The outdoor hockey rinks recently opened here in downtown Toronto. It's pretty common to see skaters wearing NHL jerseys... while some are just cool looking jerseys, I'd say most are of favorite teams and/or players.
I've never been one to rock a jersey playing outdoor but decided this year to dig out my old Lemieux jersey from my parents house... I think I got it for my birthday in grade 6. It was pretty big on me back then and I didn't wear it much out of fear I'd ruin it. I wore it to school one day and ended up getting blue pen on the sleeve... that's also about the time girls started wearing lipstick... so it just wasn't worth the risk. For the most part it stayed hung up in my closet.
Growing up, most kids' hero's and idols are either athletes, actors, and musicians. When I was young, the Pittsburg Penguins were the shit and Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were the shit... but Lemieux got the edge because of the Canadian factor. Regardless, Penguins or Team Canada, whatever jersey that guy put on, he stood out and dominated.
When Mario went public with his illness and departed from the game, possibly for good, I was pretty sad. Sports are a good way to help kids learn about reality in small doses. It's one thing when your favorite player is out with a broken arm... it's another to try and understand when you're 10 years old what cancer is... and why they make it sound like such a big deal... as if he's going to die or something.
I can't remember what year it was... but for Christmas one of my older brothers surprised my dad and I with tickets to see Pittsburg vs Ottawa (Leafs tickets were insanely expensive and out of the question). I was floored... I was going to get to see Lemieux! It was later in his career, post comeback, but at this point in my life, being in the same building is just as good as hanging out at his house or something. I'd watch TSN highlights every morning and for the first time I'd be able to watch it and think to myself "I was there!"
During warm up, the unhelmeted Lemieux had the calm and cocky swagger that's expected from elite pro athletes... but during most of the game he stood with his ass against the boards at the blue line, waiting for the long bomb pass... which would result in a breakaway... and chances are a goal... but it was just so disappointing to see.
Where was the team play? Where was the grinding in front of the net? Where was going end to end making the Senator's look like a bunch of clowns? Where was the dominate player I'd grew up watching... what the fuck did they do with Lemieux??? I was confused. Disappointed is an understatement.
It wasn't until years later a few more athletes started following the same path... they became shadows of their former self. People complain pro athletes are over paid... but I imagine none of them care about the money the minute they realize they can't play like they use to... injuries, illness, or just old age. The thing that defined them has been taken away, from the outside in, in most cases. If the mind still works, experience will always trump a rookie, but when the body can't keep up, it levels the playing field... ultimately tilting so far out of their favor... all they can do is watch.
Memories are snapshots... greatness is a snapshot. We remember the good times and the bad times... not much in between. When we think of a past relationship and miss someone, we tend to think of the good times... or I guess the great times. When something is working so well, and then all of a sudden seemingly not, we question what happened. Our expectations of when things were great become our expectation of normal. We ignore that most things have a curve... a rise and fall... perhaps if we're lucky it'll plateau and just "end" abruptly... it's pretty sad in reality though when that happens.
Musicians, athletes, actors... they all sorta fall under this disposable celebrity 0nce the public (or owners) feel they're past their prime... but I think it's important to remember at the heart of it, they're just people with jobs, who've sacrificed a lot to follow their dream. Lots of people die (from the outside in) trying and don't even come close! Meanwhile, even more are too afraid to even try, for fear of failure.
Where I'm going with all this? Not really sure... I just thought I'd share some thoughts on something that affects everyone's life... our memories and expectations of others... and I guess "things" to a point. It's almost impossible to achieve greatness... and even harder to maintain that memory of greatness in others once it's past it's prime. I think it'd be good if we could all keep that in mind whenever we cross paths with someone who's deemed "past their prime"... since it's probably our opinions that shape who they see in the mirror.
Question posted on Google+Recording and Mix Engineers Forum.
I think it's safe to say recording studios as we use to know them are pretty much dead... or obviously dying. Here in Toronto (ON), most of the big studios have closed, become schools, and/or offering rates that really make you scratch your head considering what they were charging a few years ago.
Of all the things to point the finger at, I think a major cause has to do with who the bands/artists actually want to record/work with. When it comes to any service based profession/trade, we want to work with people we trust, especially in the beginning since recording can be so expensive. We ask around and typically make decisions based off referrals and past work.
The guys around the city that are doing well (keeping their lights on and heads above water at least) are known in the scene and jack of all trades (engineers, mixers, producers, writers, musicians). You might argue it's better to specialize and it's good to have "fresh ears" throughout the process but it's just the new breed of studio folk. Less cooks in the kitchen... and less cooks cost less money... most of the time.
