In The Studio: Six Nuances You Feel, Not Hear | ProSound News

Identifying the “little things” that really add up over the course of a mix…
recordingHave you ever believed that there’s just something badass engineers do that the rest of the world isn’t privy to? Are you disappointed when everyone on forums seems to agree that engineers are just using really good judgment and generally using basic processing?

Well, don’t get your hopes up too much. 95 percent of a great mix stems from great decision making and the use of basic processing that everyone has access to. But, that last 5 percent does contain a bit of secret sauce. Secret awesome sauce. Every seasoned engineer will have their own recipe. I certainly have mine.

I want to share some personal techniques. These are little things I do that really add up over the course of a mix. Each one of these techniques are based around one idea: you don’t really hear it when it’s there, but you miss it when it’s gone.

By building these subtle effects into my mix I create something that elevates the overall sound without dramatically changing it — which is often a desirable goal when mixing. They also amount to some of the things which just seem to separate a finished mix from a rough mix in that way that’s hard to put a finger on.

1. Fast decaying reverbs

One of my principal approaches to mixing is to create depth and polish.

Often times I may want something to have a 3D image and “glossed” tone, but I don’t necessarily want to hear an audible reverb or delay.

Tucking very short reverbs into generally dry sounds very quietly can add just a bit of depth and hi-fi-ness to the source sound. I’m constantly experimenting with algorithms, timing, and various other settings and I recommend you do the same.

The only generality here is that I tend to lean a bit more toward early reflections with medium diffusion (when diffusion settings are an option). There’s also a few presets in the delay plugin by FabFilter called “Timeless” that I like for this purpose.

You don’t need a lot of this stuff. I’m turning my returns down as low as -15 to -20 dB below the source sound. Just enough so you miss it when it’s gone!

2. Subtle distortion or saturation

A touch of distortion can really make a sound pop in a mix. If it doesn’t sound “distorted” but brings a bit of harmonic energy into the fold I’m usually into the idea.

Not to sound like a FabFilter commercial here, but I like to experiment with Saturn because it gives me very fine control over the specifics and degree of the distortion.

3. Micro panning

Finding movement is paramount to a successful mix. A tiny degree of panning, almost too little to hear unless you solo the source, can go a long way in this regard.

This is a go-to move for sequenced hi-hats (I’ll tend to pan quickly). And very useful for background pads/noises as well (a slightly slower pan is usually good for the sustainy sounds). Delay returns are also a great place to play with moving pan positions.

4. Subtle volume rides at section changes

Volume automation is not just good for evening things out — it can also be great for creating contrast. Next time you’re going from the verse of a song to the chorus try a few of these little techniques.

Bump the chorus up on your submix/master fader channel by 1 dB. Bump the very first moment of the chorus up 1 dB above that, and quickly return it back down. Find a sustaining element right before the chorus and start pulling it up a bit in level creating a subtle crescendo movement.

Even the vocal reverb/delay return can be good to bump right at that transition point.

5. EQ/compression/distortion on reverb and delay returns

I have a cool video tutorial on this but felt that it was worth mentioning here.

Reverb/delay returns are elements in the mix just like anything else. Coloring the ambience in a slightly unique way can help create tonal complexity and augment the sense of depth.

6. Removal of unwanted sounds

A great deal of what you’re hearing in a great mix is what you’re not hearing.

The removal of bleed and mouth noises, the reduction of breathes, the taming of plosives and sibilance. All of these excess sounds add up to one things: distraction.

Not to say breath noises don’t have their place — but you’re the master of the playback so be decisive about what you don’t want, what you do want and how much.

Ultimately we as engineers are doing our best to get the music through the speakers in the most captivating way possible. Sometimes that’s about the big picture. But it’s also about all the little things, the subtle decisions we make, that amount to something bigger than the sum of its parts. That’s why I may do things that the average listener probably won’t consciously hear.
Matthew Weiss engineers from his private facility in Philadelphia, PA. A list of clients and credits are available at Weiss-Sound.com. To get a taste of The Maio Collection, the debut drum library from Matthew, check out The Maio Sampler Pack by entering your email here and pressing “Download.”

