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Setting Avid ProTools up for Mixing

We thought it would be good to review options for configuring an effective and inspiring mixing environment. We’ll pull together certain techniques that the Pro’s use, consider new ways to utilize some tools, and explore additional Pro Tools features that can significantly enhance the mixing process.

Anyone that has mixed before has seen how beefing up a system can facilitate taking on larger, more complex projects. Nowhere is this more imperative than when mixing. You just can’t get enough of certain items:

  • Control surface features. Mixing is all about making repeated control adjustments until you’ve gotten parameters just right. How do you make these adjustments? Perhaps largely using the graphical editing tools we explored last week, but everything else you do involves setting linear fader levels, rotary pot positions, and other types of controls. Control surfaces make these actions considerably easier, so it won’t be a surprise if you use these features more when mixing that at any other stage of the production process.

  • Screen real estate. With or without a control surface, mixing benefits from as much display capacity as possible. Besides having access to both the Mix and Edit windows, you’ll often want to show multiple plug-ins as well as other windows. Larger monitors are always good, but a second display is even better. 

  • Processing power and RAM. The amount of number crunching going on within a mix can be staggering. Unless you’re making minimal use of signal processing, faster multi-processor or multi-core hosts for native systems—or additional DSP cards with an HD rig—will enable you to manage far more involved mixes. Likewise, additional RAM will boost general performance and enable the use of more plug-ins, particularly processor hogs like convolution reverbs.

  • Plug-ins. Of course, all of this processing power won’t help if you don’t have much in the way of plug-ins. The standard suite of Pro Tools plug-ins is a nice start, but you’ve already seen how additional Avid as well as third-party products can dramatically enhance your capabilities. For mixing, you may want to start by looking at additional ambience and effects processors, since these are not the strongest elements of the basic Pro Tools collection.

Although generally speaking most mixing beginners use systems with a single monitor with and without a basic control surface, you can imagine that display options can be much more dramatic with expanded systems. However, if you are fortunate enough to have two monitors and do not have a control surface, you’ll likely want to dedicate one monitor for the Mix window and the other for the Edit window.  If you prefer to do most of your work using the Edit window, you might toggle between Edit and Mix on your main monitor and reserve the second for plug-ins as well as other frequently used windows (Memory Locations, Automation, etc.). With two monitors and a control surface, there’s rarely any reason to access the Mix window. Maximize the Edit window on the main monitor, and use the second as described above.

When using a single monitor, how can you optimize the display? Consider these options for the Edit window:

  • View the left (tracks/groups) column. Though you can use Groups List Keyboard Focus mode (introduced in the next topic) to enable and disable groups, you’ll miss some nice features without access to the Groups List.

  • Hide the Clips List. Yes, there are commands in the Clips List popup menu you might need when mixing, but some have shortcut equivalents, and much of the time these are not necessary.

  • Select inserts, sends, and I/O view options. The I/O column allows you to bring up Output windows and use quick shortcuts to access automation playlists, so this is a good option when you’re mixing primarily with the Edit window.

  • Show the Automation and Memory Location windows. These may be accessed frequently, so consider dedicating a typical area for them.

  • Hide the Transport window. At this stage, it just gets in the way, and you can display transport controls in the main Edit window toolbar and/or set the numeric keypad to Transport Mode for control of everything you need.

  • View one plug-in at a time. Though it can be really convenient to have more than one plug-in window on screen, they will quickly obscure the rest of the session. Alternatively, use the commands introduced below to facilitate working with multiple floating windows.

Your base display might look like this:

However, it is sometimes very useful to include multiple floating windows in your screen layout. For example, you might want to display several plug-in windows in order to compare EQ settings on various channels, or utilize a series of output windows to provide mixer-like functionality while maintaining the basic Edit window perspective. Some users don’t bother with such configurations, since it takes a bit of effort to open and close all of the windows. However, there are a couple of newer Pro Tools features that greatly facilitate these scenarios:

  • Hide floating windows. The command Window > Hide All Floating Windows makes it much easier to utilize multiple windows. Rather than closing and reopening floating windows manually—a minor but annoying hassle—you can simply hide them temporarily. You can also use the shortcut Command-Option-Control+W (Mac OS) or Control-Alt-Start+W (Windows).

  • Create custom Window Configurations. A handy part of the Pro Tools feature set is the ability to name, store, and recall the configuration of windows in a session as well as the view options of the primary windows.

Color coding is the type of feature that might seem trivial at first glance. However, it can really enhance the usability of sessions by providing an additional dimension of feedback that helps you differentiate repeated elements with similar features.

Three aspects of the Edit and Mix window displays can be customized with color coding preferences:

  • Color bars that appear in several locations

    • above and below each channel strip in the Mix window.

    • to the left of each track in the Edit window track area.

    • to the left of each track name in the Tracks List.

    • to the left of each group name in the Groups List.

  • Track area display in the Edit window

    • clip shading in Blocks or Waveform views.

    • waveform color when viewing automation playlists.

  • Shading between markers in the Markers ruler.

Note that of these options only the Track Color view affects the Mix window display.

Color coding selections are made in the Display preferences tab. Track Color Coding settings apply to all color bars, and Clip Color Coding settings determine clip and waveform shading. Marker ruler colors are enabled via the first checkbox, or when choosing the Marker Locations option for clips.

How important is the brightness and contrast of the Pro Tools interface? Perhaps more than you’d think. Consider the dramatic changes made to the graphical user interface way back when version 8 was released:

A session opened in Pro Tools 7.4

The same session as of Pro Tools 8.

The difference is not subtle. If you’re like most people, you either love the updated interface… or can’t stand it! At that time, many who preferred the “classic” version liked the bright display and contrast that could make it easier to differentiate on-screen elements. Some who preferred the revised version found it more comfortable for viewing, especially during long sessions.

What do you think? Regardless, there are additional display options that allow you to modify the standard grey background if you find it unappealing. The Color Palette window can be used to customize interface colors, and in particular alter the shading of channel strips.

The Brightness slider can make a big difference for background contrast. You also might want to experiment with the Apply to Channel Strip button shown above, along with the Saturation slider, to shade channel backgrounds according to the active color coding preference.

If you’re consistently well organized, carefully manage your assets from the very first tracks and clips in a session onwards, and follow recommended procedures for recording, overdubbing, and editing, you can skip this section. On second thought, even the most rigorous and diligent engineers should still read on. This is a good time to review various ways to prepare a session for mixing, and there’s a good chance you haven’t tended to at least a couple. Furthermore, you may inherit a project from another engineer and find yourself forced to deal with someone’s mess, or get a gig remixing an existing record. Despite your best intentions, you nonetheless may need to deal with the following elements of a session prior to mixing:

  • Rename tracks. Don’t be surprised when you’re hired to mix a session and track names are obscure and unrecognizable. Restrict names to 8 characters or fewer so that certain control surface LED scribble strips won’t truncate them.

  • Add markers. The complete song form should be clearly and precisely outlined so that every major transition is easily located. This will also facilitate selecting sections of a song in order to create snapshot automation.

  • Create selection presets. It’s also handy to define preset selections for frequently accessed sections of a song.

  • Construct a beat map. Even if you didn’t do this for editing, a beat map can also come in handy when mixing for techniques such as synchronizing plug-ins with the performance.

  • Create display presets. Memory locations can also be used to store detailed display configurations with customized track show/hide status, height, group enables, zoom settings, and window configurations. For example, you might have a setup for submixing background vocals that includes displaying certain tracks with specific heights and zoom settings. Such presets generally should not have time properties designated. 

  • Define groups. This is a powerful feature that facilitates linking controls on related tracks. We’ll address it in detail in the next topic.

     

  • Clean up. The track area in particular can get increasingly messier as a production progresses, and is often at its worst when mixing commences. We’ll discuss how to approach such problems on the next page.

  • Print Instrument tracks. You’ll probably need as much processing power as possible for plug-ins when mixing. Virtual instruments typically demand an inordinate percentage of available resources, so you should consider bouncing them to Audio tracks. 

In theory, your tracks and edits will be clean as a whistle when it’s time to mix. In reality, that’s not always the case. Although you’ve presumably sliced and diced the playlists already, some rough edges may remain. Try to address the following prior to mixing:

  • Trim tops and tails. Although it’s possible to keep your clips intact and automate mutes in order to control where they begin and end, it’s a much better idea to trim back clips. You’ll save processing power for more important tasks, and there’s no risk of inaccurate automation timing.

  • Clear other excess. Similarly, you should delete unwanted audio within larger clips. Done properly, your playlists will contain concise clips where tracks play, and will be clear elsewhere.

  • Add fade-ins and -outs. If you trimmed clips as close as possible to the desired audio, it’s possible you’ll need a short fade to smooth the transition. You might want to trim up the entire session and then apply batch fades to make this quick and easy.

