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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jay And Chandler From Music Geek Services On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
If you're into marketing yourself and your music, you'll love this week's Inner Circle Podcast. It features Jay and Chandler Coyle from Music Geek Services and they'll describe how they help artists and bands enlarge their audiences and sell more merch.

Also featured this week is an in-depth explanation of the "1,000 Fan Theory" of a making a living from a core audience, and a discussion of my 10 favorite microphones.

Check it out at

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Beatles "Hello Goodbye" Isolated Bass And Drums

It's always good to get a Beatles fix and here's a great one with the isolated bass and drums from "Hello, Goodbye" off of the band's Magical Mystery Tour album. This one's a lot of fun to listen to because you just hear the stripped down rhythm section (except for the leakage), spread with the drums to the left and the bass to right, without any of the many overdubs on the song. Here's what to listen for:

1. The drums are extremely compressed and distorted. The various Beatle engineers used to use a Fairchild 660 on the drums, but on this song it was really cranked.

2. Take notice that Ringo actually doesn't play a lot in the song except for the kick drum, as the motion is mostly carried by a shaker. Despite that, this song is a perfect illustration of his excellent time and showcases his very unique tom fills.

3. The bass is pretty spot on and ever so slightly ahead of the beat. By this time, Sir Paul was overdubbing his bass towards the end of the production so he could better tailor the part to fit the song. This is a perfect illustration of that technique.

4. Listen to the bass part on the outro after about the 3:00 mark. This is something that I hadn't heard on the record before.

5. It's interesting to hear the piano, organ and percussion leakage on the left and the vocal on the right.

This video will no doubt be taken down soon, so enjoy it while you can.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What To Do When The Song Is Over

Tom Jackson is one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to live stage performances, and has helped all sorts of performers improve their stage presence. Here are a number of suggestions he has about what to do when you end a song during a live performance. I bet that's a subject that you never thought about (I certainly hadn't), but he has some great ideas that are used by huge performers the world over if you pay attention.

His premise is that you ask the audience for applause at the end of a song non-verbally. Here's how.
  • Hold your ground onstage and don't back up. You can even take a couple of steps forward.
  • Pick a couple of people out in the audience and smile at them, nod at them, pump your fist at them, and generally just connect.
  • Singers should put the mic down to their side if they're hold it.
  • If you're standing behind a mic, step to the side so the audience doesn't think you're about to talk.
All this is designed to build applause momentum.

Equally as important is what not to do. Don't:
  • back up
  • turn your back on the audience
  • adjust your gear
  • talk to another band member
  • say "thank you" into the mic immediately after the song ends.
You can read more of the article on the Discmakers blog or check out Tom's website at

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Basic Decisions Every Producer Faces

Decision making image
Before a music production can even begin there are a number of basic decisions that every producer faces in order to get the ball rolling. This excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook illustrates the many production considerations confronting a producer in a typical project.

"• Who is the engineer (or engineers)? Your choice of an engineer is critical to the project and, like many other aspects of production, this is not a place to cheap out. A great engineer is your safety blanket. He’ll make things sound great even with gear that’s not up to snuff, he’ll provide useful technical advice, audio expertise, and even production suggestions when you need another opinion. 

Many projects will use a top engineer for basics and mixing, and a lower level guy for overdubs in order to save some money. While this can work, the continuity of having the same engineer all the way through the project will keep the quality uniformly high and actually save time and money, since there’s the possibility for confusion when projects are handed off between engineers.

Is any rental gear required? Even the most well-equipped studio in the world probably still doesn’t have something that you want or need for the session, be it an esoteric piece of audio or musical gear, or just something that’s essential for you to get “your sound.” Make sure that you plan ahead for when you’ll need the rental and plan your schedule around it if necessary. An example of this might be a rental of a grand piano or Hammond organ. You want to use it as soon as it arrives instead of paying rental time for it to just sit around.

What’s the best time of day to record? This can actually be a loaded question. While most bands would rather start early in the day to stay fresh, many singers don’t feel like their throats open up until later in the day. While you might only need a guide vocal from the singer as the basics are recorded, you certainly don’t want the singer to be harmed or feel abused, and herein lies the dilemma. The fact of the matter is, you don’t want to start recording too late in the day since you’ll end up having everyone burn out early and you might loose the advantage of a few hours of the daily rate that you’ve paid for. While starting the session at 10AM might not work, try to start no latter than noon if possible. Many musicians want or need to get home at a reasonable hour to be with their families, and working too far into the night can upset your body clock if you’re not used to it.

Any additional musicians required? Once again, it’s best to plan as far in advance as you can so you can schedule the other players as needed. The more players you need together at once (like a string or horn section), the more time in advance you may need to book them.

What format and sample rate? While it’s possible that you might still want to break out an analog tape machine to record your basics, chances are that at some point in the project you’ll probably return to the comfort and flexibility of a DAW (most likely Pro Tools). The choice of bit depth and sample rate can be critical to the amount of hassle that you’ll likely to encounter down the road. Here’s a chart that can help you with your choice.

What’s the order of recording? The order of recording is one of the most strategic decisions that a producer can make. Most producers like to start off with something relatively easy so the band gets comfortable with the studio and gains confidence in their playing. A school of thought says that the most difficult song should be recorded right after that first easy one so you can tackle it while you’re fresh and you have the ability to come back to it later if need be.