 

Vocal warm ups for singing to connect breath, vibration, and resonance | DiscMakers

Daniel Ebbers, voice instructor at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, shares insights and vocal exercises in our video series for vocalists

You wouldn’t see a top athlete compete without going through a comprehensive set of warm up activities, and if you are a vocalist, you need to do the same kind of preparation every time you sing. Professor Daniel Ebbers has been training singers for more than twenty years, and in the following vocal warm ups for singing videos he explains the benefits of warming up and takes us through a series of vocal exercises.

Vocal Exercises video #1: “Why Warm Up”

Loosening up your vocal instrument allows you to “take the pulse” of your voice, and connecting the three main parts of your instrument will allow you to produce your best sound and help ensure you are ready to perform at your peak the next time you head to a gig, recording session, or rehearsal.

 

Vocal Exercises video #2: “The Basics”

In Video #2, “The Basics,” Daniel takes his student Ricky though a series of basic warm up vocal exercises to loosen his instrument. Focusing on your breath and connecting the three elements of your instrument (breath, vibration, and voice resonance) will prepare you to sing your best.

 

 

Professor Daniel Ebbers is a classically trained singer and voice instructor on the faculty at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA and was a major contributor to Disc Makers’ The Vocalist’s Guide to Recording, Rehearsing and PerformingIn addition to his teaching, he performs regularly in both concert and operatic settings throughout the U.S.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

 

Read more: Vocal Warm Ups For Singing | Vocal Exercises | Voice Resonance – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/04/vocal-exercises-warm-ups-for-singing/#ixzz30KBd6J6s

PRODUCTION – REPAIRING PITCH-SHIFT ARTIFACTS | EM

By Michael Cooper

 
Fig. 1. The equalizer plug-in in ozone 5 advanced applies matching EQ to a pitch-shifted vocal. Note the severe EQ (the off-the-scale red line in the top section of the GUI) needed to correct comb filtering and roll-offs caused by pitch shifting.


 

 CELEMONY MELODYNE is an incredibly useful plug-in for arranging background vocals. Working with a copy of the lead vocal, you simply drag each melody note lower or higher in Melodyne’s GUI to hear how the resulting pitch will sound as a harmony part in combination with the original lead vocal track. In this way, you can compose contrapuntal (non-parallel) harmonies and immediately hear them without singing or recording a single note. Pitch-shift intervals greater than a third will typically incur ugly processing artifacts—muddiness and a pinched, phasey sound—but who cares? After all, these are just throwaway tracks used to test your arrangement.

Or not. My dark secret: I’ll often use Melodyne-generated BVs—alone or in combination with real singers—in my final mixes. The impeccably tight phrasing and familial diction cloned from the lead vocal track are often impossible for real performers to trump. The proviso is I have to make those raggedy pitch-shifted tracks sound smooth enough to use.

In this article, I’ll share tips for diminishing the injury caused by large-interval pitch-shifting. There’s no miracle cure. But using these pointers, you can expect to recover roughly 25% of the original audio fidelity— good enough that, blended with the lead vocal and mixed into a fairly dense ensemble recording, nobody will be able to tell the BVs were not sung by live performers. Our first-aid treatment begins with restoring clarity.

Remove Masking Distortion Bounce each harmony part (with pitch-shifting applied) to a separate track so you can process it independently. Instantiate a broad-spectrum noise-removal plug-in on the track. The goal here isn’t so much to remove hiss as it is to sponge out any distortion artifacts having characteristics similar to noise. iZotope Denoiser, part of the company’s superb RX2 plug-in bundle, works great for this purpose. That said, the improvement in clarity will be subtle, as there will remain yet another type of poison to bleed out.

Fill in the Gaps One of the most toxic side effects of pitch-shifting tracks is deep comb filtering. One way to add back missing frequencies in the spectral notches is to process the rendered track with a harmonic exciter. I like to use the component Exciter plug-in in iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced for this application, inserted after Denoiser. (The exciter module in the all-in-one Ozone 5 plugin works equally well for this application.) Exciter’s multiband processing allows me to add harmonics to only the midrange band, where the damage to pitch-shifted vocals is typically most apparent. Exciting the track fills in the spectral gaps a bit, resulting in a sound that’s a bit fuller and more natural.

