to keep you happy. 
Success on any level tends to rub off on you and makes it easier to find a project to produce. A songwriter, musician, engineer, or others in the business are much more likely to be referred to production work only by virtue of the fact that they were connected to a hit (the bigger the hit, the easier it becomes). It’s a sad fact that it happens this way, and it sometimes bestows undeserved opportunities to the undeserving, but that’s the way the business works."

How does a producer get paid in these days of low sales?
2) It used to be that a producer would get paid completely from about a 3 percent royalty or so that the artist would come out of the artist's royalty. Most producers still get that, but unfortunately there's not much coming in from royalties these days since the sales are so low so many producers are asking for a piece of the publishing or management of the artist. Neither is easy to get as artists are rightfully leery about giving up any publishing rights, but it's possible if you have a track record. Other producers now work for a flat fee up front, sometimes per project, sometimes per song. 

My advice to a young producer starting out:  Work for free until you get your chops up and have something to play for artists, then do whatever you can to find an artist that believes in you as much as you believe in him or her.

As always, please feel free to ask any questions.
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Playing Advice From Keef

Here's an short interesting video interview excerpt with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards where he gives advice about playing in time. I'm not so sure I'm down with the advice, since the Stones and Keith aren't the tightest players in the first place, and Keef doesn't exactly explain himself well, but this is the first video I've seen where he comes off as genuine, without any of the usual snarky attitude. He is right about playing with a great drummer though.



Just for fun, here are a few Keith Facts from a great article in The Guardian.

1. On the night of the infamous 1967 Redlands drug bust, Keef was so far gone on LSD that when the police arrived at his Sussex country mansion, he mistook them for uniformed dwarves, welcoming them in with open arms.

3. He once nearly burned down the Playboy Mansion (in his words: "basically it's a whorehouse"). At a party in the 1970s, he and sax player Bobby Keys accidentally set fire to a bathroom while playing "smörgåsbord" with their doctor's drugs. When staff finally broke down the door to put out the fire, a drugged-up Keef, oblivious to the flames, asked: "How dare you burst in on our private affair?"

6. Jumping Jack Flash was actually Keef's gardener at Redlands, Jack Dyer. The inspiration for the song came when the stomping of Jack's rubber boots woke Jagger from a hazy drug-induced sleep. The front man then appended the word "Flash" to the nickname Jumping Jack, the two riffed on the gardener's rural childhood, and a hit was born.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

13 Holiday Gift Ideas For The Musician Or Engineer

It's that time of year again when it's time to buy some gifts. It you're in a quandary about what to buy for that musician or recording engineer in your life, you're in luck. I have a list of recommendations that covers a variety of items and price ranges. Most of these products I use regularly.


Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog1. Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
Ken Scott is a true legend, having worked with the likes of The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, The Stones, Kansas, and Devo, to name just a very few, and his story is a great one. I admit that I'm biased since I co-wrote the book, but I gotta say that every time I read something from it, I get drawn back in and forget that I was even involved. A great gift for anyone that's a fan of the music, engineering or the music business. You can read more about it at abbeytoziggy.com.




Audio Mixing Bootcamp image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

2. Books by Bobby Owsinski
Okay, so I'm a little biased, but if you're looking for a book for someone in the music business, you'll hopefully find one of mine that will hit the sweet spot. There's something for everyone, including books on mixingrecordingrecording drumsmastering, being a studio musician or a touring musicianimproving your bandproducingnavigating the new music business (the second edition of Music 3.0), studio buildingguitar tonemaking videos, as well as a couple of new exercise books for mixing and recording. From about $16 to $30.






Etymonic ER20 Earplugs image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Lynda.com Audio Mixing Bootcamp image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

3. Etymonic ER20 earplugs
I personally never go into a loud audio situation without these little gems. They are soooo much better than foam or wax earplugs in that they cut the level down without affecting the frequency response. Since I found the Etymotic Ear Plugs, I feel absolutely naked and scared when I don't have them on me. At around $10, you just can't go wrong.




4. Courses From Lynda.com
If you don't know about Lynda.com then you really should. It's the #1 portal on the Internet for video learning, with over 1600 high-quality courses on just about any kind of high-tech you can think of. I was lucky enough to do a version of the Audio Mixing Bootcamp and Audio Recording Basic Training books for them that a lot of people really like. Lynda is just $24.99 for a full month, which allows you to access as many courses as you can watch. I watch them all the time and they're the best training there is (beats the crap out of YouTube). Here's a free 7 day trial, and you can also check out my free Mastering for iTunes course.




