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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.


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.


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.

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.

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.


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

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 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
If you don't know about 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?


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.


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