All posts by Andrei Maberley

Is the (recorded)Music Industry a Zombie Industry?

Every now and then I pull my head out of the studio gopher-hole and try to get a sense of what’s going in the Music Industry, this usually involves a series of good news/bad news realizations and discoveries. Lets start with the bad news for people making a living out of the conventional means of selling, recording or producing recorded music.

Its become painfully obvious that the big record companies, the traditional bank rollers of the industry are heading towards zombiedom. They became living dead companies some time around 1999 with the rise of Napster. A decade later they are like a herd of stumbling corpses, each with an apple going to seed in its brain, being feasted upon by cute little web 2.0 maggots and venture capital vultures.  Sure the industry is at least partially responsible for its own downfall, but I think that a lot of what is going on as picking clean the bones of a once thriving industry. An industry that despite all its bad points, up ’till now has financed and enabled the majority of popular recorded music that we know and love for…hmm…Lets see…. the entire history of recorded music? Its sad, but in a death of the dinosaurs kinda way. Only the dinosaurs are zombies and still walking around suing people. Enough mangled metaphors, how about some figures?

The chart below (made by Michael DeGusta) really bought this home for me.  It uses U.S. numbers from the RIAA, but the numbers for Australia are similar. What is useful about this chart is that it conveniently shows 2010 US dollars spent on music per person in the states or the last 30 years.

Image: Recording Industry Association of America

From a high of $71 per person per year  in 1999, its down to $26 in 2009. This is not a subtle slide. Digital sales will not be pushing sales up to anywhere near the dizzy heights of 1999 or 1976, its already obvious that they are not revitalizing the industry like the CD did with its introduction.  So big labels are becoming less and less profitable, losing money every year, shedding staff, dropping artists and losing customers.

Surely this means that the independent artist and small labels are in the perfect position to take advantage of digital sales? Nope. I’d argue that in fact the next wave of streaming or subscription services will mean the just the opposite. Another chart for your edification, this time from informationisbeautiful.

Bear in mind that the numbers are certainly not perfect in this chart, mainly due to the difficulty in accounting for streaming income. But instead of selling 143 CDs a month to make a US minimum wage – under the newest, coolest, hippest, web 2.0est streaming service spotify (not availabe in Oz)- you need over 4 million plays a month.

4 million plays. Does that sound achievable to you? Surely if you are say…. Lady Gaga ….you can do this and more? Perhaps not. In five months, over a million plays for her single ‘Poker Face’ on spotify netted her the meager sum of $167 USD.

Am I being needlessly pessimistic? And what about the good news?

Stay tuned.



Plug-ins. From the ridiculous to the ridiculously expensive…

At the workshop on the weekend I gave a quick overview of writing music with the inbuilt instruments in Pro Tools. We didn’t really have time to explore the world of 3rd party software, so I thought I’d post a few resources for RTAS and VST plug-ins.  These plug-ins are often cross-platform, mac or pc, and whatever program you are using to write music there will be something useful, or at least quirky and fun.

First up is kvraudio, the grandaddy of plug-in sites. Basically if a plug-in exists, then it is on KVR somewhere. This is my favorite place to find whacked out sound creating (and destroying) tools.  There is an unusually useful site search engine here, which can be tweeked to show only free or unreleased plug-ins. Because of this site I was inspired (or fooled) into setting myself the challenge of writing for a kids TV series using only weird and wonderful sounds. I failed of course – but glitch , nutseq, polyiblit and drumatic were the soundtrack to my life for a while.

Cheap and blippy is not to your taste? Fancy yourself as the next Stravinsky? Then have a listen to the ‘Rite of Spring’ made using the Vienna Symphonic Library. Believe it or not, this is entirely programmed on a bunch of fast computers, using the VSL’s enormous, gigantic, huge, monstrously expensive sample library.  How big? Well the largest, most expensive version has over 1 million samples, on 42 DVDs. For the cost of a small car (about $15,ooo AUD) you can have virtual versions of pretty much every single orchestral instrument ever made.  The funny thing is – compared to actually recording a real orchestra of top players, or event the cost of a single good violin, 15k is a bargain.