Match the EQ The Matching EQ mode in Ozone 5 Advanced’s Equalizer plug-in—or the equalizer module for the integrated Ozone 5— can be used to reverse comb filtering and other timbral damage to a pitch-shifted track. The crux is to use Matching EQ to reproduce the lead vocal’s native spectrum in its pitch-shifted spin-off. Instantiate Equalizer on the lead vocal track. In the Snapshots tab, capture the spectrum for one phrase of the vocal. Click on the Save Set button in the plug-in. Open another instance of Equalizer on the pitch-shifted track, and click on the Load button in the Snapshots tab. Choose the lead vocal’s spectral snapshot as the reference, and apply it to the pitch-shifted track in Matching EQ mode. Adjust the Amount and Smooth sliders for the most pleasing timbre; for tracks shifted down in pitch, I find respective settings of 50 and 0.3 work well. You’ll get the best results if you capture the unique spectrum for each vocal phrase in turn and apply matching EQ line by line.

If your equalizer plug-in can’t execute matching EQ but provides a spectrogram, you can manually fashion an inverse EQ curve to reverse comb filtering. In your DAW, loop a short phrase in the pitch-shifted vocal track. Looking at the peaks and notches in your equalizer’s spectrogram as the phrase plays back, fashion a set of bell-curve filters that will together create an inverse EQ curve to flatten the response. While you’re at it, correct any low- and high-frequency roll-offs to taste with EQ, too.

The peaks and notches will change from one vocal phrase to the next, so you’ll have to work in very short sections and readjust your filter parameters as you work on each phrase in turn. Once you’re satisfied the EQ is sounding as good as you can make it for the current vocal phrase, render all processing (de-noising, harmonic excitation, and EQ). The result will sound far from perfect in isolation, but significantly better than the original pitch-shifted track.

Use All Three Tools Used alone, any one of the processing techniques I’ve detailed will yield only subtle effect. Used together, however, they can make a significant improvement in the fidelity of pitch-shifted vocals. But don’t stop there. Double one or more of the pitch-shifted vocal parts with live-performance overdubs, and the composite effect can sound truly amazing.

Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Oregon (www.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording), and a contributing editor for Mix magazine.

- See more at: http://www.emusician.com/techniques/0768/production-%e2%80%93-repairing-pitch-shift-artifacts/151017#sthash.3bHz14Wt.dpuf

In The Studio: Five Advanced EQ Techniques You Need to Know | ProSound News

Going beyond the surface to develop some new “secret weapons”
recordingEQ is pretty simple, right? Crank a knob, hear the sound’s tone change?

Not quite. Just when you think you know everything there is to know about EQ, something new comes up. Here are a few advanced EQ techniques that you might not be using to full potential.

1. Mid/side EQ

Any true stereo sound might be able to be enhanced with mid/side EQ. It basically turns your stereo EQ into a frequency-specific stereo width adjustment tool.

You’ll get the most natural results by only processing the side channel. You can boost the top to increase clarity and dimension. You can narrow the mids to provide focus and punch. You can high-pass the bass to easily collapse the bass to mono without touching the mids and highs.

2. Spectral matching EQ

This one’s usually a multi-step process. First get the EQ to “listen” to some reference audio (such as another track or commercial mixdown), then get the EQ to “listen” to the audio you want to process.

Finally, the EQ can then either match the two (so that the processed audio sounds similar to the reference audio), or it can compliment the two (so that the processed audio sounds very different to the reference audio).

Matching EQ can be useful whenever you want one track to sound like another. Obviously, this might be useful in mastering, but it can also come in handy when working with samples from a variety of different sources.

Compliment EQ can be useful if you want to make sure two tracks do not interfere with each other.

3. Dynamic EQ

This is an interesting one. It allows the gain of each EQ band to change dynamically with the level of the audio. It can work a lot like a multi-band compressor, except that the envelope follower controls the gain of an EQ band instead of a frequency range. This allows you to get much more surgical and specific with how the audio is processed.

The most common use of dynamic EQ is de-essing vocals, where the high frequencies are turned down when there’s too much sibilance. It’s also useful for other situations where a recorded track needs to be cleaned up in a specific way, but static EQ or broadband compression are too blunt for the job. Things like low frequency bumps or thuds, or the occasional odd midrange resonance are sometimes good opportunities to use dynamic EQ.

4. Parallel processing with EQ

This is a good example of a more advanced pairing of EQ and compression. This technique works best with a naturally dynamic recording — such as a lead vocal or acoustic guitar.

Duplicate the track and heavily compress one copy while leaving the other relatively dynamic. Balance the two so that the compressed track is dominant during quiet passages and the dynamic track is dominant during the loud passages. This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities when the two tracks have different EQ applied to them.