  • Check existing edits. It’s possible that some of your crossfades did not end up as clean as you’d like. Verify the integrity of these, or go through a single batch process as above.

  • Consolidate. We discussed consolidating audio two weeks ago, but you sometimes won’t do this until ready to mix. Since consolidating combines all of your edits into a single clip, you may prefer to wait until you’re certain that no further changes will be needed. Consolidation can be useful prior to mixing to reduce the disk access load in sessions with high track counts and edit density. 

When mixing, you’ll often need to make an identical adjustment on multiple tracks simultaneously. Perhaps you want to raise all of the guitar tracks—whether you have 2 or 20—by 3 dB. Or mute the entire drum kit for two beats. Or trim the tails of a set of background vocals. Or… well, do almost anything you’d do on a single track.

There are two ways to approach these scenarios that don’t involve painstakingly making the exact same moves on each track. Grouping can make your work much easier in all phases of the production process, but especially when mixing.

We’ll look at a variety of considerations pertaining to implementing and using Pro Tools grouping features, including significant new features, enhancements, and changes introduced in recent versions. Complete the reading below before continuing.

General Characteristics of Groups

Fundamentally, grouping seems like a simple enough concept. However, a closer look will reveal some fairly sophisticated and versatile capabilities. We’ll start by identifying the general characteristics of Pro Tools grouping features before exploring how they work in your sessions:

  • Recent versions do more. Grouping in older Pro Tools versions was a useful but basic feature. It’s now both useful and extremely powerful. Noteworthy enhancements include:

    • more groups (104, in 4 banks of 26)

    • enhanced Create Group dialog with additional options

      As of version 12 the Create Group dialog supports both global as well as individual group attributes.

    • no need to select tracks prior to invoking the New Group command

    • no longer necessary to overwrite existing groups to modify their specifications

    • revised Groups List popup menu

    • ability to specify which controls are grouped

  • Basic grouping and VCA-style grouping are different. When using the functions discussed in this topic, a control change on a grouped control on any track results in the same change to all group members. There’s another option—VCA-style grouping—in which multiple tracks can be controlled by a remote master, but the controls on the individual channels only affect a single track. (Requires either Pro Tools HD or version 12 or higher software.)

  • Fader (or other control) levels on grouped tracks maintain the same relative positions when adjusted. For example, if you raise a fader on one group member such that others top out, the relative positions are restored when you lower the levels.

  • Groups can be specified for edit functions, mix controls, or both. An Edit group only affects specific edit functions:
    • track view
    • track height

    • track timebase

    • editing functions such as selecting or trimming multiple tracks

    • automation functions such as inserting or modifying data on multiple tracks

 Mix groups can include fader, mute, and other controls (many more with Pro Tools HD). Edit groups do not include these controls, even when utilizing Edit window channel controls.
  • Groups can also be nested. You can define and use multiple groups with overlapping members. The Group ID for any channel appearing in two or more active groups is displayed in upper case.

Here, we’ll quickly review the steps required to create a Group in ProTools.

  1. Use any of the following methods to access the Create Group dialog:

    1. Invoke the command from the Track menu.

       

    2. Invoke the command from the Mix Groups list or Edit Groups list popup menu.

       

    3. Use the shortcut Command+G (Mac OS) or Control+G (Windows)

       

      NOTE: With previous versions of Pro Tools, it was necessary to select all tracks to be grouped prior to invoking the New Group command. This is (conveniently) no longer the case.

  1. Enter an appropriate name and select an ID.

    NOTE: You don’t have to stick with the default consecutive IDs for your groups. It can be helpful to use letters that relate to the group members (d for drums, for example), or come up with a standard configuration you’ll remember in all of your sessions. By doing so, you can facilitate enabling and disabling groups using Groups List Keyboard Focus (described below).

  2. Select the group type. If you’re not sure whether you’ll need the group for edit or mix functions, select both types; you can always modify this later.

  3. Select the attributes that will be linked on Mix group tracks (in addition to the fader level and automation status, which are always linked).

     NOTE: In version 12 and higher, you can also assign the group to an available VCA Master track.
  4. Select the tracks that will be members of the group, using one or more of the following methods: 

    1. To add selected tracks to the group member list, click on Add.

    2. To add selected tracks to the group member list in place of any members currently in the list, click on Replace.

    3. To add tracks from the Available tracks list, select one or more in the list, then click on Add >>.

    NOTE: Press A on the keyboard to add tracks selected in the Available list.
6. Click ok

It’s not uncommon for you to want to modify characteristics of a group. For example, you might record new tracks that are consistent with an existing group, or find that you’d rather not have an Edit group also link track controls. In the past, you’d have to create a new group and overwrite the previous one to effectively modify it. That’s not necessary anymore:

  1. Access the Modify Groups dialog using any of the following methods:

    1. Select Modify Groups in the Edit Groups List or Mix Groups List popup menu.

    2. In the Mix window, click on a track’s Group ID Indicator and select Modify in the popup menu.

    3. Right-click or click and hold on the group name in the Edit Groups List or Mix Groups List, then select Modify in the popup menu. 

  2. Set the group parameters as you would when creating a new group, starting with the group ID.

    1. The Remove button in the Modify Groups dialog provides an easy means for removing one or more tracks from the current group members.

    2. The handy—but dangerous—All group (discussed shortly) can be modified to make it somewhat less dangerous by restricting it to only act as an Edit or Mix group.

Two of the methods for modifying groups also provide a means for deleting a designated group:

  1. In the Mix window, click on a track’s Group ID Indicator and select Delete in the popup menu.

  2. Right-click or click and hold on the group name in the Edit Groups List or Mix Groups List, then select Delete in the popup menu.

You can also delete all currently active groups with the aptly named Delete Active Groups command in the Edit Groups List or Mix Groups List popup.

NOTE: Deleting groups is not undoable, so be certain you really want to do this. Don’t worry; you’ll be reminded. Also keep in mind that deleting groups leaves the actual tracks intact.

Don’t discount the possibility that a grouped pair of mono tracks might occasionally be more effective than the typical stereo configuration. It’s true that a single stereo track is usually best for two-channel sources such as virtual instruments or stereo miking. However, you’ll sometimes want to treat one side of the pair differently than the other, like using a different plug-in on the left and right channels. In this case, it might be convenient to simply work with mono tracks but group them to easily adjust their general control settings.

In this section, we’ll explore a variety of aspects related to using channel inserts in Pro Tools sessions. We’ll start by considering several general insert issues, including the potential for misusing plug-ins, insert signal flow in applicable tracks, and the distinctions between multi-mono and multi-channel formats. We’ll review basic methods for instantiating inserts, and throw in a few new tricks for simultaneously adding or deleting multiple inserts, as well as moving and copying them. We’ll look at several options for organizing plug-in menu listings, including basic preferences, custom plug-in favorites, and default EQ and compressor settings. We’ll identify the performance issues relevant to heavy use of plug-ins, and suggest appropriate settings for optimizing plug-in capabilities in mix sessions. We’ll revisit the concept of plug-in latency discussed earlier this week, and see how to mitigate the potential problems of phase cancellation. Finally, we’ll survey a variety of specific techniques that will be helpful when utilizing inserts. Complete the reading below, and then we’ll get started.

Inserts and real-time plug-ins are not equivalent. It’s easy to think of these as identical, since all real-time plug-ins are instantiated as channel inserts. However, hardware I/O channels can also be utilized for inserts, and this has nothing to do with internal signal processing. We’ll be dealing with plug-ins almost exclusively here and will use the terms somewhat interchangeably, but keep in mind that there is an alternative.

Scroll past the plug-in submenu when instantiating an insert to access another submenu with hardware I/O options.


If your audio interface only supports two inputs and outputs, it won’t be possible to use hardware inserts. (You’d need at least one unused input and output channel, and the main stereo monitor outputs would preempt any others.) 

When a plug-in is inserted in a channel, it interrupts the normal signal flow and routes audio through the plug-in software. When an I/O channel is inserted in the signal flow, audio is routed to the designated audio interface output channel, through an external device, and back through the corresponding audio interface input channel.

Messing around with signal processing can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of production. But beware: just like with anything else, too much of a good thing can quickly cease being so good. Novice engineers often fall into one or more of these classic traps: 

  • Overprocessing. It often seems like it’s easier to crank up the controls of an on-screen device as opposed to actual hardware. There’s something about turning a pot all the way up that breeds caution more than clicking and dragging.

  • Too many plug-ins. There’s rarely a good reason to use three, four, or even five inserts across the board. Nonetheless, some engineers appear to believe that more is better. It’s not.

