Thoughts on equipment

SSLWe’ve been going through a lot of interesting discussions and learning experiences over the past several months.  One that stands out is the purchase of equipment, that leads to higher quality art.

There’s a trade off between quality of equipment, durability, and cost.  Sometimes used equipment in good condition is perfrect, other times new equipment is important.  For example we recently picked up a used Allen & Heath GL2200 Series console, which has 24 channels with direct outs.  This thing is in mint condition, everything works, and being an A&H it will last abuse both on the road or in the studio.  Yes it would be very cool to have an SSL AWS 948 (god would that be great) but the cost difference was (literally) 199.85 TIMES more expensive… (The AWS 948 new is $99,925)

SSL AWS 948

Allen & Heath GL2200

So in this case the used option for does what the studio needs and makes sense.

On the other side of this equation are microphones, which are generally something that we try to purchase new, as the frequency response and output of a Neumann KM184 that’s spent 4 hours a day for 8 years over a drum set is probably going to be somewhat different than the output of a new microphone or one that has only been used on strings.

Microphones have a very thin diaphram that is stressed when pressure waves push and pull on it.  Like a drum head gets worn out, the wear on the diaphram can alter the sound of the microphone over time.  Another cosideration is the dust that builds up on diaphrams, especially condenser microphones that are continually sent phantom power, which increases the mass of the diaphram and thus reduces the ability to accurately react to high frequency.

Ryan

 

How long it has been

Well it has been a while.  I mean, seriously, like months.  That doesn’t mean that Sully and I and the rest of the REB team hasn’t been moving forward, it’s just been a time of subtle movements and progress.  Building relationships and figuring out new projects.

Current projects include:

New tracks form Theft to the Gallows, being put together to be played live by the end of the summer, as well as official release of the “First Knot” album!

Tarek22 is in full swing, with 9 tracks outlined and written in the last couple weeks.

We’ve also begun work on a musical with a working title of “Button.”  Keeping this under wraps currently as we work out the details of production, writing, scripting, and the creative process are on their journey.

The website should be updated soon as well.

 

So there is a lot going on and we’re all working hard to keep creating and working with creative people.

 

Ryan

The MMM poster with the “micro-feature”

Some serious thought went into this idea; “what do you call a featured artist in the opening slot without taking away from the ‘feature’ main act?”  For the hosts of the MMM (Theft to the Gallows) this is an important concept as this idea is going to be a steady part to the show.  For the April 23rd show we’ve booked Stolie!  A very talented songwriter and artist that brings something unique and refreshing to the Chicago Music Scene.  Check out some of her work here.

Some options were “micro-feature,” “mini-feature,” “featurette,” with and without the hyphen… anyway the point is at this point it is “micro-feature” which lines up with the name of the series and allows “featured” to still have its importance for the headlining act.

Here’s the poster.

MMM_poster_20140423_V1

Studio Walkthrough – Doors and Windows added

This video is a walk through of the preliminary studio design for REB Records. Console is a 48 channel SSL Duality SE, a console that we’ve worked with at another studio and have enjoyed.

While placing doors, which are 3′ 4″ wide and 6′ 10 1/2″ tall (The more generic ones going to the bathroom and the HVAC are only 3′ wide,) it became apparent that there really is not enough space for a sliding door as seen in many studios between the main tracking room and the Isolation booth. So the double door method is used. The basic idea is that the lounge/Sound lock/bathroom are all connected on the bottom right (if the tracking room is the “top”) of the studio making the access between these rooms relatively easy. The tracking room is then connected to the Iso booth – which is the only way to get to the storage closet and behind that, (at the lower left) is the HVAC closet.  There are drawbacks to having, for example, double doors going into the Isolation booth.  They take up significant space – a sliding door does not take up physical floor space in either of the two rooms that it connects, swinging doors do… This and hundreds of other questions from funding to building to equipment to sight lines to things we haven’t thought about are being considered and debated.  Below is some explanation of the door situation.