For example, you could make the dynamic track brighter and the compressed track darker. It will sound as if the recorded instrument itself gets brighter in the mix as it gets louder. Or make the compressed track warm and full-bodied, but reduce the lower frequency energy in the dynamic track.

As the track gets louder, it thins out to make room for other instruments in the mix (which might also be getting louder), but stays warm and full during quieter parts where it’s more exposed.

5. EQ’ing effects returns

This is a good one, especially useful for reverbs. If you’re mixing in software, insert your favorite EQ after your reverb. If you’re mixing in hardware, bring your reverb back on a regular channel pair (not the less-featured stereo returns).

Or patch a decent outboard EQ after the reverb before it comes back to the desk.

Many reverbs have some in-board tone control, but it probably won’t be as flexible as your desk EQ or outboard EQ. This gives you much more power to shape the sound of your reverb and ambience at the back of the mix.

Happy with the reverb but it’s fighting a bit too much with the vocal? Give it a dip in the midrange. Want more focus in the low end of the slap bass while still retaining the ambience and space in the top? Bring in a gentle low shelf for a more natural cleanup than a low cut filter.

Mix sounding a bit dead? Add some more dimension by gently boosting the top without upsetting the mix balance.

And this is just scratching the surface.

All in all, there’s a lot you can do with EQ. Much more than might be obvious at first. Give these techniques a try and you might just find a new secret weapon that’ll save your next mix.

[Editor’s note: Of course if you want to rapidly improve your EQ skills, downloadQuiztones.]

Kim Lajoie is a Melbourne music producer specialising in composition, project management and digital audio technology. With over two decades of music behind him, Kim brings expert skill and wide-ranging influences to every project. Kim’s highly structured and disciplined approach allows his artists to advance their careers with confidence and determination. Kim takes care of the details so his artists can focus on their creative expression.

In The Studio: Simple Guide To Recording Keyboards | ProSound Web

A roundup of practices whether you’re recording a baby grand or a synthesizer…
dpa microphones
This article is provided by Bartlett Audio.

Some of the most popular instruments in many genres of music are keyboards, so let’s look at some techniques to capture a grand piano, upright piano, Leslie organ speaker, digital keyboard or synthesizer.

Grand Piano
This magnificent instrument is a challenge to record well. First have the piano tuned, and oil the pedals to reduce squeaks. You can prevent thumps by stuffing some foam or cloth under the pedal mechanism.

One popular method uses two spaced mics inside the piano. Use omni or cardioid condenser mics, ideally in shock mounts. Put the lid on the long stick. If you can, remove the lid to reduce boominess. Center one mic over the treble strings and one over the bass strings.

Typically, both microphones are 8 to 12 inches over the strings and 8 inches horizontally from the hammers (Figure 1). Aim the mics straight down. Pan the mics partly left and right for stereo.

The spaced mics might have phase cancellations when mixed to mono, so you might want to try coincident miking (Figure 1-A). Boom-mount a stereo mic, or an XY pair of cardioids crossed at 120 degrees. Miking close to the hammers sounds percussive; toward the tail has more tone.

One alternative is to put the treble mic near the hammers, and put the bass mic about 2 feet toward the tail (Figure 1-B).

Another method uses two ear-spaced omni condensers or an ORTF pair about 12 to 18 inches above the strings. With the ORTF stereo mic method, two cardioid mics are angled 110 degrees apart and spaced 7 inches horizontally.

Figure 1.

Boundary mics work well, too. If you want to pick up the piano in mono, tape a boundary mic to the underside of the raised lid, in the center of the strings, near the hammers.

Use two for stereo over the bass and treble strings. Put the bass mic near the tail of the piano to equalize the mic distances to the hammers (Figure 1-C). If leakage is a problem, close the lid and cut EQ a little around 250 Hz to reduce boominess.

If your studio lacks a piano, consider using a software emulation of a piano. Some programs provide high-quality samples of piano notes that can be played with a sequencer or a MIDI controller.

Upright Piano
Moving on, here are some ways to mike an upright piano (Figure 2):

A) Remove the panel in front of the piano to expose the strings over the keyboard. Place one mic near the bass strings and one near the treble strings about 8 inches away.

Figure 2.

 

Record in stereo and pan the signals left and right for the desired piano width. If you can spare only one mic for the piano, just cover the treble strings.

