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Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Get A Gear Endorsement

The dream of every musician right after the one of getting a big record label contract is to get an endorsement deal with an equipment manufacturer. With the way the record business is going these days, the endorsement deal may be far easier to get and lot more meaningful too.

But there's an interesting catch-22 that exists in the endorsement world. For the most part, you only get endorsed when you don't need it. Makes you scratch your head a little bit and wonder why the world works this way, because you only really need the helping hand with free and discounted gear when you're dead broke, not when you have fame and fortune.

OK, here's the reality.

Most musicians forget this, but an endorsement is a two way street. The manufacturer has to get as much as of it as the musician, maybe even more, so the question becomes:

1) Do you have a fanbase? No fans, not endorsement, simple enough. There's no benefit for the manufacturer. Now every once in a while a manufacturer might take a fling with someone who they think has a chance to break big, but that still means that there's some industry buzz to even get them interested in the first place.

2) What's the demographic of your fanbase? Even if you have fans, if they're not the ones that the manufacturer is trying to reach, there's no benefit for them to enter into a deal with you. For instance, if you only have 14 year old girls as your fans, Marshall probably doesn't care too much. 14 year old boys may be a different story though.

3) Do you use the gear? If you don't use the gear already, once again you probably don't have a chance at an endorsement deal. If you have 3 years worth of promo photos in which you're playing Yamaha drums or a Telecaster, that's worth some consideration.

The flip side of this is if you have a player who's known for using one brand or model of instrument, and the manufacturer can turn him, that could make a huge difference to the buying public. Think of Slash suddenly playing a Strat. What a bombshell that would be in the guitar world!

4) Why should we endorse you? Imagine your toughest exam in school where you've had to give a oral dissertation. Imagine trying to sell someone something that you care about deeply (some people are only good at selling things they don't care about). That's the type of scrutiny you'll be under if it ever gets to the point of discussing a deal. You're becoming the face of a brand and they have to be sure that you're worthy. It's a lot more important to the manufacturer than it is for you.

5) Who's endorsing who? If the artist is big enough, he's putting his seal of approval on a brand or a product. He's endorsing the product. If you're not yet a household word in the music business and Fender decides to feature you in their advertising, they're endorsing you. They're raising your stature in the business. This is a bet on their part that at some point in your career you'll be big enough to turn around - think John Meyer.

Surprisingly, endorsements aren't what they're cracked up to be. In many cases you don't get preferential treatment unless you're Jeff Beck. Much of the time you actually have to wait to get a new piece of gear until after the dealer demand dies down, and sometimes you can actually get a better deal from Guitar Center than from your manufacturer (especially a Japanese manufacturer, who are very tight on endorsements).

In the end, endorsements aren't worth the time it takes to dream about them. You're better off spending the time writing the song that will make it unnecessary.
Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

6 Questions For Pro Audio PR Guy Daniel Keller

Writer, musician and technology uber-geek Daniel Keller founded Get It In Writing in 2002 and has provided his various communication talents to a number of hi-profile companies in the professional audio industry. Daniel's audio and music clients include Ampeg, Avid, Community, Mackie, Tascam, Shure and Meyer, as well as green companies such as Arizona Solar and Greenfuel Solar. Daniel also contributes articles to several magazines and websites and his latest can be found in the Universal Audio Webzine entitled, "Using Multiband EQ To Fix Common Mix Problems." He was kind enough to answer this weeks "6 Questions."

1) How did you break into the business?
I’m not sure I ever officially “broke in,” so much as evolved. I started as a musician in my teens, and pretty much every job I’ve had has been in the music industry. My current job is basically the culmination of all those different experiences, filtered through my own voice and my own perspective.

2) What makes you unique?
I’ve been fortunate to have had a good balance of right brain creative and left brain technical jobs, which I think has given me a good understanding of people’s different points of view. I can relate equally well to artists, engineers and corporate types. And since I don’t come from a traditional PR background, I think I take a more creative approach to it.

3) Who was your biggest influence?
It’s really difficult to point to a single influence. I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from so many great people, and I think that eclectic education is what makes me who I am.