Obviously, meticulously sampling real musicians is an expensive business, but there are some much cheaper sample libraries out there, like the Miroslav Philharmonik collection. If you hunt around you can find it for 1% of the price of the VSL monster collection, and its definitely not 99% worse.

Before you go installing the lastest crazy find – please remember that some of these freeware plug-ins can be …unpredictable…and its worthwhile taking note of what you’ve installed,  so you can trash it later just in case.

Happy plug-in hunting!

PT workshops…Beginner or not? 10 quick questions to check your skill level.

After being relocated to a SLQ conference room while The Edge is being refitted, all went smoothly for the 1st of the new series of workshops. Thanks to all those that came along!

This was the last of the basics workshops and everything form here on in will get a little more advanced and/or specialized. If you are unsure,  here are ten quick questions that you should be able to answer before you’ll get anything out of the next series of workshops.

Can you:

1. Create a new session at 44.1Khz, 24 bit using a default  i/o template, and save it on the correct hard drive.

2. Create, name and delete an audio track, aux track and master track.

3. Import audio into a new Pro Tools track, straight from the Finder and from the File menu.

4. Find an audio file in the region bin and in the Audio Files folder in the Finder.

5. Switch between slip and grid edit mode.

6. Set up a tempo grid.

7. Identify a tempo from one bar of audio, and set that tempo for the whole session.

8. Use tab to transient, cut, copy, paste, duplicate and repeat audio regions.

9. Record a vocal.

10. Bounce a session to disk.

If this is all a bit much and you are still looking to start from scratch, don’t despair – there are regular inductions run at The Edge, and as always, plenty of  resources on the web. Here is a few links for Pro Tools beginners.

Chris Bryant has a great introduction to Pro Tools on here.

For tips and tracks and trouble-shooting you can’t beat the DUC – Avid’s own community forums.  Its a little overwhelming at first, but if you narrow in on the platform you use (Mac/PC) and the type of hardware (PT9, LE, HD or M-powered) there is plenty of help available.

Avid also has TV site, with plenty of info(mercial) type videos, and as always there is youtube.

Good luck!

















Caveat Remixer? The low down on remix competitions

Bored at home? Missing the awesome Edge Labs? Why not try a remix?

Laptop Rockers – probably the most comprehensive remix list site I’ve found. Gives you a short summary of the track on offer, deadlines, cost and prizes. Indie bands, bedroom producers up to major label superstars – they are all here.  If you find the choice overwhelming, how about starting with La Roux or Mos Def?

If you don’t have any software to remix on, don’t despair, some remix competitions come with their own web-based remix tools (the Nissan/LaRoux site even has simple/advanced options) or try Sony’s AcidPlanet . You’ll find  free, cut down version of Acid 7 available, and plenty of regular remix competitions from Sony artists.

If you are into the lastest underground electronic sounds, check out the FOEM contests and forums.  There are some legendary minimal/tech producers with tracks up for remix, and the contests usually last for months, so there is plenty of time to go all O.C.D over your blippy masterpiece.

Not into being competitive?  – download the parts to  R.E.Ms latest single and re-interpret the old(er) rockers (thanks Matt!). Prefer your music french and funky? Have a go at Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Like industrial gothic post rock? N.I.N has been making multitracks available for years, in all sorts of formats, for free – once you sign up for his site of course.

Speaking of free – or otherwise – some sites like, a DJ oriented download site, charge for remix parts. Personally I think this is a great way to decide not to do a remix, but if you really want to remix Laidback Luke for $3.99 US  – got for it.

Before you go ahead and spend all your spare time mashing up a storm, three things…

You’ve gotta be in it to win it – but do it for the love.  The chances of winning any of these comps are pretty low, and its not just about skill. Judging can totally personal, or it can be a facebook style spam your friends personality contest. Remix to have fun and gain skills.