We also have studio set ups that keep our overhead much more reasonable than a room with a giant SSL and $80K worth of outboard... which I feel mainly gets used for show these days.
Word of mouth, quality of work, and your reputation will attract the attention. Yes it takes time, but that's how trust and experience work. Once the bands/artists understand what people on our side of the glass have to offer their career, they want to be friends with us. We know things... and they need our help.
We all love recording... but you have to reach out and build those connections. Too many, especially young engineers and producers think "if you build it, they will come." The bands don't really care though, they're already busy working wherever their friends are.
"... so you wanna make a record?"
Originally, I planned to do this as a single post, but I think it'd be better spread out across a few parts. There's always a who, what, why, and how involved in the decision making process... so when it comes to recording, the question we have to ask ourselves is why do we need to record in the first place?
Is it to get our newest, strongest song released?
Do we need an EP to keep our fans interested and help spread the word?
Are we going full out and want an album to help set us apart from the "for funs" releasing an EP every 3 years?
Budget, process, and the overall end product are things to consider... professional recordings cost money and should be treated as investments... unless your band is truly hobbyist and just for fun... in which case... do whatever you feel like... and feel like spending.
While these opinions are my own, I do my best to share an unbiased view between my side of the glass and the artists. So let's get started...
This is the cheapest of the 3 to record... usually. Typically bands who aim to record a single use it as a promotional tool while gearing up for an album or EP... and sometimes it's just a way to feel like they're being productive while they wander around deciding what their next move is. Singles are also great for special occasions or genres that have a heavy emphasis on radio markets/promotion. Intentions aside, it can help buy some time between releases or hype up the next one. Considering we're in a "singles driven market", in most cases, it's good to release material more frequently than larger releases with longer gaps between.
Singles typically take 1-3 days to record/mix and I've had singles recorded and up on iTunes in roughly a week. Budgets can run anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand.
Financially speaking this is not the most efficient way of recording, especially if you are planning on releasing a full length album or an EP. For bands, things like drum sounds and guitar tones can vary quite a bit from session to session... so you can imagine how disjointed an album might feel if it's recorded and assembled this way.
Even if bands are wanting to do just one song, I always encourage recording a few more drum tracks if they can... they might as well since they're set up and ready to go anyway. Same goes for better demos if you're tracking guide/ghost/scratch tracks "live off the floor". Take a couple passes at some other tunes while you're set up. I'm sure the engineer won't mind and it should only take an extra hour or two to do a quick mix down of the additional songs.
Back on the topic of money for a minute... singles are hard to sell, especially off stage. Fans typically won't by a download/dropcard... don't even get me started on these stupid things. It's better to give potential fans a link for a free download of your new song than try and squeeze them for a buck. You want the exposure and for them to share your music with their friends. Don't make it harder than it already is... the $1 now isn't worth it. Places like iTunes/Bandcamp are a different story though. Direct your fans there. Put it up, keep working, and see what happens. The songs are there if people want them... and you'll be surprised how many people will support you if you make things easily available.
Currently, these are a popular choice for many reasons... the biggest seems to be budget related. It'll typically cost a few thousand to record a professional EP and expect be in the studio 0.5-3/song to record, edit, and mix. Most bands will have to save up and/or find some funding, but most can swing this budget.
... bands will often refer to their "EP" as an "album". Deep down they want to do an album, but they feel they just can't afford it... sometimes it's because they don't have enough songs... but usually it's a financial thing.
EP's are a fan favorite, especially for up and coming bands. People are busy these days, and there's so much music coming out, so 3-5 songs are a nice bite size version of what a band/artist has to offer.
Releasing a couple EP's over 12-18 month cycle can take the place of releasing 1 album or in a crazy way, 10-12 singles. I also feel there's an advantage in releasing 2 EP's over an album I like to refer to as the "evolutionary advantage".
You get to refine and redefine yourself with each release so why not always try and put your best foot forward a couple of times instead of waiting on "more songs" to fill out an album? Unless you're pumping out albums often, EP's can help you discover your sound and more importantly, what's reacting with fans. Coming into your stride sooner than later is important... this is good way to see what people can't get enough of.
Recordings should feel like a snapshot of where we're at creatively. How many times are you excited about your new songs... only to dread playing them 6 months later?. Record those tunes when you've got the zip in your step. That energy will translate.
On the money ti, EP's can be sold off stage ($5-$7 or a $1/song+$2 for packaging)... but again, I'd be generous with them. You want to build a fan base, and you aren't devaluing your music if you offer it to someone who's interested as a gift. Who doesn't like gifts? People will most likely offer to buy at shows and online if they are sincerely interested anyway.