B)Remove the top lid and upper panel. Put a stereo pair of mics about 1 foot in front and 1 foot over the top. If the piano is against a wall, angle the piano about 17 degrees from the wall to reduce tubby resonances.

C) Aim the soundboard into the room. Mike the bass and treble sides of the soundboard a few inches away. In this spot, the mics pick up less pedal thumps and other noises. Try cardioid dynamic mics with a presence peak.

Leslie Organ Speaker
This glorious device has a rotating dual-horn on top for highs and a woofer on the bottom for lows. Only one horn of the two makes sound; the other is for weight balance.

The swirling, grungy sound comes from the phasiness and Doppler effect of the rotating horn, and from the distorted tube electronics that drive the speaker. Here are a few ways to record it (Figure 3):

• In mono: Mike the top and bottom separately, 3 inches to 1 foot away. Aim the mics into the louvers. In the top mic’s signal, roll off the lows below 150 Hz.

• In stereo: Record the top horn with a stereo mic or a pair of mics out front. Put a mic with a good low end on the bottom speaker, and pan it to center.

When you record the Leslie, watch out for wind noise from the rotating horn and buzz from the motor. Mike farther away if you monitor these noises.

Figure 3.

Rather than recording an actual Hammond B3 organ and Leslie speaker, you might prefer to use a software emulation of those instruments: an organ soft synth or sample and a Leslie rotating speaker plug-in.

Trigger the synth or sample by a MIDI sequencer or MIDI controller. You can automate the horn rotation speed in the Leslie speaker plug-in.

Synthesizer, Digital Keyboard, MIDI Sound Module, Drum Machine & Electric Piano
So far we covered acoustic keyboards which you pick up with a microphone. Now let’s look at electronic keyboards which you record with a cable.

One system uses a MIDI controller keyboard to trigger a software synthesizer (soft synth) in a computer recording program (Figure 4).

This is a whole subject in itself. Basically, the MIDI controller produces MIDI messages when you play it. These messages tell which keys you pressed, how hard you pressed them and when. It’s not an audio signal.

Figure 4. Recording and playing a soft synth using a MIDI controller keyboard.

A MIDI controller can be any electronic keyboard or drum machine that has a MIDI OUT connector. The MIDI signal triggers a soft synth in your computer. That synth can play any sound, such as a piano, bass, string section, and so on.

You record using a computer with an audio/MIDI sequencer program. After recording the MIDI events (the sequence), you can edit the MIDI notes to correct errors: change their pitch, timing, or duration.

Another way to record an electronic keyboard is to record its audio signal. For the most clarity, record the signal directly from the instrument.

In Figure 5, the top two parts show two ways to do it. Either plug the instrument into direct boxes, or into two phone-jack instrument inputs on your mixer or audio interface.

Figure 5. Three way to record the audio signal of an electronic keyboard.

Set the volume on the instrument about three-quarters up to get a strong signal. Try to get the sound you want from patch settings rather than EQ.

If you connect to a phone jack and hear hum, you probably have a ground loop. Here are some fixes:

• Power your mixer and the instrument from the same outlet strip. If necessary, use a thick extension cord between the outlet strip and the instrument.

• Use a direct box instead of a guitar cord, and set the ground-lift switch to the position where you monitor the least hum.

• To reduce hum from a low-cost synth, use battery power instead of an AC adapter.

A synth can sound dry and sterile. To get a livelier, funkier sound, you might run the synth signal into a guitar amp, instrument amp, or power amp and speaker. Mike the speaker cone a few inches to a few feet away (Figure 5, bottom part).

You might mix the microphone’s signal with the direct signal. If your recording system has a polarity button in the mic’s channel, flip the button in and out, and choose the position where you monitor the best sound.

Does the keyboard player have several keyboards plugged into a keyboard mixer? You may want to record a premixed signal from that mixer’s output. Record both outputs of stereo keyboards.

A member of AES and SynAudCon, Bruce Bartlett is a live sound and recording engineer, microphone designer (http://www.bartlettaudio.com), and audio journalist. His latest book is Practical Recording Techniques, 6th Edition.

 

Tips from a cop to help prevent music instrument theft | DiscMakers

by GEARTRACK
A gigging musician – who also happens to be a deputy sheriff – gives advice on what you can do to prevent music instrument theft.

This post on preventing music instrument theft was written by Jerry Cress for GearTrack’s blog. Reprinted with permission.