5. NewerTech Voyager Q Hard Drive Dock
Granted, this is a little geeky, but a total boon to the hard working in-the-box engineer. Raw hard drives are so much cheaper than buying them already in the cases, but how to connect them? Use a drive dock, that's how. This version of the Voyager is the one I use every day. It allows you to hot-swap drives and connects to the computer via Firewire 400 and 800. eSATA, and USB 3, so you won't have any hiccups editing video or that project with 100 96k/24 bit tracks. It's about $75.



Etymonic ER4 Earphones image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog



6. Etymonic Research ER4 Micropro Earphones
Not only do these things sound great, but they're the absolute best for traveling, as they're small and compact and provide great isolation and high-quality audio. If they're too pricy for you at $80, try the $49 HF5's instead. Either one makes a terrific gift.








Equator D5 monitors image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

7. Equator DS5 Monitors
I just covered these in the last edition of New Music Gear Monday, but let me say that you just can't find a better pair of monitors at this price point ($299) anywhere. Heck, you might have a hard time at twice as much, they're that good. Get the matching isolation pads too, an absolute bargain at $20!





8. FMR Really Nice Compressor
Everybody wants big bang for the buck and you can't get a bigger bang than the products from FMR, especially their Really Nice Compressor. The RNC provides excellent high-quality compression complete with a special "Super Nice" mode that chains multiple compressors together internally for an especially smooth sound. At $188, it can't be beat. While you're at it, buy one of their Really Nice Preamp as well, a great sounding preamp for an amazing price.




Music 3.0 book cover image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

9. Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age
Sorry, but I had to feature one of my own books. Music 3.0 is the definitive book on the music business today as it shows you how to take advantage of the vast number of changes that the industry has undergone recently. It includes everything about social media that you need to know in order to communicate, promote and sell directly to your client or fan, as well as some traditional media tricks as well. You can read more about the Music 3.0 Internet Music guidebook, as well as some excerpts, here. Once again, a great gift for that music or engineer alike!




10. Golden Age Project Pre-73
Everybody wants a Neve preamp but a lot of us just don't have the dough to spring for a couple of channels of 1073s. The Golden Age Project Pre-73 was built to sound a lot like the 1073 and it does a pretty good job of it. It's not the real thing, but for only $350 it's surprising how close it gets.







Music Success in 9 Weeks image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

11. Ariel Hyatt's Music Success In 9 Weeks
Ariel Hyatt is one of the smartest people in the music public relations business and a real pioneer in social PR. This book teaches you the right way to get ahead in the business using social media, and fills in where Music 3.0 leaves off.

Monoprice 8323 Headphones image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog






12. Monoprice 8323 Headphones
It's shocking how good these phones are for about $28. They're pretty comfortable, have a really tight fit, and provide a surprisingly balanced sound. In fact, I would trust the low end on the 8323's more than on a couple alternatives that I have that cost 4 or 5 times more. Don't let the "DJ-style" in the description scare you, these are terrific for the price.



13. Royer R-101 Ribbon Microphone
There's now a number of cheap ribbon mics on the market, but let's face it, they sound like crap compared to the real deal like a Royer R-121 or a vintage RCA DX-44. Now you can own a great ribbon mic for a reasonable price thanks to Royer's new R-101. It's about 40% cheaper than it's big brother and just the thing for recording electric guitars and horns of all type. Plus, it's a real Royer.


That's it for this year. Hopefully there's a little something in the price range you're looking for. I probably could have written about 10 more gift ideas, but I think I'll save them for next year. In the meantime, don't you deserve a present too?

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Beatles Final Ed Sullivan Appearance

For those of you who watched the 121212 Telethon last night for the victims of Hurricane Sandy (please donate, they really need your help), you saw Paul McCartney and his great band rock the house at the end of the show. Of course, Paul was in another great band before he went solo (and I don't mean Wings). Here's a great clip of Paul with his former band The Beatles on their final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on August 14, 1965.