Ah yes... the album. This is the coveted prize for most who wish to enter the studio. We all grew up listening to albums... I think it's easier to name our favorite albums than our favorite songs come to think of it... and if you agree with me, chances are you weren't born in or after the 90's.
I'd like to say albums are expensive... because they are... but really they are more affordable to create than ever on a pro level thanks to technology. The costs can literally range from a $1,000 to $100,000+... especially once you factor in everything (and everyone) necessary to create a project on this scale. For the most part, if you skimp on budget, you'll have a full length demo. Sure you can tell your friends you have an album (how much they'll actually care at this point considering you've been telling them about it for the better part of a year now I don't know), but it'll probably suck if you cheap out.
If you feel like recording an album will be a stretch financially, do an ep. It's as simple as that. If you want to do an album, but can't afford one, but decide to do it anyway, it tells people you're an amateur, it's a vanity project, you couldn't find anybody to invest in your music (business) or weren't willing to fully invest in it yourself. Approach an album budget with an open mind and understand where the money is being spent. Understand and negotiate. These are investments so treat them as such. Do your homework and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Speaking of money, you can sell these off stage and online easily... granted it's good... it is good right? Commercially viable is the name of the game and 60 minutes is a long time to listen to someone tell you how much they've impressed themselves... and tried their best.
Actually off stage it doesn't matter if it's good. You've already got their money if you wow'd them with your live show. They might not share the album with their friends though... and you might get the infamous "they're better live!" review. That means your album sucked.
Sale wise, this is the biggest bang for the buck since you'll be pulling in $10-$12 a disk at shows and $7ish a copy online... where you have to do very little work past the point of sale I might add.
That being said, it'll probably cost the most to create overall so there's more expenses to recoup.
That too being said, this is an investment piece. The idea is to not just have the album available for sale for 2 months after it's released, but theoretically the next... well... forever. It tells everyone you've made the ultimate recording commitment to your music and it's meant to be share with your core fans.
That also being said too, there's something to be said about your album getting shared at a "torrent" level. Despite the amount you've spent creating it, that's the goal!
The goal is for people to steal it?
Because it means it's good and the demand is there for the music! Good enough people want it, and good enough someone decided to make it available for people to find it for free. Don't get mad though, it's for the best... and it's how the system works these days. Again, big picture. The exposure is what you're after... build your brand, build the buzz, build your fan base, maintain your fan base, maintain your brand.
Also keep in mind, just because there's a demand for your music, doesn't mean there's the same demand for the band/artist. You still have work to do, but a great album is a way to open some doors.
Expect to be in the studio actually recording anywhere from a week to a couple months.
Avoid spending 6+ months making your album. These days it just isn't necessary to spend that long recording and you'll annoy your friends and family by constantly talking about it. This is one of the big problems with "my buddy will do it" budgets. They typically take forever to complete because your buddy has a day job... and doesn't really care about your band that much... since it's not paying the bills and they most likely have no reputation at stake. That's the truth.
Also, factor in the time necessary for pre-production, planning, plus additional mix and mastering tweaks.
Plan, plan, plan! That's my biggest piece of advice if you want to record an album.
... and don't get all bitchy when you feel like nobody cares about the album you spent 18 months recording, 8 days after it's released. Move onto the next, it's going to take time for it to get shared if it's a solid album anyway.
The short answer... EP.
I think most low to mid exposure bands and artists should consider releasing 3-5 songs in groups at least every 18 months.
Mainly to have something to talk about online constantly, build up their catalog, and also help refine their sound quicker. It will encourage you to keep writing/co-writing. Your live show will get stronger since you'll be forced to weed out the weaker material, plus you'll have a better idea what your growing fan base is leaning towards sonically and style wise.
You don't always have to press/manufacture your releases... especially in the beginning. The amount of money it costs to press up a cd versus have it online for people is a no brainer. Sure your buddy wants to buy a cd to support your band... so tell them to get it off iTunes or band camp. Tell them to come to shows and bring a friend.
Those 100 copies out of 1,000 you'll sell over the year isn't worth it. Take orders if it's that important to get physical copies made and press them up once those pre-sales cover the costs. Nobody will hate you for making them wait... unless they really have that little going on in their life.
Stay tuned for Part 2 which will deal with budgets. Making sense of real world numbers. How to plan, budget, and afford quality recordings these days.
(... because when you're laughin', you're smilin'.)
So I've decided a couple things... well decided and accepted.