  • Poor gain staging. In theory plug-ins can be overloaded, and unlike classic analog gear they won’t sound good when doing so. Fortunately, the 32-bit floating point processing used by AAX plug-ins provides essentially unlimited headroom, so this is no longer a critical issue. Still, I’d pay attention to gain staging—at some point, even if only with regards to hardware inputs and outputs, you’ll have to stay within proper operating limits.

The channel signal flow for Audio and other track types is not complex compared to traditional consoles, but you still need to be aware of how it works. In Audio, Auxiliary, and Instrument tracks, inserts are always pre-fader and appear in series beginning with Insert A. Keep in mind the order of insert slots when setting up signal processing. If, for example, you want your EQ to follow a compressor, you don’t want it placed in the first slot. 

Five inserts are shown here, but all Pro Tools audio-based tracks provide a second bank with five more.

Once instantiated, insert order can usually—but not always—be changed. If you invoke a plug-in with, say, a mono input and stereo output, it cannot be placed ahead of a plug-in with a mono input.

You’ve probably noticed the options of both of multi-mono and multi-channel formats when instantiating plug-ins on stereo tracks. What’s the difference?

  • Multi-mono plug-ins are linked pairs (or larger configurations with surround mixing) of independent processors. The controls can also be unlinked to provide independent adjustment of each channel.

  • Multi-channel plug-ins act like single processors regardless of their input and output configuration. Often, the processing itself is linked. For example, reverb effects may be based on a complex combination of both input channels, and multi-channel dynamics tools generally link gain reduction in both channels to be triggered by an input on either. 

You’re already familiar with how to instantiate a plug-in insert using the ten Insert Selector buttons on each track in the Mix and Edit windows. We’ve also demonstrated how the Plug-in and Insert Position Selector buttons in plug-in windows can be used for these purposes.

Within a channel, just click on the plug-in Insert selector for the desired slot.

Within a plug-in window, first select the insert slot.

Then instantiate a plug-in.

The same controls are used to remove instantiated plug-ins.

no insert

These methods can be extended to instantiate or remove multiple plug-ins simultaneously:

  1. To instantiate or remove the same plug-in on every visible track, press and hold the Option key (Mac OS) or Alt key (Windows) while instantiating (or removing) a plug-in.

    NOTE: Why doesn’t this technique apply to the second channel? It’s a stereo track, and only plug-ins with the same format will be affected. Note that you can use the Plug-in Selector on any track to both instantiate and remove.

  1. To instantiate or remove the same plug-in on every selected track, press and hold Option-Shift (Mac OS) or Alt-Shift (Windows) while instantiating (or removing) a plug-in.

  2. To move an insert to a different position, click and drag the insert to the desired slot. You can move an insert to a different slot on the same channel or to a different channel, but the format must match. If you drag the insert to a slot that already contains one, it is replaced.

  3. To copy a plug-in to a different slot, press and hold the Option key (Mac OS) or Alt key (Windows) while dragging the plug-in to that slot. The duplicate plug-in will have identical settings as well as any applicable plug-in automation.

As you build up your plug-in collection, the process of instantiating can get awkward. Popup menus become unwieldy when the number of items is lengthy, and it’s easy to miss your target when scrolling through multiple submenus. Fortunately, there are a few simple Pro Tools features that can improve the process:

  1. Menu Organization. You can set the preference that determines how the plug-in menu is organized to best suit your needs.

    Menu Organization

    The Flat List is not going to help matters much unless you absolutely despise popup submenus:

    With the Flat List display, the popup length may exceed your screen height!

    Organizing by Category is the default option:

    Organizing by Manufacturer might work for you, but in many cases you’ll end up with a submenu imbalance that won’t make the process any easier:

    Note that the Avid submenu includes Melodyne and Reason, since the plug-in itself is just the ReWire link to external software.

    The Category and Manufacturer option simply provides both organization systems, which presumably is useful under certain circumstances…

  2. Plug-in favorites. If the plug-in menu organization preferences leave you wanting easier options, fear not—there are two other handy features. You can add your most frequently used selections to the root level of the plug-in submenu by pressing and holding the Command key (Mac OS) or Control key (Windows) while selecting the desired favorite.

  3. Default EQ and Dynamics. Even more convenient is the option to place default EQ and dynamic plug-ins as the first two choices in the root level of the insert popup menu, making them incredibly easy to instantiate. Set the default choices in the Mixing preferences tab.

    You can choose any installed EQ and dynamics plug-ins for default choices.

    Default processors are always the first selections in the insert pop-up menu.

Many of the issues we considered for recording are also applicable to the mixing process:

  • Optimize the host computer’s operating system, and disable unnecessary features.

  • Refrain from running other applications in the background, unless they are related to your project (i.e. external VIs such as Reason).

  • Prior to Pro Tools 11, set the Pro Tools CPU Usage Limit as high as possible, while allowing sufficient resources for basic OS tasks such as screen redraws as well as necessary background applications. (Accessed via the Playback Engine dialog.)

However, certain settings that are appropriate for recording must be approached differently for mixing:
  • Host Processors. Prior to Pro Tools 11, with multiprocessor and multi-core hosts you can dedicate some or all of the additional CPU power to real-time plug-ins. This is not necessary when recording, since you’ll generally want to minimize plug-in use to avoid monitoring latency. Mixing is an entirely different story. Try to reserve as much processing power for native plug-ins as is feasible without sacrificing OS performance or automation accuracy. Typically, you’ll reserve at least one processor for system functions, but individual scenarios may vary.

  • Hardware Buffer. You also learned that a small Hardware Buffer size helps minimize monitoring latency. But a larger buffer becomes essential as signal processing demands increase, so when mixing you’ll want it set as high as possible. Since there’s a possibility of inconsistent automation and MIDI timing at higher settings, you should experiment with your system to identify the optimal mix configuration.

    The Pro Tools 10 Playback Engine dialog. Note that Hardware Buffer and RTAS Processor options vary based on your host computer and Pro Tools hardware.

    The version 12 Playback Engine dialog.

    Consider displaying the System Usage window to get an idea of how much CPU power is being used:

    Session with 25 EQ plug-ins

    Session with 25 EQ and 25 compressor plug-ins

    Session with 25 EQ, 25 compressor, and 25 reverb plug-ins

    At some point, the CPU might not be able to handle excessive signal processing. If the buffer size is already maxed out, the only solution is to reduce the number of plug-ins (assuming we’re fond of the tracks and can’t afford a new computer!).

Also note that bypassed plug-ins use as much CPU power as when processing signals. If you have no immediate use for certain plug-ins but don’t want to remove them from a session, it’s better to deactivate rather than bypass. (Control settings and automation you may utilize later are preserved.) Command-Control-click (Mac OS) or Control-Start-click (Windows) on a plug-in (or hardware) insert to deactivate or reactivate it.

First, how can you tell if the processing on a channel is causing latency? Phase cancellation might not be apparent if the volume level is low, so it’s a good idea to check the channel status directly. To do this in Pro Tools 10, just Command-click (Mac OS) or Control-click (Windows) on the Audio Volume indicator below any fader in the Mix window to cycle through its three displays (fader level, peak track level, and total track latency). If using version 11 or later, the Audio Volume indicator is the left display below the fader, and you can toggle between fader level and latency.

Track latency can also be viewed when delay compensation (discussed below) is active by selecting the Delay Compensation option in the Mix Window View.

Total track latency displayed in Pro Tools 10.

Latency displayed in Pro Tools 12.

Latency is measured in samples, so in the example above the delay will be approximately 1.5 milliseconds assuming a sample rate of 44.1 kHz (64 ÷ 44,100). Depending upon the plug-ins being used, latency can be significant. In the next example, we’ll activate multiple inserts on a channel. Of the five inserts, all but the first introduce latency. Note how the total latency increases as we activate the plug-ins one-by-one.

Fortunately, this is readily mitigated. Although there are a few methods for dealing with latency, the easiest is to utilize Automatic Delay Compensation. ADC does all of the work for you, adjusting every track’s total delay as needed and updating these settings whenever plug-in instances are modified. It also compensates for the delays associated with busses and sends. It’s theoretically possible you’ll still need to use manual adjustments on occasion, since there’s a limit to the total delay compensation available. However, this will rarely—if ever—be the case, so delay compensation will usually be quick and easy. Here’s how it works:

If you want to use an old-school solution for latency, the following should be a workable solution:

  1. Identify the channels that may need intervention, based on the scenarios we’ve discussed.

  2. Identify the total latency on each channel, and note which channel has the highest latency.

  3. Instantiate the TimeAdjuster plug-in on each affected channel other than the channel with the maximum latency. (Use the small, medium, or long depending upon the amount of correction needed.)

  4. Set the TimeAdjuster delay on each channel so that the total latency matches the delay on the channel with the maximum latency.

  5. Don’t forget to update the TimeAdjuster plug-in settings if you make a change in plug-in usage that alters the latency on the affected tracks.

