Music Industry Article by Joseph Timmons: Xombiewoof Magazine.
In a Coast to Coast Series, Xombiewoof Journalist Joseph Timmons will bring you stories from Musicians and Studio Professionals that not only “Make the Music” but live a life often glamorized in movies and television, but are never truly revealed to the public, stories of hard work and ambition, what it takes to reach the stage, and the stories of those that helped build the launch pads of the bands success.
Every band’s dream is to get out of the garage and into the studio; many bands create a small home studio to make their demos in hopes to get the scratch together to go into a full featured Studio manned by professional audio technicians and an award winning producer. Some see their dreams come true; and others go back to the garage. The road to music fame is a long hard struggle, making a name, getting the credibility of being real, not selling out and becoming a “has been” before you even became a “will be”.
Some artists seem to hit big with no problems, some struggle on a “day by day”, but it’s what happens in the recording world that can make or break a musician’s spirit. Is it knowledge, technique, training or that perfect ear that some claim to have, the skill to pick out that one note that makes the song a hit?
The question has been posed, “why go into the studio, with all the modern tech and software, just do it in your garage”, believe me, it is not that simple.
We will take a look into what happens behind the glass, and get the truth about the Recording Studio Adventure that some have made their life’s passion, and what it takes to survive the process.
While this is primarily an article about the studio sector and the magic of the recording industry, we will also speak with many musicians, both unsigned and signed, to get their perspective as well. From my own experiences as a musician, I had a home studio and worked in larger professional studios, with dreams of stardom and believing all the TV and movie stories, I thought it would be one big jam session, not knowing that to be good, you had to be great, to be great, you HAD to be perfect
We will meet of these people; listen to their stories and tales of adventure or woe.
Read and Learn, your stardom may depend on it!
Part 1: The Masters of the Mix: The Studio Professionals
Running a Recording Studio is no small task, in truth; it is not just one big party full of bare bottomed babes and champaign (well sometimes if you have ALLOT OF CASH), it is an experience full of the blood, sweat and tears that make the music industry and being a musician a life that can be richly rewarding, or full of the “never again” moments. We have connected with some recording studio executives and producers that have been there, done that and have seen everything, here are their thoughts.
I contacted a Studio Owner and Producer in New York, one who is personally responsible for the success of many bands that have graced stages throughout the nation, if not the world. Stacy O’Dell is the name in New York, opening his door to artists that have hit the ground running and wind up flying high and never falling down. I asked Stacy the big 6 questions and he gave me the honest truth of his experiences.
Stacy, as a producer, what do you see as the most important aspects of a great studio, not just the equipment, but its set up and staffing?
“The staff is by far the most important aspect. You can have all of the greatest gear with amazing rooms... but it really won't help the band if the people running the session aren't facilitating their needs. Knowledge and experience is the key to getting great sounds and making musicians comfortable. With people using home studios so much these days you really need to offer something extra, something special that makes people want to come to your studio.”
After the many experiences you have had, how do you feel about your decision to make this your life's work, has it been what you have expected?
“It’s exactly what I expected! (he said with a laugh), after playing in many bands and interacting with engineers and producers since my teens I knew what it was going to be like and what I was getting myself into. No Regrets, It can be a very rewarding and challenging experience.”
If you could name 4 groups or artists that were the greatest you have worked with, who would be the top 4?
One of your recent clients, Killcode, has had some great press and is enjoying some great response, how would you say you influenced this?
“Killcode is an amazing band. They have fantastic players so one of the things I have tried to do is capitalize on their abilities. I push each member to perform better and to be more creative. Also a great a thing about Killcode is they are very open to suggestions and they always try ideas I offer and because of that we work very well together. But basically to answer the question, I would say by being a team player and working hard”.
Have you ever had a client come in (without naming names) that you felt "should not give up their day jobs?
“Well that's an interesting question (and I'm not trying to be a wise guy here) because here in NYC everything is so expensive that even the rich work! So I don't see anyone quitting their day Job!”
If you were to give advice to anyone who wanted to do what you do, what would it be?
“Work on material you like not what you think will make you rich and famous... It's like any other job; if you don't love what you're doing you're most likely going to fail”.
Now, we jet over to the other side of this great nation. To Oxnard California, a seaside West Coast town that has the hustle and bustle of larger metropolitan areas is home to a large and growing hip hop/ R&B community.
Living Large and “In Charge”, in the middle of it all, fanning the flames of a musical heat that empowers that music community is Fifty150 Recordings, owned and operated by Robert Quiroz and associates. In our interview, Robert waxed poetic about the artists he has had the honor of working with, new artists and established names that demand respect, and he had some very interesting things to say.
Admittedly, Robert verified and validated the expected questions about experience and technical knowledge, but for this interview, we found that what he had to say about the philosophy of the recording studio and his experiences and reality of the artists expectations was most stunning.
Robert has worked with many big name artists, such as King T, 2nd II None. King Lil'G, OG Rome and Mellow Man Ace, all of who were totally professional and on mark, and of recent has has been talking with the infamous artist Xzibit, mentioned that not every artist that has come to him were ready for the studio and it’s experiences, but with patience make it to the mic on time.
“I started way back in 96, old school, using tape decks and mic on a deck, working my way up, I ran beats and had my time doing rap and being part of the scene. I wanted do more, make a difference and produce, I opened the studio and it’s been a ride ever since. I often have to advise on mixes and sometimes the artists (none of which are listed in this article) were really ready, some even gave up. I find that the artists the really do well are the ones that have found their real self in their music. I try to stay positive, but truth is truth and you have to be honest in this biz, or you lose your rep, it’s not all about the dollars, got to be heart and soul.”
I asked if he ever felt that he had reached his peak and just stay a studio producer, Robert said “for now, our plan is growth; we look to start a label, produce and possibly manage acts in the area, do shows and create a new scene of power and elegance in music.” We talked about some other aspects of the hip-hop scene, the one truly negative aspect of some artists glamorizing a “thug life” with “bitches and hoes” and comments of promoting violence, Robert agreed that it was not only bad for the music industry and the music scene as it were, but that when an artist falls into that arena, they get marked and never grow past it
“ artists have to understand that their music not only tells a story but it can engage the listeners mind and influence their actions, when a child hears that stuff, they think it’s ok, if the artist lives it they can, and most times the artists themselves only portray the image, they never did time, or lived the life, I want to enforce the keep it real philosophy, if I don’t believe it, it won’t roll, and I have called a bro on it once or twice.” Said Robert, as we finished the interview, “A man has to be true to himself and his music”.
This has been the image given to me by all the studios and producers, some balked at the questions saying that talent is rare and cannot be defined, some said without them the bands would be nothing, others agree that without the strength and resilience, the bands falter and it is up to them to lend a guiding hand. I would have to say that in this era of music, you find all sorts of artists, some with the right stuff and some without, but you have to commend all of them with the zeal to rise above and make a name for their selves in a business that can be very unforgiving, and all too often breaks the soul.
We now get the other side of the story, the viewpoint of the artists, the music makers, the dream catchers, the people we love to listen to, and some we tried to emulate and be like, let’s see what they have to say.
Next Week - Part 2: “Hey is this thing on?” - The Musician’s Stories
Note: over 20 studio professionals were contacted, only 8 interviewed wanted to take part at the completion of the interviews, out of the 8, only 3 had answered my questions honestly, just before publication the 3rd studio requested to have their comments removed. We rewrote the article based on the two studios that gave honest answers and said positive things about the artists they have worked with.
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