#1. I failed largely huge big at posting October's recap last month... last month as in November. I apologize to those who asked what happened to it. In short, it's hard to write these because of time and because so many projects spill over from month to month. It's hard not to go into crazy detail but also tough to just skim over things as well... especially when you're me... and if you know me personally, you're probably laughing a little. I'm going to keep at it though now that I have a better idea how long these will take now... and how long I'd like to make them.
#2. Along with the 60+ #DearBands ideas sitting in my Twitter account, I have a bunch of blog posts partially started which I'm planning on giving more attention too soon. I'd like to post at least once a week in the new year... or whenever inspirado strikes. Like most things though, the hardest part is getting started, but once you have some momentum it'll get easier and easier. The feedback has been great so far though and it helps motivate for sure.
#3. A couple is 2.
A couple hiccups with projects opened up some space to work on new tunes with All But Over and brand spankin' new band, The Joy Arson.
I have to say, working with a band that has nothing released is a little more difficult than one who has a few releases under their belt with their sound developed. Songs aside, you have an idea sonically what you're after and what they think sounds "good". With a new band, it's a clean slate. You'll get some references... typically of bands that have albums that won Grammy's, spent tens of thousands of dollars to make their albums, full of top shelf talent, etc, but you really just need to start recording and see what makes peoples ears perk up.
I believe in bands sounding like bands. Sure, a producer/engineer/mixer can help sculpt the sound, but the bottom shouldn't fall out if they're out of the picture. A band shouldn't be lost creatively or sonically if you take people on my side of the glass out of the equation. Part of the job is pulling ideas they have out of their head and getting them to come out the speakers... the process gets a little easier with each release in most cases since they get better at articulating their ideas and you have some form of reference to what they lean towards.
It's not that I think one is more fun than the other, just each present their own set of obstacles to overcome.
The goal is to have these tunes out early December and they're pretty close to being wrapped... year is almost over... my birthday, xmas, then new years... then valentines day... I need a vacation.
I finally re-wired the studio!
I've been putting this off since July I think. There are lots of spots in a studio that never get cleaned... I do my best to get to them at least once a year, do a thorough clean/vacuum. I'd picked up a couple new pieces for the studio as well and needed to make space for them. You'd think this isn't a big deal but re-wiring and shuffling things around can cause stupid amounts of headaches... like when a cable that was 2' too long before is now 2" too short... awesome. The new setup has minor changes but I noticed the improvement instantly. Comfort is key, and if I wished something was "another way", I'd rather just find a way to make it work that way. Customize it for me, just like anybody would their instrument.
Lastly... aside from a shit ton of meetings, emails, and phone calls discussing projects for next year... I had a couple rehearsals and played a couple shows with Age Of Days opening for My Darkest Days (the shows were technically beginning of December). Lots of fun and it was as if things picked right up from the summer. There's word of a tour or two next year so we'll see what happens there... as much as I love the studio life... sometimes it's good to change it up... and it's always good to see things from the other side of the glass.
(... yeah I'm hurrying... I have a system though.)
Sometimes it's hard to find the time… and sometimes finding the time to find the time is a problem in itself. I do my best to write these near the end of the month instead of the beginning of the next month but honestly, sometimes there's just so much I'd like to talk about that it's overwhelming... so before we get into double digit days of November *cough*… here's October.
Early in the month, Breached finally used their prize from last years CMW "demo listening panel thing" which was a day at the brand new (and hugely big large) Revolution Recording studio. This place is huge… and awesome.
The plan was to film and record an acoustic EP with the time instead of record a song or something. For the type of band they are and the production style involved to "do things right", recording a song just didn't make sense. If you plan properly, odds are you can maximize your time and energy… all without leaving the other side (who donated the prize) feeling taken advantage of.
(...or sad... confused... and alone.)
The day was pretty relaxed… the Love & Crossbones (film/video) crew were all very fun and professional, while the house engineer(s) and staff were all very pleasant to work with... something I sort of miss from my days at Pocket Studios.
Having my own place, I work alone a lot, which has it's pros and cons. If I had to choose one over the other though… working with a great team is the way to go for sure. Dynamics are important in life and the dynamic you get from being part of a great team can be one of the best things about any job. Often it's a delicate balance, but so far, the vibe is good there. Revolution beyond a studio really, it's a creative space.
I skipped out early to play hockey that night but it was reassuring to know they were in good hands. It's a nice change to just enjoy hanging out in a studio… as a fan… even though I was technically there to produce it.
UPDATE: The Breached EP is mixed and ready to go… just waiting to finish up the video aspect and hopefully I can share it soon!
(... and now...)