This may sound like a hassle, and in fact it’s not the most enjoyable part of mixing. But you shouldn’t have too many instances that require intervention, so won’t need to spend a lot of time dealing with latency. Here’s the basic process in the same session:

Command-Option-click (Mac OS) or Control-Alt-click (Windows) on any level display to toggle to the delay time for all tracks. After we add the first adjustment, we can Option-click and drag (Mac; Alt using Windows) on the plug-in nameplate to duplicate it on another track.

Note that the above example was made using Pro Tools 10; the process should be equivalent in version 11, but the TimeAdjuster plug-in doesn’t seem to affect the latency indicator!

Kickstarter Has Helped Create 300,000 Jobs!

Is crowdfunding changing the world?  Apparently it is making a difference.  A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that crowdfunding site Kickstarter has created over 8,800 companies since launching, and with it 29,600 full-time jobs and 283,000 part-time ones. Professor Ethan Mollick examined 61,654 successful Kickstarter projects from 2009 thru 2015 and found that the site has generated $5.3 billion for creators and their communities.

“Successful crowdfunding projects have implications that go beyond the interactions of the backers and creators who participate in projects,” Mollick writes. “Crowdfunding campaigns lead to new organizations that ultimately generate billions in non-crowdfunding revenue and have hired thousands of employees.”

According to Mollick’s research, two- thirds of Kickstarter projects were created by individuals, with the rest coming from teams of mostly friends. A plurality of creators were between ages 25-34, though the average is 38, with 41 percent of the creators being female.

For musicians using Kickstarter, only 5 percent said that their projects helped “a lot” in securing a record deal, with 8 percent for publishing deals and 5 percent regarding distribution deals. That said, over 53 percent of respondents reported that their campaign helped “a lot” in owning the rights to their work, and 14.5 percent said it helped when going on tour.

“While it is not possible in this study to compare the e ciency of crowdfunding to other methods of encouraging entrepreneurship or subsidizing creative work, it is clear that, overall, the money raised from campaigns leads to positive returns across a variety of measures,” Mollick concluded.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

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Apple buys “Carpool Karaoke” will release new episodes on Apple Music

Apple today has acquired the rights to the insanely popular Carpool Karaoke series that started out as a part of The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS. While it’s unclear how much Apple has paid for the series, it will release new episodes of it via the Apple Music, reports THR.

For those unfamiliar, Carpool Karaoke is an idea thought up by Corden that sees him drive around in a car with a celebrity or musician and sing along to popular songs. Corden has had celebrities including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Direction, Michelle Obama, Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, and many more appear.

CBS Television Studios and Fulwell 73 will take the reigns in expanding the show. Fulwell 73 is the production company run by Late Late Show executive producer Ben Winston. In conjunction with Apple, 16 episodes will be produced and streamed weekly on Apple Music. It’s unclear who the host will be at this point, though it is not expected to be Corden. Previously CBS had ordered a primetime special Carpool Karaoke segment, likely hinting at its plans to spin the show off into its own series.

In the past, Eddy Cue has said Apple is not looking to produce its own TV shows, though he noted that he noted the company would work to complement existing services, like Apple Music, with video content. Speaking to THR, Cue said that Apple sees Carpool Karaoke as a fun and unique way to express love for music:

“We love music, and Carpool Karaoke celebrates it in a fun and unique way that is a hit with audiences of all ages. It’s a perfect fit for Apple Music — bringing subscribers exclusive access to their favorite artists and celebrities who come along for the ride.”

The standalone Carpool Karaoke series will stream to Apple Music subscribers with new episodes becoming available every week. In the past, Corden’s Carpool Karaoke clips have garnered tens of millions of views a piece.

Apple is also still working on its Planet of The Apps TV show, which is expected to become available sometime in 2017.

Here’s some fun segments:

Adele Carpool Karaoke

Chris Martin Carpool Karaoke

Stevie Wonder Carpool Karaoke

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

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Apple proposes flat streaming music royalties for songwriters

Apple has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that would simplify streaming royalty rates paid to songwriters, and significantly increase the rates paid by Spotify and other services that offer free, ad-supported music streaming.

A report by Ben Sisario for the New York Times surfaced the company’s submission to the Copyright Royalty Board. Amazon, Google, Pandora, Spotify and the Recording Industry Association of America are also expected to weigh in with their own proposals.

The Copyright Royalty Board is accepting input on future statutory rates that would be applied to downloads and interactive streaming services starting in 2018.

Apple recommended a set songwriting royalty of 9.1 cents per 100 song streams, to replace existing complicated federal streaming rules that enable its competitors—particularly Spotify and YouTube—to offer free streams of music that effectively pay artists very little and devalue music playback as a service.

“An interactive stream has an inherent value,” Apple’s proposal states, “regardless of the business model a service provider chooses.”

Apple Music does not offer a free “interactive” streaming tier as Spotify does, or as Google enables on YouTube. Increasing royalty rates to a flat minimum would make it much more expensive for Apple’s streaming rivals to offer unpaid streaming services, as advertising would not cover the difference.

The music industry has increasingly complained that free streaming services don’t pay enough in royalties, and that the easy access to libraries of artists’ music on sites like YouTube essentially erase the demand for paid services that deliver artists higher royalties.

In an interview last month, Nine Inch Nails frontman and Apple Music Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznorsaid of YouTube’s unpaid streaming services, “it is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big. I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers.”

Apple currently pays out about $7 in royalties for each $10 monthly Apple Music subscription. The company’s last report on subscribers stated that it had 15 million paid subscribers.

Spotify says it has 30 million paid subscribers, but it also provides a “fremium” unpaid tier of interactive streaming service to another 70 million users, who also hear ads. Apple complains that Spotify’s unpaid tier hurts the industry and artists.

In turn, Spotify has complained that in order to reach iOS users in the App Store, it has to pay Apple a cut of subscriptions sold through the App Store. It does not have to pay Apple anything for subscriptions it sells on its own.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Prince Changed the Music Industry

The tragic death of the incredible artist known as Prince marks the end of a extraordinary music career.  Prince was a virtuoso on any number of instruments, a master arranger and producer.  Prince’s music was as diverse and versatile as his elaborate outfits.

His pursuit of complete artistic freedom – and legal protections for that freedom – will likely be his legacy.  His confrontations with record companies, streaming services and social media users inspired other artists to both demand artistic freedom and earn their fair share of profits.

Prince Purple Rain Live at the 2007 Super Bowl .  RIP Prince.

Prince was a Musical Genius at 19

In 1978, when Price was 19 years old, He signed with Warner Bros. and released his debut album, “For You.”  Prince is credited with playing every instrument and singing all of the vocals on the album.

Albums of this period typically relied on an army of producers, arrangers, composers and musicians. Michael Jackson’s album “Off the Wall” (1979), for example, credits nearly 40 session musicians and over 15 composers and arrangers. While it wasn’t a major success, “For You” revealed Prince’s budding genius and his desire to exert control over all elements of his work, allowing him to stay true to his artistic vision.

“For You” was the first in a long line of studio albums that Prince produced with Warner Bros. After the release of two other developmental efforts, he released “1999” (1983) and “Purple Rain” (1984), which established the showman as one of the most unique, diverse and dominant pop artists of the 1980s.

Contractual shackles

However, by the early 1990s, the relationship between Prince and Warner Bros. began to cool. After the success of “Diamonds and Pearls” (1991), Prince signed a six-album, US$100 million contract with the record company.

But the details of the contract led to a prolonged legal and creative battle concerning ownership of Prince’s entire Warner Bros. catalog. Under the contract, Warner Bros. received ownership of Prince’s body of work that he had produced for the company. For his part, Prince received a sudden influx of cash to continue working on recording projects at his Paisley Park Records studio in Minnesota.

As Prince grew increasingly frustrated that he had surrendered the rights to his music, the artist began to rebel by publicly appearing with “Slave” written on his cheek.

Prince with the words SLAVE written on his face.

Prince with the words SLAVE written on his face.

Prince changed his name to a symbol

Prince changed his name to a symbol,

which occurred after the artist

declared his former artistic self dead.

To meet the recording demands of the contract – which dictated that Prince needed to produce new albums under the Warner Bros. name – he opted to release prerecorded music to Warner Bros. His final release from this period, “Chaos and Disorder” (1996), is a hodgepodge of hastily written songs that serve as a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to Warner Bros., while allowing the artist to fulfill his obligations to the company.

Fighting for his rights

Given Prince’s public, prolonged dispute with Warner Bros., the damage may have seemed irreparable. However, the two sides renewed their working relationship in 2014, a move that restored Prince’s ownership of his earlier Warner Bros. releases.

Prince spent the last decade of his life fighting other areas of the music industry to ensure that his creative works were protected. In 2007, Prince and Universal Music sued a mother after she posted a video of her son dancing to a Prince song on YouTube.