Ed gave a great portion of his one hour show to the band, allowing them to play "I Feel Fine," "I'm Down," "Act Naturally," "Ticket To Ride," "Yesterday," and "Help."

Notice a few things. First of all, Lennon screws up the words a lot on the first and last songs. Secondly, all the amps were miked, which didn't happen on TV back in the 60's, certainly not on their pervious appearances on the show. Then there's the single mic on Ringo's drums. And finally, The Beatles were truly a great band, being able to bring it live just like in the studio. Those vocals are awesome!

The quality of this video is really great, which is an added treat. All four of their Sullivan appearances are also available on a DVD.



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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Remembering Ravi

Ravi and George image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar passed away yesterday, so I thought it appropriate to tell a couple of stories of when I met the man. Now these were extremely brief, almost incidental encounters, but he left such an impression that I believe they're worth passing on in his honor.

I met Ravi at a party at Pacific Ocean Post Sound, which was then owned by co-founder Alan Kozlowski. Alan is a remarkable man in that here he was the CEO of one of the most influential post houses in Los Angeles, yet he was a great guitar player who refused to give it up. In fact, his passion was so great that he even played tamboura with Ravi on dates in the area. The two had a special bond, with Alan calling him "my father."

POP is a huge facility with 11 state-of-the-art mixing stages, but as soon as I got there I was drawn to one of the larger lounges for some reason. As I was peeking inside I found a radiant Ravi holding court. Radiant is a good word for him because he was indeed brighter than anyone else in the room almost like there was a halo around him. Now I wasn't a particularly big fan of his, so this has nothing to do with being star-struck, but there was something about him that was indeed larger than life. And he really glowed! It was as if there was a shining light around him that I can still see in my mind.

There was something about the man that drew everyone to him. He was quiet and demure and not at all trying to be the center of attention, yet he was the focus of everyone in the room. I don't attribute this to his superstardom or his talent as much as his spirituality. It was a magnetic and unrelenting forcefield that you were drawn to and couldn't break away from.

We were introduced, I said virtually nothing of importance, and was as nice as could be considering that was probably about the millionth time he was in that same situation. But I distinctly remember being in his presence and that is something that will live with me forever. I've met many a superstar and some have a distinct aura about them, but none could compare to whatever it was that came from that mild, soft spoken man.

My second experience with Ravi Shankar came a few weeks later. I was given some tickets to a concert that Alan was playing with Ravi at Pasadena City College. My tickets said they were in Row YY, which I assumed was as far back in the room as you could get. When I got there and gave my ticket to the attended, sure enough we went to the last row of the balcony, only to find that there was no Row YY there. After a brief conference with another attendant, the girl turned to me with a smile and said, "I know where you're going," and proceeded to take me down to a near center seat in the first row!

The concert started almost immediately so I didn't have much time to get my bearings in the grand scheme of where I was in the audience. At a Ravi concert, the doors are locked when the raga begins and everything gets respectfully quiet, so you have to get settled quickly. About 20 minutes into the raga (the first one lasted 45 minutes) I started to notice the people around me. On my left was a guy wearing an old red plaid flannel shirt with slightly long unkept hair and about a 3 day beard. I thought I knew him from somewhere but couldn't place him. Another 10 minutes and another quick look - could it be? Another 5 minutes - naw, can't be him. Finally at the end of the raga we were both clapping and looked at each other and smiled and I thought to myself, "I'm pretty sure that's George Harrison."

At the end of the next raga we exchanged some brief small talk, and of course, he had that unmistakeable Liverpool accent, but I still wasn't sure it was him until the end of the concert, when he climb on stage from his seat and hugged a rather pleased Ravi Shankar. Yes, it was George.

Let me just say that a Ravi Shankar concert held the exact same vibe as the man. It was larger than the music. It was a spiritual experience (the only other concert where I felt this was with Carlos Santana). You didn't have to like the music, because there was something larger than that involved, and it touched everyone who was there. Not many artists, especially these days, can do the same.

In my extremely brief time with him, Ravi made an indelible mark. I can only imagine what it could have been with more exposure. Hopefully he and George are now playing ragas together again.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Evolution Of Headphones

Headphones have become a necessary part of our audio lives, whether we're in the studio or just listening for pleasure. The choices we now have are many and we all have our favorites, but that wasn't always the case. Here's a cool infographic on the evolution of headphones that's bound to bring up some trivia that you weren't aware of. Click on it to make it larger.