The reason for only one door to the control room is two fold. First, it creates the best isolation between the control room and all the other spaces. There is only one door to the control room and it goes into a room that does not have a door to the outside so there would be very little bleed into the main mixing area. Secondly, It provides the most amount of wall space for use. Anytime a door is added basically a 8 to 12 square foot amount of space is taken away depending if the door goes out from the room or into the room. So the doors on the vertical hallways are all at the long end of the rooms where there they potentially leave more room for equipment and gear along the walls.

Design will continue in the next couple weeks, adding textures, equipment, instruments, acoustic treatment and eventually lighting and a design for the ceiling and roof.

More complete list of REB Records studio needs

As the process continues we are putting together the needs of the studio.  Next will be equipment lists, and then cost estimations.  The needs vs. wants are currently intertwined, but will be separated once cost estimates begin.  With any studio there are places where one may find significant savings if work is completed by oneself, and then other places where the workmanship needed exceeds what Sully and Ryan, and some of their very awesome friends and family, could contribute.

  • Large storage area: PA equipment, drum sets, not used equipment… 
  • Equipment closet/Room: Cables, Microphones, stands, 
  • Main Mixing Room: large enough to have almost full band in, couches, producer’s desk 
  • Main tracking room: Large Live room 
  • Vocal Booth: Dead room for reamping and vocals 
  • Good security 
  • Kitchen/Lounge area to keep drinks, and coffee, some food, maybe a computer 
  • Sound Lock: Hallway between tracking and Mixing rooms 
  • 12+ ft ceilings 
  • Wood floors, ceilings 
  • Heating and Cooling of some sort that is quiet HVAC 
  • At least two 120 Amp circuits, preferably three (2 in the each of the main rooms) 
  • Enough space and design to not be heard by neighbors or main house. 
  • Good lighting that does not make noise

Basic Studio Design layout

This is a design for a studio that Sully and I are building for REB Records in 2014.  It’s just a layout; doors, windows, assets, and textures will be added in the next week or so.

There are still some basic issues with the walls that need to be worked out, but it has all of the key components for a studio that REB Records would need.  Those include

A semi large tracking room (In this case it is 26′ x 36′)

A large control room that is also a chief creative space.  (28′ x ~20′)

A Sound lock between the control and tracking rooms

An isolation both (6′ x 8′)

A room for HVAC stuff

A small lounge/kitchen

Storage space – In this design there could be 3 possible storage closets.

A  bathroom space.

Having all of these features would definitely make an amazing space to work and create, and as the design continues it is exciting to see a physical manifestation of much discussed ideas!

SketchUp Basic Studio Animation

REB Records is looking at properties and the possibility of building a studio.  This is a design that was more for the practice of using Google SketchUp then for the actual design of the space.  The walls are 4″ thick and the total floor area is 30′ x 40′ so square footage is 1200 sq ft.  This is basically a glorified garage style set up, something that would be feasible to build from the ground up using Everest , Owsinski/Moody, and/or Gervais books.  (I’ll add links in a bit.)

The hackers

If you’ve looked around this web site lately it has been changing significantly; daily.  One day you may find that it went to a “Penis Enlargement can be yours for only $.22 a day!” site.  Other times it was blank, or a WordPress default page, or “This page cannot be found, how embarrassing” message.  Basically a team (yes really, they have call names and a facebook page, and put their “trophies” – sites that they’ve hacked – up on display) decided that our fledgling site was one to fuck with.  Thanks guys.

How do grown ass people think this is fun?  Or useful, or in any way beneficial?  Here we are, a self-funded record label working to really help artists, trying to talk to investors, and now we have two months of fixing and updating,  learning HTML, talking to professional web developers, and tech support.  I understand that this security concept is important, but it’s kind of like poisoning someone’s food to get them to buy/use health care… I get the idea that people need to be aware of the failures in their web design so that “bad” things don’t happen – But then you are the bad thing.  Like a real life video game, but playing with people’s lively hoods and pursuits, and career’s – and to what end?

Anyway, I think that things are in fact back to being secure.  Passwords are way more difficult, updates have been made, the entire code was deleted and rebuilt.  All plug-ins reinstalled.  The posts have been re-uploaded, mainly because it’s beneficial to feel that all of the work in the past has meaning.  Those post represent thousands of hours of creative time and hundreds of hours of business time.