What studio or studios will you be using? It’s entirely possible that you’ll be using more than one studio to record your project, as is the norm these days. Usually you’ll use a studio with a room large enough to record drums or the rhythm tracks, then move on to a smaller and cheaper room for the overdubs. Then you might end up in a totally different studio for mixing, which brings up the following points about selecting a studio."

If you want your project to come in on time and under budget, take some time to think about the above before your first session.

To read additional excerpts from The Music Producer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of

Monday, August 11, 2014

9 Music Products The Industry Got Right

Ampeg SVT image
The Ampeg SVT
A visit to a friend's very capable commercial studio the other day got me thinking about some of the musical and audio items that have remained essentially intact since they were introduced. In some cases improvements have been attempted, but the original design is still the best. In other cases there has been continual improvements, but the original idea still hasn't changed all that much. Here are 9 products in no particular order that the music and pro audio manufacturers got right from the start.

1. The Shure SM57/58 - Nearly 50 years down the road and the SM 58 is still the standard stage mic, and the SM 57 can be found in every recording studio big and small. What's the difference between them? They both have the same capsule but the 58 has a filter to decrease the proximity effect a little.

2. The Ampeg SVT amplifier - Has there ever been a better bass amp been built? There's still nothing like that 8x10" cabinet for being able to dial in almost any bass sound you want, and the monster head will easily rock any venue.

3. The Marshall 1960 cabinet - There's something about the original birch Marshall 4x12" cabinet that's never been beat. It makes any amp, big or small, sound bigger and larger than life.

4. The Fender Strat - Former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor once expressed to me that he felt the Strat was the world's most perfectly designed guitar, and he couldn't have been more right. The shape, the contour, the sound, the vibrato tailpiece - the only thing it isn't is a Les Paul.

5. The Fender Precision Bass - You might see high-profile bass players play fancy boutique basses on stage, but when it comes to recording there's always a trusty Precision around. If you want a can't-miss big full sound, this is still the one for the job.

K&M boom arm image
K&M Boom Arm
6. The K&M boom stand - Atlas made the original boom arm accessory in the early 60's but the tripod Konig & Meyer boom has been the studio standard for more than 50 years. It hasn't changed much in that time, but it hasn't needed to.

7. Powered monitors - Once upon a time you struggled to find the right amp to match your speakers. It was a nerve-wracking search very much akin to a surfer finding the perfect wave. Monitors with built-in power amps that are ideally match to the speaker took away all that confusion, while making them cheaper, more compact, and sound better.

8. The Digital Audio Workstation - For a long time the only thing that engineer's knew was tape, and as a result became quite used to its limitations, even during the transition from analog to digital. Having a remote sitting right next to the console was just part of the natural studio environment. Today most DAWs offer way more advantages to tape  and we're all much better off for it. The modern DAW is what's made the home recording studio possible, and even the least expensive app has 100 times more power than what The Beatles had available to them (although talent is another story).

Radial JDI Direct Box image
Radial JDI Direct Box
9. The Dean Jensen Direct Box Design - It's hard to believe there was a time before direct boxes, but after some industrious techs began to custom-build them in the 70's, transformer designer Dean Jensen provided a free design using one of his transformers that's been copied over and over ever since. If it's a passive direct box that you're buying, Dean Jensen is its father.

What else have I missed?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Guitar Center Charged With Unfair Labor Practices

Guitar Center front and dark image
We all like the convenience of Guitar Center, especially when it comes to product selection, but one of the things that most customers dislike is the service. Most floor salesman don't stay very long (especially if they're any good), and that high turnover rate leads to a generally inexperienced and sometimes inattentive and undertrained staff that can sometimes be frustratingly unhelpful.

The reason why employees don't stay very long is that they're not treated very well by the company, having to work long hours for low pay and few benefits for the "privilege" of having a day job connected to the music that they love. Even store managers have a real grind that takes over their lives.

Many thought that situation might turn around last year when three GC stores in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas won elections to become part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), with two other New York stores voting against installing the union.

Now the RWDSU has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Guitar Center has stalled in bargaining talks and attempted to punish workers who voted for union representation. The reason? Although the union was voted into the three GC stores, it has yet to reach a  collective bargaining contract with the company and seemingly has no interest in doing so.

The powerful AFL-CIO labor federation has even gotten involved and accused the company of dragging its feet as a tactic to warn other employees to back off from any attempts at unionizing.

Here's the bottom line - A strong Guitar Center is good for the entire music business, especially at the moment. Happier and better trained employees would lead to more satisfied customers and stronger sales, which once again, is good for everyone.

The company is now being run by Ares Management, who recently took over from Bain Capital, two investment firms that have demonstrated their interest more in bottom line profits at any cost rather than happy employees and customers (here's more about that in a previous post).

What we're seeing is some long-standing union busting management tactics because Ares/Bain needs to squeeze every dollar out of the company. Simply stated, both companies are very upside down in terms of their return on investment in GC, so the last thing they want to see is an increase in labor costs and benefits due to unionization. Meanwhile GC, the manufacturers, employes and customers suffer, with no glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Unfortunately, this is another lose-lose situation where no one benefits. A strong Guitar Center is currently very important to our industry, but this course of action does little in taking it there.

You can read more details here.


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