Posted on 25-05-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Album Collage

Can people identify your work by listening to the records you produce, record, or mix? With every project you are a part of, you should be working with this in mind. Work to establish your identity so that when people think of a certain style of music, or a certain kind of instrument, you’re the person whose name comes up in the conversation.

You should become so familiar with a certain style of music, or a particular kind of instrument, that you understand the most accurate approach to best capture and represent that music or instrument within a recording. At that point, not only will you become known for your ability to produce, capture, and mix these recordings, but your name will become synonymous with that musical style or instrument. The production will superimpose perfectly over top of the artist’s music and sound, and in turn appear completely invisible in the recording. Moreover, once you understand the rules of capturing these recordings better than anyone else, you will also know how to creatively break the rules, making for a much more interesting and rich recording.

Think about how Chris Lord-Alge is known for his ability to mix power-pop and mainstream rock, Brian Eno as the guy who produces ambient music, Joe Barresi and his ability to record rock guitars, or Stephen Street for his work in the British alternative music scene.

Just like these guys, work to become the go-to person for a certain style of music, or for recording a particular instrument.

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Posted on 24-05-2009
Filed Under (stinson bulletin) by Jon Stinson

Popping in this afternoon to let you know about a couple quick news items. Radical Notion (independent media), the new media, artist development, and artist management company I’m a partner in, has rolled out two newsletters:

1) The Mother/Father email newsletter. If you’re interested you can find the signup form here:

2) The Radical Notion (independent media) email newsletter. If you’re interested in signing up for this one, you can find the signup form here:

We’re still brainstorming to come up with some catchy names for these newsletters, so if you got any ideas I’d love it if you would shoot them to me. You can leave them in the comments, or you can email them to me at stinson [at] producernotes [dot] com.

Thanks, and I’ll see you tomorrow…

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Posted on 18-05-2009
Filed Under (marketing and promotion) by Jon Stinson

What if you simply organized a few people? What if you took the remarkable idea you have, and instead of going out with intentions of marketing to the masses, you focused on the extremists-your biggest fans? What if you simply empowered these people to do your marketing for you? If instead of putting all your focus on ways to get new fans, deciding how your fans will be fans, and how to convince more people to buy your music instead of trading it for free, you focused only on the fans who care about you the most? The fans who will buy your music no matter what. The fans whose lifestyle is built around your music-empowering them-giving them control. Giving them everything they need to promote you. What if you gave your biggest fans the privilege to be a leader who organizes others around your music, converting them to the lifestyle?

Why would anyone do this? Why would anyone put forth the effort organize a group of people around your music without getting paid, or necessarily getting any recognition? Because to them it is a privilege. Just like it’s a privilege for Mac geeks to build a website all about Mac rumors, NIN fans to participate in the band’s online remix community, or for German car enthusiasts to create a message board where they can meet and talk about their cars. You and I do this everyday within the communities we’re privileged to be a part of.

One of the communities I’m privileged to be a part of is one that organizes itself around the ideas Seth Godin shares, and as usual Seth himself articulates this idea of “empowering others to spread your message” best. [Seth Godin on the tribes we lead.]

What action can you take in your career in music to position yourself so that your biggest fans are empowered with the privilege of organizing others? What do you think would happen if you gave them this privilege?

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Posted on 11-05-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Piano Strings

When everything is perfectly in tune in a recording you end up with a boring recording. It’s as if the music was created in a laboratory by machines mixing chemicals together.

Consider the best, most timeless works of literature. They are often crafted with themes of imperfection, struggle, and the reformation of someone or something. Likewise, the best songs are often written using similar lyrical content. The advantage a songwriter has is that they are able to more powerfully evoke the desired emotional experience with musical accompaniment.

The producer has the opportunity (perhaps the responsibility?) to augment the emotional evocation, by utilizing production techniques which subconsciously provide context. One of the best ways to communicate the emotional imperfections and moral complications of human beings, is by using slightly out of tune instruments.

For examples of what I’m talking about, dig up your old Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, or Pixies records. There are no shortage of fans who will regard each one of these record catalogues as timeless masterpieces, despite the fact that you can find many instances where the instrumentation is blatantly out of tune (I don’t even need to bring up Kurt Cobain, who quite possibly may be the poster child for out of tune rock guitars). And you know what? They’re right it sounds great!

Spin The Wink by The Velvet Teen is an example of a fairly recent song which has always stuck out in my mind because of the out of tune piano, which is very prominent in the intro. I don’t know if the piano is deliberately out of tune, but it certainly inspired me as a record maker. I love how the piano being out of tune adds depth, tension, and complexity to the recording.

In each one of these examples, the “tastefully out of tune” instrumentation worked. It sets up the context for the lyric. It augments the emotions in the story with human imperfections. Work to provide context for the emotions that the artist is evoking, by experimenting with the textures of slightly out of tune instrumentation.

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Posted on 04-05-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

mini synth

You know that old, cheap, piece of trash gear you bought a long time ago when you were first getting into recording? That useless piece of junk that you threw in the back of the closet because it’s so awful that it’s not even worth the effort or expense to list on ebay? Use it.

Pull that thing out from under all the other junk you’re embarrassed to admit that you own, and make it the featured sound on your next recording or mix project. Not only will you find an exciting new sound that can be the center element to craft a unique mix around, but I bet you will find a whole new excitement about that old piece of garbage.

I did this a while back on a project I played guitar on. It was the perfect quirky element that allowed me to craft a space in the mix specifically for the guitar. Not only am I thrilled that I didn’t sell this piece of junk, now I proudly display it on the shelf next to all the other guitar toys I’ve collected.

Creating music is all about the story. The story within the song itself, and the underlying story of how the song was written, produced, and recorded. Not only does that old piece of garbage allow you to find new creativity, but it also becomes a part of your story as a record maker.

“What kind of keyboard is making that weird sound at the end of the chorus?”

“That’s not a keyboard. That’s actually a guitar run through this old piece of junk I had laying around.”

Twitter: @stsn

Photo by tombola2004. Licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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Posted on 03-05-2009
Filed Under (marketing and promotion) by Jon Stinson

I’m posting on an off day because I just read this post on the Techdirt blog, which reminded me of a topic I wanted to riff on a while ago.

I will never understand why software companies, as well as the music industry, choose to focus so much on piracy. In college I took a marketing class, and if I had to summarize the entire class to a single learning experience, it would be that it’s ten times more expensive to focus on gaining new customers than it is to simply focus on existing customers. the focus on existing customers part is the point to emphasize here. Ironically the university where I took this class does not practice this principle at all.

And neither do the majority of software companies or music companies. The readers of this blog are all too familiar with the ridiculous hoops we all have to jump through to authorize our DAW software, and the plugins that go with it.

The ridiculous iLok key, the convoluted authorizing process that seems to change with every software vendor and software upgrade, and the constant process of having to prove, wait, and re-prove that you did in fact pay $1000 for this piece of software.

Why does this stupid authorizing process even exist? In this context there are two types of customers. A) people who run legitimate business and want to own the proper equipment they need to do so, and B) people who steal things and will always steal things regardless of whether there are methods to prevent piracy or not. Hey software companies, you’re not hurting the crooks, you’re hurting us, your loyal customers!

Why do the customers who are loyal-the people who keep the software makers in business by supporting them-get penalized for doing so? These companies should be rewarding us by giving us price breaks, along with free upgrades for repeat purchases.

See you tomorrow.

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