So REB is moving forward again in the digital domain.  We should have all the albums back up  (they’re still hanging on bandcamp.com which we’re using as a host for this site,) by the end of the weekend.  Art work is uploaded to the databases, and needs to be implemented back on to the web site.

And I will say I have learned a lot.

Money, it matters

Posted on August 10, 2013
Maybe this experience will help some other artist looking to start their own businesses or interested in the process.

Recently REB Records had a meeting with an awesome person who works as an institutional investor for one of the large banks (BoA, Chase…) Someone who is very good at analyzing companies and their assets, business plans, personnel, history, reports etc. She was nice enough to meet with us, and it’s not like we’re uneducated, or lack a business plan that has been modified many times over the last two years, or experience working for and managing companies, but she has the clarity to see us as just “another business.”

Her main question was “What is your primary source of revenue?” That’s it. What ever that is, it is your business, no matter what else you are doing, your business is selling _______ to happy consumers. And here we were back to the discussion – “well, what if the product you’re selling is not something people buy?” And REB has embraced that people want and expect free access to music. So what is it that music fans will buy?

What would you buy? t-shirts, food, memorabilia, special edition stuff, live shows, private access to see the process, tolerate ads …

At some point there has to be an exchange, and this exchange allows artists to continue making art. Art is expensive to create, whether measured in money or time, great art takes a lot of it. We haven’t come to a concrete change in how this effects us, and we’re continuing to move forward on the Theft to the Gallows album, but it has given us pause to think.

Hmmmm….

: )

The Winding Road

Posted on July 26, 2013 by
So REB is working to finish the Theft to the Gallows album. In need of some different and more aggressive electric guitar sounds REB has purchased some fun stuff.

A Fender Stratocaster, a Fender Super Champ X2, and a Boss multi-effects pedal, as well as a stand, picks, tuners, etc…

Then this was set up in an isolation cabinet which we will begin recording tomorrow.

Everything was bought at Guitar Works in Evanston. It was pretty awesome and Larry was great. With a sweet discount and a couple hours of testing REB is excited to have this setup to it’s tool set.

– REB Records
Posted on July 20, 2013
Moving forward happens in small steps, everyday steps. Yesterday it was a meeting with a possible new member to the REB team, some discussion of the contracts, four hours of mixing Theft to the Gallows (singles up soon,) and checks mailed out for some video work for the TEE album.

REB has gotten pre-approval for loans and is continuing to look for locations, but as one might predict some personal issues as well as a stark realization of all the fees that go into purchasing property. (filing application $455, underwriting $595, tax certification $84, set up escrow at closing $??, title insurance up front $??, attorney fees $800… and I’m sure there are some other things I don’t know about.

– REB Records

Been a while

Posted on July 8, 2013
Hey!

REB Records has been working on our next step… Expansion! (sort of)

We’ve been looking at what would be next for artists who come and work with us, and after much discussion it seems like physical restrictions are one of the key places where we could improve. Of course there are other things; marketing, publicity, equipment, web site redesign, among others. Product is important, and REB is about helping artists develop and complete (one of the hardest parts) their work. Then distribute and market.

 

Steps to create a record: (partial credit to Collin Jordan over at the Boiler Room Mastering)

1) Pre-production – writing songs, arranging, practicing, lyrics, chords, instrumentation, contracts, demo tracks, metronome tracks, harmonies, guitar tones…

2) Tracking – recording all potential parts, possibly basic editing, microphone placement, preamp choices, guitar amps, tuning drums, dealing with phase, finding a good room…

3) Mixing – The art of the recording process, where the parts are all put in place and polished, fine tune edits, delay lines, perfecting phase, EQ, compression, gate, other processors, this is painting the picture, bring it to life and enhancing the underlying production and song…

4) Mastering – taking all of the individual tracks and creating a final album, levels, 2-track EQ, clarity in extreme highs and lows, perfecting the sphere, black-magic…

5) Duplication and Distribution – Getting the work out to the world, internet presence, social media, downloads, streaming, videos, CD, vinyl, marketing…

 

REB has a good start on the following

 

(1) Pre Production – The Cleft Way, and several artists who are starting to self produce, though having a space for rehearsal and creative interaction would be helpful.