Evolution of Headphones Infographic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Building Your Mix: It's Not Just From The Kick

Building Your Mix image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blogMany musicians new to mixing are not aware that there are a number of places that you can build a mix from. There's a general feeling that starting from the kick drum is the best way, but that's far from the only starting point available. In this excerpt from The Audio Mixing Bootcamp book, you'll see that there are many alternative places to successfully start from when building a mix.

"Despite what you might think, there is no standard instrument to start and build a mix from. Modern mixers employ various techniques and they’re all valid, especially in different genres of music. For instance, here are the places from which a mix can be started:
  • From the Bass
  • From the Kick Drum
  • From the Snare Drum
  • From the Drum Overheads
  • From the Lead Vocal or main instrument
  • With all of the instruments and vocals in right from the beginning
  • When mixing a string section, from the highest string (violin) to the lowest (bass)
There are some mixers that just push up all the faders and mix with everything in the mix from the beginning. The theory here is that everything will eventually be in the mix anyway, you might as well start with it all in as soon as you can. The advantage to this method is that by hearing all the instruments and vocals, you’re able to make an aural space for everything. If you insert one instrument at a time, you begin to run out of space and frequently have to go back to the beginning to make sure everything fits together properly.

I start with everything on and I work on it like that. The reason is that, in my opinion, the vocal is going to be there sooner or later anyway. All the instruments are going to be there sooner or later so you might as well just get used to it. And I think that’s also what helps me see what I need to do within the first passage.  Jon Gass (mixer for eighty top 20 hits, one hundred top 40 hits, and more than a hundred gold and platinum albums)
Wherever you start from, it’s a good idea that the lead arrangement element (usually the the vocal) be inserted into the mix as soon as possible. Since the vocal is the most important element, it will use up more frequency space than other supporting instruments. Many mixers find that by waiting until late in the mix to put the vocal in, there’s not enough space left and the vocal just never sits right with the rest of the track."

You can read additional excerpts from this and my other books at bobbyowsinski.com.
You also might want to check out the Audio Mixing Bootcamp video course at Lynda.com.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Music Gear Monday: Equator D5 Monitors

Equator Audio D5 image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Monitor speakers are such a personal thing, almost like clothing or hair styles. What works for one person probably doesn't work for another. There is one thing that works for everyone though, and that's high quality at a low price. The only problem is that combination doesn't come around that often.

That's not the case with the Equator Audio D5's, a monitor speaker that at $299 a pair has such a big bang for the buck that it borders on amazing. Equator sells these direct so there's no dealer or sales rep or any other middleman costs involved, which can add up fast. You're not paying them here so you get a pair of monitors for $299 that probably would be sell for nearly twice that otherwise.

But enough about the price. I can say that I've been using them for a month or so and they've become by go-to nearfield. Why? They use a dual concentric speaker (meaning that the tweeter is set in the center of the voice coil of the woofer) so the phase is perfectly aligned, and that makes a big difference in the sound quality (watch the video below for more on that).

They're pretty beefy sounding as well for a small monitor, with a big sound and more bottom than you think they should have, especially one with a 5 1/4 inch woofer. Not only that, they're biamped with a fifty watt amp for both woofer and tweeter, so there's plenty of volume if you want.

Check these out. Also check out the isolation pads. For only 20 bucks, they're the cheapest ones out there.



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Thursday, December 6, 2012

AC/DC "Back In Black" Song Analysis

"Back In Black" is by many accounts one of the greatest hard rock songs of all time, and it’s the title track from AC/DC's seminal Back In Black album, an album that’s one of the best sellers of all time (thanks David Gee for the request). This was actually the 6th album by the band, but the first without singer Bon Scott, who had died suddenly, causing the band to briefly consider disbanding. With the newly hired Brian Johnson as their new lead singer and lyricist, and Mutt Lange (who had previously on their Highway to Hell album) set to produce, the band was soon to reach heights that no one could have anticipated. What most people don't know is that Back In Black is the 2nd biggest selling album of all time, with 49 million copies sold world-wide (22 million in the US alone).