When you buy music instruments and gear, three things you should do right away to help you recover your equipment if it is ever stolen include:

1. Have the original owner, if you buy from a private seller, provide you with documentation to this effect: “On this date (insert date), I sold (insert equipment), serial # (insert serial number), to (your name) for the amount of (insert price).”

2. Look into all the details of your home and car insurance policies. Our drummer bought a cargo trailer to haul all our stuff in. When checking with his insurance company, he found that the trailer was covered, as well as the contents inside that were his – but the rest of the band’s equipment wasn’t. Spend some money on instrument insurance, and get the stuff covered.

3. Make sure you keep a record of every piece of equipment you have. Everything! As a police officer, if I find your BOSS Delay Pedal in the back seat of a car, chances are the driver knows where your Strat is, too.

Lock your doors
Most thieves are, generally speaking, lazy. They go for the easiest prey. Therefore, a locked door will make most “amateur” thieves move on to easier targets, and in my experience, there are actually very few “professional” thieves. Most are what we call “snatch-and-go.”

Keep a clean car
Never unnecessarily leave your gear in a vehicle. As soon as you get to your destination, unload it. Don’t leave your guitar, drums, or keyboards on the back seat where everyone walking by can see them while you’re inside the bar looking for where all the power outlets are.

Stay out of the dark
Don’t park your van, bus, or trailer in the back lot of a seedy motel or club. Park it under lights, and as close to the venue as you can. Check on it occasionally. When you’re in the venue playing the gig and all your extra stuff is out in your vehicle, don’t park way out in the back lot to make room for patrons. The “bad guys” can hear you from the parking lot – they know you’re busy! Check on your vehicles during breaks.

Work as a team
Never leave your stuff unattended when loading or unloading for the gig. We always have one of our wives stand by the trailer and one stand in the venue while we load and unload. It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to walk by your trailer, grab a guitar case and be gone. Also, as a general rule, we don’t let bar staff or “fans” help us load or unload.

Re-think your rehearsal space
Think about where and how you practice. Sure it’s cool to be out in the buddy’s garage with the door open, jammin’ real loud and having some fun. But you’re advertising what you have and where you are. Everyone in the neighborhood now knows that there is a Marshall stack and a Gibson Les Paul right down the street. I personally know three garages in my district that have full PA gear, drums, and lights sitting in them right now, all because I’ve been to the house for noise complaints, or just drove by on patrol while they happen to be practicing.

Which brings up another point: Most garages are easy to break into. They usually have very flimsy locks and lots of windows with single pane glass. And the garage doors themselves aren’t usually locked. Automatic garage door openers will give under very little force. They’re designed that way in case of emergency.

If you practice in a garage, take the time and money to install good locks (deadbolts), and cover the windows. Don’t store gear in the garage. I know it’s a pain to haul all that stuff, but what would you rather do, haul the stuff, or not have it at all?

Cover your windows
Don’t leave your windows uncovered. Blinds or curtains can go along way in deterring theft. You don’t want people from the outside knowing what you’ve got on the inside.

Invest in lights and alarm systems
Burglars hate light. Outside lighting is one of the best investments you can make, and motion-activated lighting is very effective. Many alarm systems are pretty reasonable in price. I recommend going with a system that is monitored and notifies the appropriate agency if the alarm is activated. Outdoor lighting and alarm systems can actually lower your house insurance premiums. Check with your insurance company.

Image via ShutterStock.com.

GearTrack is an online registry that aims to deter music instrument theft and aid in recovery. Instrument owners can itemize their collections and victims of theft can send stolen alerts to the WatchDog network and access tools for search and recovery. Buyers and sellers can easily search serial numbers before trading and selling their gear. Learn more and register your instruments at Gear-Track.com.

 

Read more: Tips from a cop to prevent music instrument theft – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/03/tips-from-a-cop-to-help-prevent-music-instrument-theft/#ixzz2x03rcSw2

Sustain your music career – nine insights to help you do it | DiscMakers

The Nadas have built a 20-year career in music playing shows, catering to their fans, and treating the business end of their band like a business

 

The Nadas career in music is built on touring

Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith in front of ‘Meatloaf,’ their tour bus.