4) What's the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I get paid to be creative. I get up every day and do something I love to do.

5) When and where were you the happiest?
Right here, right now. I can honestly say my life gets better all the time.

6) What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never get too complacent.


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

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Won't Get Fooled Again" - Lessons From The Isolated Guitar

A few days ago we talked about the organ sound of The Who's classic "Won't Get Fooled Again." Today we'll focus on the guitar track, which is isolated from the rest of the instruments below.

I bring this up not to dwell on songs of the past but as a lesson to aspiring engineers, producers and guitar players since there are several interesting observations that can be made from the isolated guitar track.

1) The first thing to listen to is how each guitar track is played (there are two - left and right). There are sections of the song that are played with much less conviction that others. This would never fly with the production standards of today.

2) The guitars don't have a set part in some points during the song. Again, this wouldn't fly if recorded today.

3) The playing is somewhat sloppy by today's standards. There's a bit of a tuning problem, some of the rhythms are off between the guitars and that conviction thing pops up again and again, especially at the end of phrases.

Now this is one of the most iconic songs of all time in rock, always in the top 50 of all time songs, so why would we even bother to analyze the playing? Because the song simply would be recorded differently and as a result, sound different today, even if the original Who members were recording it. We listen a lot harder to a performance these days that we did back in 1971 when this song was recorded, and the little things mentioned above don't get by anymore.

But is this attention to detail really progress? People still listen to this song nearly 40 years later because the performance is so exciting. We frequently squeeze the life out of performance today by seeking perfection.

Some of the other things to listen to:

A) the drum leakage on the right channel
B) the way the track was cleaned up at :42 (probably by using something called "Spot Erase" on the tape recorder)
C) the guitar tracks were printed with reverb (commonly done during that era)

Have a listen.

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

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Microphone Information Sites

There are a couple of websites that I really like for information on microphones. One is the Microphone Database at from drummer and mic collector Matt McGlynn, and the other is at, which is a site by Professor S.O. Coutant of Pasadena City College.

The Microphone Database has 860 microphone profiles and focuses more on newer mics. Each mic has a brief description, the features, as well as the specs, frequency chart, polar plots and review. It's a great place to compare the virtues between several mics before you choose to buy.

Professor Coutant's site looks more at older mics, which makes it a great resource for any microphone history, and specializes in mics used for broadcast. There are some great detailed photos, as well as some seldom seen celebrity user pictures (like the one of a very young Willie Nelson from 1966 on the left).

When I was teaching recording in the early 1990's, one of the biggest problems for my students was one of microphone identification, especially of vintage mics. It was all well and good to discuss using a U-67 or a C-12A, but most students didn't have a clue what they looked like. That's why I dedicated an entire chapter to the microphones that are considered "standards" in The Recording Engineer's Handbook. I tried to give a history of each mic, as well as it's uses. I'd like to think I did a really good job with providing facts that can't be found anywhere else in my book, but sites like Matt's Microphone Database and Professor Coutant's now make it easy for a student to easily identify a vintage microphone. Now if only they were more available to use.

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 the music business.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Sound Of "Won't Get Fooled Again"

The iconic song of a generation and staple of Classic Rock radio is The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." What really makes the sound of that record is what everyone thinks is an arpeggiated synthesizer (actually it's an organ controlled by a sample and hold generator) which makes up the principle rhythm of the song. In video clip #1 that follows, Pete Townshend discusses how he got that sound.

Clip #2 is the first of a series of examples that I'll be posting illustrating how perfection isn't required in great music. Sometimes it's the imperfections that make a record special, and you'll hear that in the second clip, which is that same organ track of Won't Get Fooled Again isolated from the rest of the music. It's pretty random, imperfectly played (there are a lot of split notes), and so far away from what anyone would do today (even Townshend) that it makes for a great history lesson.

It's also interesting to listen to the places in the track where the organ is shared with background vocals, hand claps and guitar, which was necessary in 1970 when the song was recorded since it was still the era of limited tape tracks to record on (the song was done on an 8 track).

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

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.


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