Then, in 2014, the artist filed suit against 20 people who he claimed violated his copyright protections by either posting his songs online or by participating in file sharing services that posted his music. The complaint sought $1 million in damages from each person.

Focusing on Copyright Infringement

Prince’s lawsuits were meant more to draw attention to issues of copyright infringement than they were to ruin the finances of mothers and kids sharing files on the Internet. After those accused of violating copyright in the cases mentioned ceased their activity, Prince dropped the cases.

More recently, Prince, along with other artists such as Taylor Swift, began demanding that online retailers and streaming services pay better royalties to the artists whose music they play. In 2015, Prince pulled his music from most online vendors, opting to deal exclusively with Jay Z’s service, TIDAL.

Prince’s fight to protect his creative voice has reverberated to the most remote corners of the music world. Choral arrangers – who typically pay a license fee in order to access rights that they then arrange for choral groups – are barred from using the artist’s music as material.

Prince’s Legacy

Prince’s legacy as a brilliant and extraordinarily unique musician will endure in the nearly 30 studio albums that he produced.

But the artist should also be remembered for his work as an advocate for protecting the creative property of musicians and their music. Throughout his career, Prince’s willingness to engage in ownership battles over creative rights played a major role in the growing wave of discontent toward the music industry, now led by Jay Z, David Byrne and Neil Young, among others.

Just as “For You” displayed an artist in total control of his medium, Prince’s battle to maintain control over his music throughout his career will ensure that the legacy he leaves is in the exact voice that he intended.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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The Problem With Music by Steve Albini

This oft-referenced article is from the early ’90s, and originally appeared in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine.  While some of the information and figures listed here are dated, it is still a useful and informative article.

The record industry has been employing practices like these for decades and they get worse as the major labels consolidate.  The deals they force artist into signing now are even more restrictive than they once were — forcing artist to sing 360 degree deals that make every aspect of their lives and careers a profit center for the label.  When getting tangled up in this web, it is nearly impossible to get out on top.

The Problem With Music by Steve Albini

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke”. And he does of course.

Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an “A & R” rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for “Artist and Repertoire.” because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly. These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave.

Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them. Terry Tolkin, former NY independent booking agent and assistant manager at Touch and Go is one of them. Al Smith, former soundman at CBGB is one of them. Mike Gitter, former editor of XXX fanzine and contributor to Rip, Kerrang and other lowbrow rags is one of them. Many of the annoying turds who used to staff college radio stations are in their ranks as well. There are several reasons A & R scouts are always young. The explanation usually copped-to is that the scout will be “hip to the current musical “scene.” A more important reason is that the bands will intuitively trust someone they think is a peer, and who speaks fondly of the same formative rock and roll experiences. The A & R person is the first person to make contact with the band, and as such is the first person to promise them the moon. Who better to promise them the moon than an idealistic young turk who expects to be calling the shots in a few years, and who has had no previous experience with a big record company. Hell, he’s as naive as the band he’s duping. When he tells them no one will interfere in their creative process, he probably even believes it. When he sits down with the band for the first time, over a plate of angel hair pasta, he can tell them with all sincerity that when they sign with company X, they’re really signing with him and he’s on their side. Remember that great gig I saw you at in ’85? Didn’t we have a blast. By now all rock bands are wise enough to be suspicious of music industry scum. There is a pervasive caricature in popular culture of a portly, middle aged ex-hipster talking a mile-a-minute, using outdated jargon and calling everybody “baby.” After meeting “their” A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, “He’s not like a record company guy at all! He’s like one of us.” And they will be right. That’s one of the reasons he was hired.

These A & R guys are not allowed to write contracts. What they do is present the band with a letter of intent, or “deal memo,” which loosely states some terms, and affirms that the band will sign with the label once a contract has been agreed on. The spookiest thing about this harmless sounding little memo, is that it is, for all legal purposes, a binding document. That is, once the band signs it, they are under obligation to conclude a deal with the label. If the label presents them with a contract that the band don’t want to sign, all the label has to do is wait. There are a hundred other bands willing to sign the exact same contract, so the label is in a position of strength. These letters never have any terms of expiration, so the band remain bound by the deal memo until a contract is signed, no matter how long that takes. The band cannot sign to another laborer or even put out its own material unless they are released from their agreement, which never happens. Make no mistake about it: once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed.

One of my favorite bands was held hostage for the better part of two years by a slick young “He’s not like a label guy at all,” A & R rep, on the basis of such a deal memo. He had failed to come through on any of his promises [something he did with similar effect to another well-known band], and so the band wanted out. Another label expressed interest, but when the A & R man was asked to release the band, he said he would need money or points, or possibly both, before he would consider it. The new label was afraid the price would be too dear, and they said no thanks. On the cusp of making their signature album, an excellent band, humiliated, broke up from the stress and the many months of inactivity. There’s this band. They’re pretty ordinary, but they’re also pretty good, so they’ve attracted some attention. They’re signed to a moderate-sized “independent” label owned by a distribution company, and they have another two albums owed to the label. They’re a little ambitious. They’d like to get signed by a major label so they can have some security you know, get some good equipment, tour in a proper tour bus — nothing fancy, just a little reward for all the hard work. To that end, they got a manager. He knows some of the label guys, and he can shop their next project to all the right people. He takes his cut, sure, but it’s only 15%, and if he can get them signed then it’s money well spent. Anyways, it doesn’t cost them anything if it doesn’t work. 15% of nothing isn’t much! One day an A & R scout calls them, says he’s ‘been following them for a while now, and when their manager mentioned them to him, it just “clicked.” Would they like to meet with him about the possibility of working out a deal with his label? Wow. Big Break time. They meet the guy, and y’know what — he’s not what they expected from a label guy. He’s young and dresses pretty much like the band does. He knows all their favorite bands. He’s like one of them. He tells them he wants to go to bat for them, to try to get them everything they want. He says anything is possible with the right attitude.

They conclude the evening by taking home a copy of a deal memo they wrote out and signed on the spot. The A & R guy was full of great ideas, even talked about using a name producer. Butch Vig is out of the question-he wants 100 g’s and three points, but they can get Don Fleming for $30,000 plus three points. Even that’s a little steep, so maybe they’ll go with that guy who used to be in David Letterman’s band. He only wants three points. Or they can have just anybody record it (like Warton Tiers, maybe– cost you 5 or 7 grand] and have Andy Wallace remix it for 4 grand a track plus 2 points. It was a lot to think about. Well, they like this guy and they trust him. Besides, they already signed the deal memo. He must have been serious about wanting them to sign. They break the news to their current label, and the label manager says he wants them to succeed, so they have his blessing. He will need to be compensated, of course, for the remaining albums left on their contract, but he’ll work it out with the label himself.

Sub Pop made millions from selling off Nirvana, and Twin Tone hasn’t done bad either: 50 grand for the Babes and 60 grand for the Poster Children– without having to sell a single additional record. It’ll be something modest. The new label doesn’t mind, so long as it’s recoupable out of royalties. Well, they get the final contract, and it’s not quite what they expected. They figure it’s better to be safe than sorry and they turn it over to a lawyer–one who says he’s experienced in entertainment law and he hammers out a few bugs. They’re still not sure about it, but the lawyer says he’s seen a lot of contracts, and theirs is pretty good. They’ll be great royalty: 13% [less a 1O% packaging deduction]. Wasn’t it Buffalo Tom that were only getting 12% less 10? Whatever. The old label only wants 50 grand, an no points. Hell, Sub Pop got 3 points when they let Nirvana go. They’re signed for four years, with options on each year, for a total of over a million dollars! That’s a lot of money in any man’s English. The first year’s advance alone is $250,000. Just think about it, a quarter million, just for being in a rock band! Their manager thinks it’s a great deal, especially the large advance. Besides, he knows a publishing company that will take the band on if they get signed, and even give them an advance of 20 grand, so they’ll be making that money too. The manager says publishing is pretty mysterious, and nobody really knows where all the money comes from, but the lawyer can look that contract over too. Hell, it’s free money. Their booking agent is excited about the band signing to a major. He says they can maybe average $1,000 or $2,000 a night from now on. That’s enough to justify a five week tour, and with tour support, they can use a proper crew, buy some good equipment and even get a tour bus! Buses are pretty expensive, but if you figure in the price of a hotel room for everybody In the band and crew, they’re actually about the same cost. Some bands like Therapy? and Sloan and Stereolab use buses on their tours even when they’re getting paid only a couple hundred bucks a night, and this tour should earn at least a grand or two every night. It’ll be worth it. The band will be more comfortable and will play better.