It’s been twenty years since Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith met in college and forged a partnership that has withstood many tests. Since then, their Des Moines, Iowa-based band, The Nadas, have felt the exhilaration of performing for 15,000 people at a sold out arena shows to playing hole-in-wall bars for a handful of folks. Through playing hundreds of shows and releasing 11 records of (mostly) original material, the duo has learned what works when building a sustained career in music and an audience that spans one-third of the country. They recorded and produced their 2013 album, Lovejoy Revival, in a local warehouse. I spoke with Nadas co-founder Mike Butterworth (guitar/vocals) and dug up nine nuggets of wisdom that have helped the band not only survive, but thrive for two decades. 

1) Organic growth is long-term growth

How did the band come together?
I was a year behind Jason in college but had been playing in rock bands in high school, so when I got to college at Iowa State University, the first thing I wanted to figure out wasn’t my class schedule but who I was going to play music with. A mutual friend introduced me to Jason, who at that time was in a campus band. I auditioned and was asked to join, but before I could go to my first rehearsal, the rest of the guys in the band left school, so only Jason and I were left.

he Nadas career in music started with Lovejoy Revival

The Nada’s 11th CD, Lovejoy Revival (2013).
We picked up our acoustics and started doing an acoustic duo thing. We started getting gigs right away at coffee shops and frat parties around the campus, and that started us on the path of growing our audience organically, one or two fans at a time. That’s been the cornerstone of our success throughout the years. Fast forward a few years and we found that we were able to build our whole career on focusing on the current student, having them become fans, graduate, and then go out in the world. 

We discovered that, almost anywhere we toured, there were between 10 and 100 people who knew us from college and brought their friends to that show in the new town. It was 100% organic growth. The only market we had any help in was Chicago. There was an indie radio station in the northwest suburbs there called “The Bear” and they found out about our music and started playing it, so the first time we showed up to play in Chicago, there was a crowd of people to see us.

2) Steady communication with a call-to-action is key

You were a top draw in your college town. After each class graduated, how did you keep in touch as they spread across the Midwest? 
The Nadas circa 1990s
We had a website, but before we put together our first email list, we had an actual paper mailing list and every month we’d create a newsletter and we would write articles about what we were doing, we would snap pictures of each other and then put it all together and print it up, We’d print and fold them up, hand-write the addresses, put a stamp on, and then drive them over to the post office. It grew to the point where that mailing list was so large that it cost us a couple of thousand dollars every time we wanted to print and send out the newsletter. Soon the band had a computer database and mailing labels to save time. After a while, we also started to put a little order form inside asking fans, “Do you want a record?” and that really ended up paying for itself, because quite often people would send the order form back to us with a check enclosed.

People really looked forward to getting these newsletters and kept them around. For instance, we’d head out of town to play a show and after the show someone would invite us over to their house for an after hours get together and there would be that newsletter hanging on a magnet on the fridge. So we knew it was working.

3) If something works, repeat the formula

How else did you grow your audience?
We decided to go to the next college town over from Ames and start all over again, just playing a club, but we weren’t starting out with zero fans, because a few people had heard of us and our existing fans would tell their buddies in that new town about us. Eventually, we built a circuit through the Midwest of these towns that all had colleges and we would hit each city every month, over and over, and in time, that built up a loyal audience that would come out to support us.

 

The Nadas career in music continues

The Nadas have teamed up with World Bicycle Relief to help provide bicycles to women in emerging countries.

Now the circuit stretches from Colorado to Chicago, and from Minneapolis to Kansas City. There’s probably a total of 30 markets in that region, so we would make that circuit, but we’d also make time to take a week and do a swing down into Texas, or down to Arizona, or we’d set up a trip to go all the way out to California, and then return through Arizona. We even made a trip to Florida and another one to Maine. All of this we did driving, and all from our home base here in Iowa. We saved up enough to purchase a 40-foot tour bus, a 1985 Eagle. We named her “Meatloaf” because evidently he rented it when it was new and the marquee sign on the front still had his name on it. 

4) Build relationships with bookers and other bands

As your fans spread out across this region, did you develop relationships with club bookers so you weren’t just picking up the phone cold each time?
We were eventually able to say to a club owner with confidence that we had so many people in that area and many of them would come out to a show, so that helped us establish ourselves with the venues. Around that time we also started to work with booking agent Eric Roberts at Hello Booking in Minneapolis to help us out with making the calls to club bookers and in managing our calendar. He’s been with us now for more than fifteen years.