Read the FAQ and eligibility AT LEAST. Even if you don’t read the whole rules, its better to learn that a contest is only open to indigenous Venezualans before you start.

If you do read the rules, you will notice that you will almost never, ever ‘own’ the parts to the remix (unless its under a Creative Commons license of course), and have to give away ALL rights to your remix.  So if you want to mash La Roux and Mos Def together, be aware that you’re breaking both contests rules, in a whole bunch of ways.

Sure, Danger Mouse got away with Jay-z vs The Beatles on The Grey Album. But he never tried to sell it….

Pro Tools FAQ videos in Lab 3.

Hi all,

I’ve started doing screen capture videos as a FAQ for Lab 3. You can find them in the Movies folder on the Lab 3 computer – not online yet.

They are all “How do i?” type questions, and cover some basics of Pro Tools. Here is what Ive done so far;

01 Create new session, create and delete track
02 Import audio from finder
03 Find Audio in Region Bin and Finder
04 Switch between slip and grid, change to bars and beats
05 Switch to edit command focus and use tab to transient
06 Find 2 bars and separate
07 Turn on tempo ruler and identify beats
08 Set tempo for whole song and clean up start
09 Edit in grid mode and change grid value
10 Record a vocal
11 edit vocal using separate, trim and grab
12 Turn on elastic audio and edit vocal
13 Change to mix view and insert an eq
14 Insert Delay on a vocal.

Have a crack at them and let me know what you think!

Another Pro Tools workshop..

Bookings for the next Pro Tools workshop is now open! Due to demand we’ll be running the More than The Basics again, from 5:00 – 7:30 on the 11th of January. We are looking for people who missed out on the first round of workshops to register first.

Its (a)LIVE!

Abelton Live is probably the most adaptable and creative music software around. Used by everyone from Justice to Mogwai to deadmau5, now Ableton Live is on all the computers in Lab 1!  There are some workshops coming up in the new year, but in the meantime why not book a mac and go through the intro already built-in to Live? Then you check out some of the bazillion tips and tricks out there for this awesome program.

Two personal records…

I think I’ve just set a new personal record for number of genre’s hopped in one month of work and for number of double shot flat whites in a 24 hour period. First is good. Second is bad.

I’ve gone from a B105 charity rock song that needed a mix (and some severe autotune) to producing a song from a 15th century opera featuring seven sopranos in full voice (who definitely don’t need to be tuned) , to the tracking of some country rock in the leafy hills of Paddington,  to recording a  metal/hardcore band in an industrial no-man’s land on the gold coast.  Number of flat whites? Lets just say that I have ten coffee loyalty card in my wallet…

All great music (or for a great cause), but why am I ranting on about this? Well, if you attend a Pro Tools workshop, we can go through aspects of recording and production, using some of these sessions as examples of what to do (or not!) when faced with different musical genres.  Whatever your musical inclination you should be able to come away with a tip or two, and a better understanding of how to use Lab 3.

UPDATE :  December workshops are booked out, so keep your eyes peeled for the January workshops, and sign up for the newsletter for the latest updates.

Pro Tools workshops filling up fast…Requests?

It looks like the next Pro Tools workshop on the 21st of December is full.

If you didn’t manage to get in, how about dropping me a line or posting a comment on the kind of skill level you’d like to see a workshop pitched at, and we can see about getting some more organised.

Wii’s Waving Wildly

Thanks for those who came along to the wiijam workshop. Any others interested in having a bash, the required  software is installed on both boot disks (mac and pc)  in lab one, and here are some walkthroughs from the bounteous internet for OSX and for Windows on how to get it going. My plan is to gradually leave templates on the shared drive to help people get up and running – which will be heaps easier once Ableton Live is installed (yay!)

At the workshop, we decided the next level-up for a musical geek is to work out how to get the furiously hacked xbox kinect to spit out MIDI data or OSC data, Any takers?