The agent says a band on a major label can get a merchandising company to pay them an advance on T-shirt sales! ridiculous! There’s a gold mine here! The lawyer Should look over the merchandising contract, just to be safe. They get drunk at the signing party. Polaroids are taken and everybody looks thrilled. The label picked them up in a limo. They decided to go with the producer who used to be in Letterman’s band. He had these technicians come in and tune the drums for them and tweak their amps and guitars. He had a guy bring in a slew of expensive old “vintage” microphones. Boy, were they “warm.” He even had a guy come in and check the phase of all the equipment in the control room! Boy, was he professional. He used a bunch of equipment on them and by the end of it, they all agreed that it sounded very “punchy,” yet “warm.” All that hard work paid off. With the help of a video, the album went like hotcakes! They sold a quarter million copies! Here is the math that will explain just how fucked they are: These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There’s no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. income is bold and underlined, expenses are not.

Advance: $ 250,000

Manager’s cut:

$ 37,500

Legal fees:

$ 10,000

Recording Budget:

$ 150,000

Producer’s advance:

$ 50,000

Studio fee:

$ 52,500
Drum Amp, Mic and Phase “Doctors”:
$ 3,000

Recording tape:

$ 8,000

Equipment rental:

$ 5,000

Cartage and Transportation:

$ 5,000

Lodgings while in studio:

$ 10,000

Catering:

$ 3,000

Mastering:

$ 10,000

Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping
tapes, misc. expenses:

$ 2,000

Video budget:

$ 30,000

Cameras:

$ 8,000

Crew:

$ 5,000

Processing and transfers:

$ 3,000

Off-line:

$ 2,000

On-line editing:

$ 3,000

Catering:

$ 1,000

Stage and construction:

$ 3,000

Copies, couriers, transportation:

$ 2,000

Director’s fee:

$ 3,000

Album Artwork:

$ 5,000

Promotional photo shoot and duplication:

$ 2,000

Band fund:

$ 15,000

New fancy professional drum kit:

$ 5,000

New fancy professional guitars [2]:

$ 3,000

New fancy professional guitar amp rigs [2]:

$ 4,000

New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar:

$ 1,000

New fancy rack of lights bass amp:

$ 1,000

Rehearsal space rental:

$ 500

Big blowout party for their friends:

$ 500

Tour expense [5 weeks]:

$ 50,875

Bus:

$ 25,000

Crew [3]:

$ 7,500

Food and per diems:

$ 7,875

Fuel:

$ 3,000

Consumable supplies:

$ 3,500

Wardrobe:

$ 1,000

Promotion:

$ 3,000
Tour gross income: $ 50,000

Agent’s cut:

$ 7,500

Manager’s cut:

$ 7,500
Merchandising advance: $ 20,000

Manager’s cut:

$ 3,000

Lawyer’s fee:

$ 1,000
Publishing advance: $ 20,000

Manager’s cut:

$ 3,000

Lawyer’s fee:

$ 1,000

Record sales:

250,000 @ $12 =
$3,000,000

Gross retail revenue Royalty:

[13% of 90% of retail]:
$ 351,000

Less advance:

$ 250,000

Producer’s points:

[3% less $50,000 advance]:
$ 40,000

Promotional budget:

$ 25,000

Recoupable buyout from previous label:

$ 50,000

Net royalty: $ -14,000
Record company income:

Record wholesale price:

$6.50 x 250,000 =
$1,625,000 gross income

Artist Royalties:

$ 351,000

Deficit from royalties:

$ 14,000

Manufacturing, packaging and distribution:

@ $2.20 per record: $ 550,000

Gross profit:

$ 710,000

The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.

Record company:

$ 710,000

Producer:

$ 90,000

Manager:

$ 51,000

Studio:

$ 52,500

Previous label:

$ 50,000

Agent:

$ 7,500

Lawyer:

$ 12,000

Band member net income each:
$ 4,031.25
The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month. The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never “recouped,” the band will have no leverage, and will oblige. The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won’t have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys. Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.

Steve Albini is an independent and corporate rock record producer most widely known for having produced Nirvana’s “In Utero”.

2015 Was a Record Year for Online Music Distribution

According to a 2015 Nielsen Report, 2015 was another newsworthy year for the record industry.  Not everything was good news, but overall, the demand for music is stronger than ever.

The following are some of the charts and figures form the 2015 Nielsen Music U.S. Report:

Streaming Nearly Doubles Vs. Prior Year

Nielsen On-Demand Music Streams

Digital Download Sales Continue to Decline

Nielsen Digital Download Sales Continue to Decline

Combined (Physical + Digital) Album Sales Continue to Decline

Nielsen Combined (Physical + Digital) Album Sales Continue to Decline

But When SEA (Streaming Equivalent Albums) Are Factored in, Consumption is Up

Nielsen Music Consumption is Up
Total Digital Consumption Surges 26 percent

Nielsen Total Digital Consumption Surges 26 percent

2015—The Year of Adele

“25’s sales loomed so large, it represented 3.1 percent of total album sales in 2015,” states a Billboard article from the beginning of 2016. Click below to read it:

Billboard – Adele’s ’25’ Rules as Nielsen Music’s Top Album of 2015 in U.S.

5 Ways to Build a Fanbase

Every Musician knows that fans are what drive their business.  Building a Fanbase of loyal followers is critical to obtaining success in the Modern Music Industry.  Of course, building a fanbase is not easy!  It takes a lot of work and dedication to create a audience of people that are loyal.

Why Build a Fanbase

Before diving into the 5 Ways to Build a Fanbase, we thought it would be good to get into some of the reasons why it is as important, if not more important, to build fans than it is to practice your music.  Seriously?  Is this a joke?  We can hear you ask these questions through the internet 🙂

Seriously, think about this point for a minute.  We all see some really BAD! musicians make it all of the time while many great artist never make it out of the local Bar Scene. What’s up with that?

Don’t take our word for it.  Here’s a video for you guys’s and gal’s to ponder.  This is a video of Britney Spears live in a couple of different concerts.  The fun part of this video is they isolated her wireless mic signal.  Curious what her voice sounds like without any processing?  Before watching this, keep in mind that Britney Spears is one of the top grossing female artist…

The Music Industry from a Social Perspective

Now that we have your ears bleeding from the Britney Spears video, we thought this infographic highlights some other interesting points.

 

The Music Industry As Seen From the Social Web

We thought it was interesting to see that Britney has more followers on Twitter than the President of the United States, which is impressive considering the number of the musicians out there that have incredible talent that have not been discovered.

Talent does not Equal Success

Have we hit the point home with you?  Talent does not equal success!  If not, maybe this may help.

Britney Spears Gross IncomeAccording to the Huffington Post Article, Britney Spears Net Worth is a staggering $46 million.

“Britney’s $46 million net worth saw a nice boost in 2014, most likely due to her Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood. And the steady and huge paychecks from Britney’s gig entertaining tourists are set to get even bigger.

With the combined income of $475,000 for each show (just under Celine Dion’s per-show earnings of $476,000 for her residency) and her other business ventures, including her fragrances and a new lingerie line, TMZ reported that Britney earns around $1 million each week.”

Who among us wouldn’t like to earn $475,000 for every show?  That is especially a compelling question when the average working musician makes about $35,000 per year.

How did Britney get to this point?  You guessed it, she has a loyal Fanbase!

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The Steps to Building a Fanbase Starts with Awareness

Awareness refers to any marketing initiative designed to provide visibility to your product. Awareness takes a number of different forms, but is most effective when you are targeting a community that is more predisposed to already liking similar things.

What does that mean to a Musician or Songwriter?  Building Awareness means finding fans that may like your music and letting them know you exist.  It is critically important for an emerging musician to get to know the types of fans that will connect with their music.   Look for and seek out bands, songs, etc. that are similar to what you do and research the demographic of their fans.  What type of person likes the type of music you create?

There is a fanbase for everything on the worldwide web.  Doesn’t matter what you do, there is someone out there that likes it.

There are 3 Quick Steps to Identify Fan Demographics:
  • Find artist:  Look for Artist that are ahead of you in the success curve…not the superstars backed by the Major Labels.  If you don’t know any, read the online blogs that are well known for seeking out and writing honest reviews of artist such as Pitchfork.   YouTube is another great place to research music.  Don’t limit your search to a local area.  Looking nationwide and even worldwide can make a huge difference in the audience you market to.
  • Social Networks:  Review the artist social networks and research the fans that are making comments, forwarding their tweets, etc.  The engaged fans that actively promote a musician is one that is passionate about them.  Finding out what motivates them is important to find fans like them for your band.
  • Bloggers: People who write articles on their blogs about artist are critical to the success of a band.  Bloggers can easily have a reach and following greater than Billboard and Rolling Stone magazine combined.  There is a search engine conveniently called the Blog Search Engine that makes it easy to search for a topic that returns blog results.