We also learned to work closely with other bands and really, we wouldn’t have had the success we have had without the help of a number of other bands. For example, in the Colorado area, which is still one of our strongest regions, we had been going out there for a couple of years and beating it down, and it just wasn’t going that well. Maybe there’d be 10 at one show and 25 at the next one, and it was costing us money to be there. So we got to the point where we said, let’s give it one more try and see if we can’t do better, and if we can’t, we’ll have to write off Colorado and head east to build Ohio, which is the same distance away.

The Nadas

Club gigs continue to form the backbone of the band’s touring schedule.

 

So we went to Colorado and we played with a friend’s band called Hello Dave from Chicago, they already had a couple hundred fans that they drew. Well, the very next time we came back to Colorado, we had a couple hundred people who showed up for our gig there. It took sharing a show for us to be exposed to enough new people to get our base started there. Now, when we go out there, we play theaters to audiences of around 500.

5) Treat the business like a business

Are the live shows the primary way you guys support yourselves?
Yes, we decided from the start to run the band as close to a regular business as we could. We decided to pay the players a set amount for each show. We set aside money for expenses and agreed we weren’t going to use credit cards to finance the band or get any loans. We take the money we make and cover all of our costs and if there’s anything left over, Jason and I split that. While it’s not enough to completely support ourselves, we’ve gotten to the point where we have a salary and we supplement that income with other things we each do.

6) Understand your fans

As you enter your 20th year as a band, have you retained some of the fans from your early days?
It’s great, because we kept hitting the same circuit, and a lot of it was college towns, we did that circuit the four years we were in college, then repeated it over the following eight years, so we had triple the time to build our audience throughout the region we were touring. This ended up giving us a roughly 10- to 15-year age range between our younger and older fans. Then, about five years ago we started noticing that some of the audience who used to come to shows and maybe have quite a few drinks dance on the table, they were now showing up to our daytime outdoor summer shows with children. And then the other wave of people who started coming to shows were the parents of some of our original college-age fans. So now, the age range at one of our summer shows is one to sixty five-plus!

7) Be willing to supplement your income

You’ve built your business model around touring the circuit you created while in college. What other revenue streams have you developed?
Jason and I also do a number of acoustic shows, just the two of us and our acoustic guitars, which brings in a little money without any overhead. He’s developed a clientele for high-end photography in addition to our music and I have a home remodeling business that I run, which has the unique feature of employing a bunch of working musicians who all need some supplemental income. I have seven musicians who work either full or part time with me. I have an open-door policy, so any time any of them have a gig or a record to make, they can get the time off.

8) Plug into social media with a plan

How have your fan engagement efforts evolved from the kitchen table and hand addressing newsletters?
The Nadas year in reviewWe’re plugged into social media, but our philosophy is that it’s not enough to just be active on those platforms. You need to do something to really engage your “friends,” so we like to have contests and giveaways regularly. In 2009, we decided to release a new song each month of the year, which ended up becoming Almanac, an album that was a sort of musical snapshot of that year. Our most recent fan engagement effort, which is also our most successful one to date, is we are making a 20-year greatest hits recording and we’re putting the word “hits” in quotes because they’re not actual chart hits, and we are re recording fan favorites the way we play them now.

We’re shooting for releasing it this spring. We did a Facebook campaign and asked our fans the simple question, “What songs do you want to hear on this upcoming CD?” And we got 18,000 views and nearly 300 comments, so we went through and tallied up all the votes and that’s exactly what the record will be. So the fans really curated our greatest hits release. 300 people took the time to pick their favorite song and one super fan even went so far as to suggest all 20, to come up with a playlist of their favorites.

9) Nurture your fan base if you want to succeed long-term

Looking back over your career, what advice would you give to an up and coming band about building their career from the business perspective?
Your fans are what’s going to allow you to have any longevity in your music career. So take care of your fans, respect your fans, give the fans what they want as long as it’s not selling out your artistic vision.

Put yourself out there and never stop working. Play your heart out at every show even if there is only a drunk guy passed out at the bar and a bartender that wants to go home. That scenario actually happened to us in Oklahoma but someone remembered the band because a few years later, we got a booking to return there and earned five grand for playing a private show. Every time you play, no matter how many people are there, you make an impact and you don’t know what the ripple effect may be down the road. So honor your fans and listen to what they say as you build your career. Go and play everywhere they invite you to play.

Visit The Nadas online.

Check out The Nadas video channel on YouTube.

Indie-Music.com review of Lovejoy Revival

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.