The last few years I've been quite active during Toronto's big 3 indie music festivals/conferences (CWM, NXNE, Indieweek). This was the first time in a while I didn't really get out too much. I'd typically check the schedule, plan my route, hope the weather co-operates, and then enjoy my evening(s) checking out bands with a friend or two. I found the schedule tough to navigate online this year… serious side note for a minute… why can't these festivals get the schedules right? I understand there's a lot of info to organize but really… they always seem to be missing something I'd consider important… like genre, hometown, set time, etc. I'd be awesome if you could quickly scan through the schedule or filter on an app by genre... then at least you'd know what kind of acts to expect... you just can't get enough info from the artist/band name and venue.
So the last couple years I've been asked to judge for indie week… all good... it's fun to watch some bands and give opinions… the latter being something everyone has to and loves to do in this line of work. I can't remember how behind schedule the show was, but when I got there, on time, there wasn't much going on at all… just the bar staff and a few volunteers milling about. Classic. At least I had time to grab food and meet up with some friends in town close to the venue. Eventually I got a text from another judge that the show was starting and I made my way back over to the venue.
If there's one thing that sets pro shows apart from amateurs regarding shows… it's set times. Pro shows run on time. I don't know how they do it, but rarely do bands hit the stage more than 5-10 minutes later than they're scheduled at a well run show.
Oh wait, I do know how they do it... people get in shit for showing up late and not going on stage on time. There are penalties, consequences and repercussions for not doing things the way organizers had planned to run the show.
A personal favorite is the excuse to push back a show until "our fans get there".
Seriously... if you tell them you're on at 10pm, and they show up at 10:45... they aren't your fans... they are your friends... and apparently your friends don't care enough to see your band... they care enough to come out and have a few drinks whenever they feel like it.
(... make sense?)
The thing is... trying to schedule hundreds of bands in a weekend and not having a strictly enforced schedule screws up peoples evenings. If you're trying to showcase bands and people can't see the bands, this defeats the purpose of buying a wristband that gets you into multiple venues over several nights to see as many bands as the festival encourages. There's been times I've shown up to find out a band isn't on for 30 minutes… and times I've shown up, on time, and a band is already halfway through their set.
Again. I don't get it. I don't get why 90% of shows that could run on time, don't run on time. It's one of my deal breakers when it comes to sticking around at shows... since I'm actually there to see the bands… so when there's no bands… and considering how much sleep and free time I get… I'd rather be doing something else that late at night… usually involving house pants, a bowl of cheerios, and watching happy wheels.
(... a little window into my life.)
That being said, the show Saturday night was really solid. I think it was one of the strongest lineups I've seen… definitely the strongest I've got to judge. Every band looked great, sounded great, had some memorable tunes, and the atmosphere of the venue magnified the energy. Good times. I felt good about the band that won the night and knew they'd represent well at the finals the following day.
Speaking of… the finals were great too. Being held at Tattoo, there's a great stage, audience set up, and sound system to showcase the finalists. It's a shame Tattoo seems to hate bands and treat them like shit… but that night seemed to be an exception since I hardly noticed.
Right from the get go, the acts were solid, entertaining, and had a nice blend of pro polish and scrappy DIY. Lots of genres represented… folk, rock, metal, instrumental electro jazz… I skipped out to grab a bite to eat at one point, but a couple things I thought were missing were hiphop/urban and RnB.
Last years winners were Tiny Danza (aka Nixon now which is a whole 'nother topic). I didn't catch them that night but I'd seen them before. Even if they weren't your cup of tea, you knew they were good… no argument. There were lots of great acts that night as well, and it seemed like everything was represented for the most part. This year, it just seemed odd none of those acts made it through.
(... I notice these things.)
It was a great night overall though… more a celebration of bands and artists doing what they love, after countless hours in the rehearsal spaces, showcasing what they've come up with. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congrats again to Burning The Day on taking home the top prize. I had my own top 3 and they were in it for sure. I was surprised the judges gave them the edge in some ways but in others, how could you not. Sometimes it gets down to criteria on a sheet, sometimes it's doing what you know is the right thing to do… and sometimes you do what you feel is the cool thing to do... possibly because you're out of touch. Take that however you want, regardless, Ireland will enjoy what's coming there way.
Finally, the new Morgan Sadler EP is done! Mixed, mastered, and in the can! You can check out the songs here, here, here, and here. I'm really happy with how things turned out and looking forward to posting the songs when the time comes. Morgan's been thinking a lot about how to release, redefine, and basically launch her new music and "brand". It works from the ground up these days which has many advantages… in the long run for sure. We've had quite a few brainstorming sessions and I'm looking forward to where she's at in a year... or two.
... and now to finish writing November.
(... I'm working on it.)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!