Awareness Continued: Demographic and Psychographic Overview

Traditionally, demographics have been the bread and butter of analytical information for marketers. Demographic information is the information that one typically sees on a census like age, ethnicity, gender, geographic information, marriage status, whether you have kids or not, and so on. While some of this information is helpful for music marketers—particularly geographic information, as it pertains to routing a tour—demographic information can be a lot less helpful than psychographic information.

Profile of Today

Psychographics is the study of interests, values, attitudes, and lifestyles. Fans of music can live anywhere, can be married or unmarried, can be of any age, and can have a range of income, and as such, it’s important to identify other shared characteristics that are less tangible—those traits that are not identified on a census—to properly target the correct market.

In many cases, the fans of bands mirror their favorite bands’ traits in many ways. Core fans of Morrissey might be more likely to be vegan, fans of Nine Inch Nails might be more focused on technology, fans of Phish might be more focused on a casual dress style, and so on. These psychographic bonds, or shared interests, between the fans and the band is a critical point to determine early on in any marketing campaign. It helps to dictate the high-level marketing campaign focus, including branding, images, communication strategy, and product offerings.

Ideally, a marketer integrates both the useful demographic information as well as the psychographic information, but it is important to note that psychographics often function completely outside of demographics.

The Second Step in Building a Fanbase is Acquisition

Once you have the attention of a prospective fan, it is a marketing best-practice to obtain some form of permission-based contact. From an online standpoint, collecting an email address from someone who has listened to one of your songs is a form of acquisition. From a social standpoint, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Instagram friends, and YouTube subscribers can be considered permission-based contacts as well. Physical forms of acquisition include capturing the address of a fan, or collecting a phone number.

Collecting permission-based contacts allows musicians to continue a relationship with their new fan after the initial awareness phase. It’s important to note that the different forms of permission-based contacts result in different monetization opportunities down the line. Email marketing, for example, usually converts at a higher rate than social-based contacts.

One of the best ways to do this is to provide something FREE to the potential fan in exchange for their email address.  The Acquisition stage is far too early to ask for money.  Imagine the process being like a date.  The first step, Awareness, is like glancing at each other across the room in a bar.  The Second stage is walking up and talking with them…hoping to say the right things and get their phone number… This is the Acquisition stage for a band.  Now that they know you exist, you want to get just enough interest in what you do to get them to provide you with an email.  Giving something of perceived value away for FREE is the best way to do this.  Could be a song, but could also be something personal like a signed photo of the band or a recipe on how to make a killer Margarita.  Anything that has a minimal cost to the band, but enough perceived value for the potential fan that they would be willing to part with some personal information.

The Third Step is Building an Online Presence

The third Step may actually be the second or even the first step, but we want to make sure and include this in series.  It is important that your band and music is represented positively and professionally.  When a potential fan searches for you on the internet they need to find you!  It is critical that a Musician’s website, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. sites have a consistent design and present a professional image.

There are several sites that provide a variety of services to bands.  The most popular are Bandcamp and Topspin for general hosting of band websites.  Both of these services charge fees.

Bandcamp will host a site for free; however, they take money off the top for sales — 15% for digital sales and 10% for merchandise sales.  They have tiered pricing.  When sales are $5K or greater in digital sales the commission decreases from 15% to 10% (https://bandcamp.com/pricing).

Topspin charges a fee to host a site.  The pricing starts at $9.99 per month for basic services, $49.99 per month for presages and other marketing services and $99 per moth for Enterprise services that support split commission payouts (https://www.topspinmedia.com/products/topspinplatform/).  Topspin also charges percentage of sales as well that average 15-20%.

Here’s a video that provides a good overview of the Topspin services:

Other options

Something that many of you may be thinking is why not use a Facebook page to build our fans?  They are free…Right?  We highly recommend that you use Facebook to build Awareness and Engage with Fans, but it should not be your primary site.

The reason using a site you do not directly control is because they frequently change their terms and conditions that limit access to your own fans.  A good example of a social network that hurt many musicians when the tides of the internet changed is MySpace.  Remember those guys?  Bands, Record Companies, etc. invested major money and time building custom MySpace websites and developing fans only to see it all disappear practically overnight.

There is no way to reconnect with the fans that are lost if a social site changes their policies or goes out of business.  Those artist have to start building again from ground zero.  Same holds true with Facebook.  They keep most of the information about followers private and charge page operators to connect with their own followers.  Further, even when an artist pays to Boost a Post, there is no guarantee that their fans will ever see it.  Facebook uses an algorithm that promotes based on $$ spent.  One can hope a post makes it into a fans newsfeed, but there is zero guarantee that it will.

Cash Music

Cash Music is a non-profit company based in Oregon.  They have build a very powerful music marketing platform that is funded by investors, not musicians.  The platform is 100% free for musicians.  What is the catch? It takes some IT skills to setup.  Bandcamp, Topspin and other similar services do the backend legwork to create stock website templates, integration with Amazon for image hosting, commerce collisions, etc.  Cash Music provides the conduit to these services, but the Artist using their platform has to set everything up on their own.  Amazon S3, for example, is where files are stored for the sites.  The users have to sign up with Amazon and create an S3 account.  The good news is that anyone with an Amazon account can sign up for S3 for free.  They do charge fees for data traffic, but it is minimal.  Cash Music is a bit more technical to setup, but it will scale with an artist from a small band to a huge worldwide fanbase without any problems and it is free!  We believe it is well worth the time it takes to get the sites configured than to pay 10-20%+ of sales to a third-party.  That money can be used to make the next album.

 

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The Fourth Step is Engagement

Once a band has the permission and the means to reach out to fans, the next step is to properly engage with them. Engagement can take various forms, including email newsletters, social posts, text messages, direct mailings, and much more. Proper engagement is a key factor relating to the final step of marketing: monetization.

Fans love being connected with musicians they love.  The best way to do that is to give them a peak inside the lives of the band.  Writing posts that let fans know what you are doing, what city you are in, who you had dinner with, etc. will get a lot of traffic.  However, the best way to engage fans is through video.  Live broadcasts from Back stage using Google Hangouts, Twitter Periscope, etc. is a great way to get them engaged.

Fans, of course, have to know you are going to be live on video. This is where the emails come in handy.  Send them an update letting them know you will be live at a certain date and time (include the timezone).  You could even ask them to sign up for the event using free services such as Eventbrite.  This strategy goes back to the FREE exchange we mentioned earlier.  Tell them about an event they will be interested then ask them to give up something personal to get access to it.  Eventbrite can be used to collect more demographic details about your subscribers that can help with marketing efforts down the road.  The final step would be to send a notice to the Event subscribers letting them know a Live event is starting, but to also send a note via email and post to all social feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc) announcing the event is going to start.

Engaging fans through various channels and providing them something FREE or exclusive will keep them engaged long term.

The Fifth Step is Monetization

Alright, we are almost through this post on 5 Key Ways to Build a Fanbase!  Monetization is the last, but most exciting step in the process.  This is when you can actually start making money!

Once you have made fans aware of you, captured their contact information, and been engaging with them, you have made it to the end of the “conversion funnel” — monetization. A common trait among new musicians is to attempt to monetize prior to having the previous three marketing pillars buttoned up. Of course, without fans with whom you can communicate properly, monetization is not going to be effective.  The VERY IMPORTANT point is NOT to try to get Fans to pay for anything until all of the above steps are in place.  If we think about the dating example we mentioned earlier, Monetization is the point dating moves to a marriage.  This process takes time to develop before the Fan is ready to commit to your band.  Rush it and you will likely put off the new fan and disengage them.

When Fans are engaged they will stay that way as long as you keep them engaged.  People are naturally fickle.  They will divert their attention elsewhere if you don’t continually communicate with the.  The key is to provide them with  communication that isn’t always asking for money.  When you drop in money making opportunities in-between times of routine updates it increases the probability they will convert.   For example, when you hold a concert email everyone in the area letting them know.  Offering a VIP gift of some sort helps.  Create an interesting product and then offer it as an exclusive for fans.  Customized lighters, coffee cups, mouse pads, gold plated sculls with the band logo, etc. can all be created easily now days.  Hold online concerts and charge a discounted fee for loyal customers to watch the event.  Live streaming is much easier now days with YouTube and Facebook live available.

Another good monetization step is to follow how the major record labels do business.  They promote an album before it is out.  Then they drop a song, making of video or something to peak interest, they will then release a single ahead of the record release, they will then offer preorder opportunities to fans giving them a few extra tracks or something, and finally they drop the release.  The more excitement that can be built before a release the more sales one will get at the release.  Preorders also give a good idea of the demographics of the fans that are buying the album.

Conclusion

Wow, you made it this far!  thank you for reading!  We compiled as much detail as we could for the 5 Key Ways to Build a Fanbase.  We will continue writing on the topic.  If you want to stay in touch with the music industry, please considering signing up for our newsletter.