THE SONG
"Back In Black" is a very typical rock song form-wise. It uses mostly arrangement techniques to develop the song rather than varying too much from the normal rock song form. It looks like this:

intro ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse (solo) ➞ 
chorus ➞ bridge ➞ chorus ➞ verse (solo)

As you can see, there’s basically only two sections - a verse and chorus. The solo happens over a verse, and a different guitar line with a variation on the chord changes of a verse is used to change it into a bridge.

THE ARRANGEMENT
In their typical style, AC/DC keeps this song as pure as possible with almost no overdubs except the lead guitar. First of all, listen to the turn around between 8 bar phrases during the solos. It's still a verse, but it sounds different thanks to this slight change of bass and rhythm guitar. There's nothing added to the 2nd verse to develop it, which is unusual, but it still works great, as do the background answer vocals added to the last chorus.

Arrangement Elements
  • The Foundation: bass, drums and rhythm guitars
  • The Pad: none 
  • The Rhythm: unusual for a rock song, the vocal is in double time to the pulse of the song in the verse so it adds motion 
  • The Lead: lead vocal and solo guitar
  • The Fills: lead guitar between the vocal lines in the verse, background vocal answers in the last chorus
The other thing that's interesting is the dual count off, first with muted guitar strings and then the high-hat. Countoffs are almost always cut off from a song (they're the sure sign of a demo), but here it just adds to the live feel.
THE SOUND
The sound of this record is great - big, pristine, very real and in your face, but there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than it seems. Although the record seems bone dry, the rhythm guitar has a long reverb tail that only appears on the same side (the right channel) and the lead guitar has a short double that's panned to about 1 o'clock of the rhythm guitar side. 

Brian Johnson's vocal is doubled, but the second voice is not at the same level and instead just there for a bit of support. The snare has a nice room ambiance, but also has an ever so slight bit of delayed reverb added to it as well. Angus Young's solo guitar is overdubbed and placed up the middle.

Finally, check out how the guitars are actually more clean than they are distorted, a point that's lost on many a guitar player.

THE PRODUCTION
"Back In Black" is such a band oriented song that except for a few extra parts for support, what you hear on the record is exactly what you hear live. In order to pull this off, the band has to be exceptionally tight during the recording, which AC/DC certainly is.

The thing to listen for is how disciplined the band is. They play only what's necessary, with no extra ghost notes, slides or other things that you'll hear most copy bands play when doing this song. Also note the way the attacks and releases are played by the bass and two guitars. They're perfectly in sync. 

Finally, listen how far behind the beat drummer Phil Rudd is, giving it that tension that the song needs to really work well at that tempo.



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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Music Career Killers

Playing a gig image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
The ever entertaining DIY Musician blog has a post called "Music Career Killers! Sure Ways To Ruin Your Chances For Success" that's worth a read, but I thought I'd zero in one particular item.
"Music Career Killer #13: Playing every crap gig you get offered.
When you first start out you might as well play every show that comes along because this is valuable experience, and can even save you some money on the practice room. This becomes a career killer, though, when you continue to play every bad show that comes along in the hopes that it might just convert one new fan. 
Playing to empty rooms with no pay not only sucks, but it’s also like a cancer to your career because it will destroy your enthusiasm. Next time you get offered a bad show, turn it down and spend the evening connecting working toward getting a killer show. One really good gig is worth a hundred empty venues."
Anyone that's ever gigged a lot knows that there's nothing more disheartening than playing to empty rooms gig after gig. It might not be your fault at first, since maybe the only slot you can get is midnight on a Tuesday, but sooner or later this turns into a downward spiral that's tough to break out of.

The problem is that playing to empty houses allows you to slip into to bad habits both as a band and as a player that can be hard to snap out of later. You can easily start to run through the motions and slip out of a professional show just to keep things interesting, and then it's usually down-hill from there.

What's true is that even if there's only one person in the audience, you should play it as if there are 10,000, but that gets harder and harder the more empty gigs you play.

A story that I like to tell is about going to a club to listen to a band and there were only 7 people in the audience. Unbeknownst to the band, one was a major manager, another was a big agent, and the third was a major PR person; the other 3 people were friends of the band. The band sleepwalked through the set, leaving absolutely no impression on some people that might have been able to change their career had they played up to their capabilities.

So take Music Career Killer #13 to heart and resist playing any crappy gig just to play (unless your starting out). One gig truly can be worth a hundred empty venues.
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