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“Melody is the Key” to Creating a Song that Connects with Fans

Keith Urban Photo

Keith Urban was specifically promoting his new album, Ripcord, when he spoke to USA Today earlier this month, but he could have easily been talking about country music as a whole. “Melody is key,” he told music journalist Bob Doerschuk. “How many songs do we sing along to where we don’t even know the words? Melody pulls us in.”

Urban hinted at an essential part of music that’s not easy to verbalize. Defining the outdoorsy lyrical theme in Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” or grasping the reflective production values of Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” are fairly routine. But explaining the arc of a melody is much harder. There’s a reason Martin Mull once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Still, if you listen to some of the current top 20 titles on Hot Country Songs — Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots,” Old Dominion’s “Snapback” or Urban’s “Wasted Time,” for starters — it’s clear that there’s a strong melodic thread running through the genre. There’s no reliable way to measure it, but country is arguably producing great melodies as consistently as any other genre at this moment in time. It’s ironic, because country has long been praised for its lyrical prowess.

 

“Right now, I feel like country has taken the best of everything, all the melodies and phrasing, and then they’ve just continued to tell great stories,” says Dan + Shay’s Shay Mooney, a co-writer of Rascal Flatts’ aptly titled “I Like the Sound of That.” “A great lyric is awesome, you know, but if it’s not a good melody you’re not going to care what they’re saying.”

Some other genres are struggling with a shortage of melody, based on the discourse during a Country Radio Seminar panel, “From the Outside Looking In: Other Formats Give Their Take on Country,” in February.

iHeartMedia VP urban and urban AC Doc Wynter, programming at a time when rap has injected plenty of spoken-word into his format, said he’s seeking more music that recalls the sound of Smokey Robinson or Luther Vandross, artists whose biggest successes relied on such ultra-melodic titles as “Tears of a Clown” and “Stop to Love.”

“The Weeknd is a savior for us because traditional R&B has just fallen by the wayside,” said Wynter. “We’re hoping that we’re going to encourage more people who want to sing to bring music to our radio station.”

Cumulus corporate PD of rock formats Troy Hanson drew huge laughs during that same CRS panel when he imitated a throaty, modern-rock screech, essentially criticizing the lack of melody in his format. He has become an advocate for injecting adult alternative album rock into his playlists, basically enhancing the singability of his stations.

“We need to find some of these Black Keys and Muse artists of the world and bring them back [to the format],” he said. Melody isn’t restricted to the lead singer. Chris Lane’s hooky song “Fix” gets some of its mojo from Ilya Toshinsky’s signature guitar line, but that title would not be as addictive without its undeniable vocal progression.

Melody “is something just innately wired in us,” suggests Frankie Ballard, whose forthcoming album El Rio kicks off with two ultra-melodic Chris Stapleton compositions. “You can accept that from a flute or from a harp or from a guitar, but, generally speaking, I think people really prefer it from another human voice, probably because that’s what we’re communicating with. That’s what real.”

 

It’s also mysterious. Glen Campbell, who has Alzheimer’s disease, needed a teleprompter during his final tour to remember the words to “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” songs he had sung thousands of times before. But he could still recall the melodies. Why that is, and where that melody comes from, still hasn’t been fully explained.

“I think it comes from Heaven,” Brian Wilson, noted for such indelible melodies as “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations,” said a dozen years ago. Wilson treasures his membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in great part because it puts him in a league with another of pop music’s melody studs, Burt Bacharach (“Walk On By,” “The Look of Love”), who likewise can’t cite a source for that aspect of his songwriting talent. “You either have it or you don’t,” he said in 2005.

The process of writing melodies has changed in recent years with the growth and accessibility of recording equipment. Songwriters have historically accompanied themselves on guitar or piano while creating lead lines, but the hip-hop and pop genres began using “loops” — recorded chord progressions that repeat — and pre-recorded tracks to start the writing process. The melody is a late development in that scenario, and the results can be underwhelming if that melody is treated as an afterthought.

“It is important if you’re writing to a track to pause it, bust out an acoustic guitar and test [the song] over just an acoustic guitar,” says Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers. “If it holds up over that, then it was the right thing. And if not, then you need to go back and rework it.”

Songwriters who create melodies that sit atop of those pre-recorded productions are typically referred to in pop music as “topliners,” a term that likely draws some derision from people who have written melodies the more traditional way. Alternating between tracks and the standard guitar/vocal approach, though, happens frequently among many Nashville songwriters.

“You have to kind of switch between the two,” says Mooney, “because sometimes you’ll be writing on an acoustic guitar, and after the fifth song you’re like, ‘This is all the same stuff that we’ve been doing. It kind of sounds the same.’ But then when you hear a track, it’s like, ‘OK, this is something different,’ and it kind of inspires things in your mind. You’ve got to trick your brain into creativity sometimes.”

Philadelphia soul songwriter/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff — responsible for such lyrically astute songs as “Love Train,” “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Me and Mrs. Jones” — recognize that their words aren’t nearly as inspiring on a page as they are when attached to a series of notes that enhance the emotions behind them.

“Melody is important,” said Huff following a Warner/Chappell event on May 5 in Nashville. “If you didn’t have the melody, what is it?”

The songwriting community in Nashville hasn’t forgotten the importance of that component. It’s one of the underappreciated reasons for country’s boom in recent years. The words are still widely regarded as the driving force in the genre’s material. But when compared to other genres — particularly modern rock and hip-hop — that have underplayed melody’s importance, country’s consistent devotion to the part the listener is most likely to sing back is key to the genre’s current popularity.

“To me, it’s not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” says Ballard, “if it’s just peanut butter.”

 This article is a reprint.  Written by Tom RolandIt.  It first appeared in Billboard Magazine’s Country Update on May 19, 2016.  

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters was established to help in all areas of artist development.  FMS through the generous donations of our sponsors can bring in the resources artist need to establish a career that can influence future generations.

FMS has the connections, insight, eCommerce expertise and business acumen that the vast majority of Musicians and Songwriters don’t have.  Accordingly, as a 501(c)(3) organization, donations to FMS are 100% tax deductible, which helps our Donors pay-it-forward and promote the continuation of music for future generations — benefiting all of humanity.  As a Music Foundation, every dollar we rase is used to develop the artist so they can make a living in the Music Industry and get their music to the world.

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Warner/Chappell Music Recruits Mike Smith, President of Virgin EMI

Jon Platt, CEO,  is making a lot of changes at Warner/Chappell.  The changes he’s making seem to be good; however, too many changes at once could cause stability issues over there.  Will be interesting to see how things come together.

Warner/Chappel Music Names Mike Smith as Director UK Operation

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Warner/Chappell Music has announced that in November Virgin EMI music president Mike Smith will join the company as managing director of its U.K. operation. Until then, the office will be overseen by Jon Platt, to whom Smith will report.

Through a career at MCA Music Publishing and EMI Music publishing, Smith’s signings have included Blur, Elastica, Supergrass, Doves, Gorillaz, The White Stripes, The Libertines, Scissor Sisters, Arcade Fire, and Arctic Monkeys. Smith’s music publishing career spanned from 1988 until 2006, when he began working on the record labels side of the business, first as the MD of Columbia Records U.K. and then as president of music at Mercury Records, and finally as president of Virgin EMI.

“Having started my career in music publishing, it is exciting to be returning to a sector of the industry where I enjoyed so many great times,” Smith said in a statement. “Warner/Chappell is one of the real icons of music publishing, and it is an honor and a privilege to have been asked to help guide this great company and the amazing songwriters and catalogs it represents.”

Jon Platt

Jon Platt

This appointment marks the latest in a series of moves that Platt has made since taking the reins as Warner/Chappell’s CEO in November 2015, and then becoming the company’s chairman at the beginning of this month. Other hires and promotions include Paul Kahn as CFO; Katie Vinten and Ryan Press to co-heads of A&R in the U.S. (excluding Nashville); and Chuck Gamble as VP, Catalog Promotions. Of his latest hire, Platt said in a statement, “Throughout his brilliant career, across both music publishing and recorded music, Mike has demonstrated his commitment to the art of songwriting, putting great songs at the heart of everything he does… With Mike overseeing our U.K. operations, we will be even more powerful as a global destination for the most distinctive, popular, and culturally significant songwriters in the world.”

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters was established to help in all areas of artist development.  FMS through the generous donations of our sponsors can bring in the resources artist need to establish a career that can influence future generations.

FMS has the connections, insight, eCommerce expertise and business acumen that the vast majority of Musicians and Songwriters don’t have.  Accordingly, as a 501(c)(3) organization, donations to FMS are 100% tax deductible, which helps our Donors pay-it-forward and promote the continuation of music for future generations — benefiting all of humanity.  As a Music Foundation, every dollar we rase is used to develop the artist so they can make a living in the Music Industry and get their music to the world.

 

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