(2) Mixing – REB has a decent mixing space, a treated room with several sets of good monitors, relatively quiet environment, master control, Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton, CS6; standard stuff and some pretty cool outboard equipment.

(3) Mastering – We’ve been very happy with Boiler Room Mastering here on the north-side of Chicago. Collin does a great job and has A+ equipment and ears.

(4) Duplication and Distribution – This is something that REB is pretty devoted to utilizing primarily the internet. As smart technologies continue to transform the public’s interaction with media, REB will continue to research the best ways to bring artists and fans together. This is the place where REB needs the most human resources and knowledge, and we feel that having a larger product base would be helpful.

 

Obviously missing hear is step “2″ from above – Tracking. A space would also allow artists to have a real place to do pre-production.

Anyway on to prep work!

What needs to be done

Posted on June 6, 2013
A question that I’ve been asked many times over the last couple months is “why are you starting a record label?” (sometimes followed by “aren’t you with another label?”)

This is a valid question, and one that often starts with a description of how the industry is supposed to works, followed by the way that it does work, followed by the way that commerce works, and then followed by what REB Records is about (how it’s different) and why I, along with BB Mayes, would be crazy enough to go on this path.

So today as I was going through the many things that need to get done this weekend for REB it struck me that it really is a lot of work; and I have no issue doing the work. Yes it takes time, maybe a couple beers, and go through the list. Here it is.

Set up new REB PayPal account
Uploads to Tunecore for new albums (mainly for internet radio stuff)
Pull albums from iTunes (we don’t want people paying $10 for .mp3 on iTunes and then finding it in .WAV quality for ‘pay what you want’ on rebrec.com)
Make cover art for remaining albums (5 albums)
Print all receipts / payments and notate, scan and send to Tony (accountant)
Create Excel sheet for Initial investment receipts
Re-Do Google drive hirearchy
Order video editing hard drive (probably firewire 800 or USB 3.0 – right now running off of internal drive)
Order back up hard drive for video editing
Call credit card company to get the 2nd card up and running
Email Amy L. with thoughts on the artwork for Theft to the Gallows
Mix Murder Book again (Version 23)
That’s about it, as well as grading final papers (I teach in an Audio Production at an arts college) and practice trumpet, and go out of town to run a 5k beer run in Milwaukee.

It’s going to be a sweet weekend.

– Ryan

Media, Media, Everywhere

Posted on June 2, 2013
This is a challenge (and major expense in time or money) to any artist out there right now. Consumers look to go to the most convenient location and expect to find their media there. This means that an artist now has to worry about YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, MySpace, Google+, Pitchfork, iTunes, Amazon, bandcamp, Pandora, Grooveshark, LastFM, Jango, EMusic, Rhapsody, Spotify, and I’m only getting started. Now you have to figure out which of these stretch internationally, which appeal to what demographic, and whether you are selling or streaming or giving music away; no one wants to pay $10 for an album on iTunes and then find it for “pay what you’d like” on bandcamp! (Also are any of these going to make an income that pays for the year and a half of production that went into the album in the first place?)

Now of course there are resources that make this more stream lined, tunecore for example, but still it takes dozens of hours to figure this stuff out… AND THEN consumers change their loyalties or another site comes on as the big player, and any artist or record label has to take significant amounts of time to keep up with this.

Now with everyone doing this (and no one really knowing the “correct” way) artists are throwing ingredients into the pot with out knowing who the soup is for, and consumers are grabbing into the pot looking for something they might like – and pulling up lots of bones and crap they don’t want. Where’s the filter? Once a consumer finds something yummy, hopefully they follow that thread, maybe even tell a friend about the awesome morsel they discovered (by “liking” or “+ing” or “tagging” or “linking” or “posting” or “thumbs upping” or whatever) and then a bunch of people jump on the thread like capillary action are pulled to listening/watching that artist. Right?

But with the thousands of hours of material being uploaded to the machine daily without any filter at the front saying this sucks or this is worth checking out, great art is getting lost as any given consumer has a 2″ x 2″ frame through which they are forced to look at “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island” and any artists is just one point. The whole concept becomes one of chance, (and on a cynical note the House are the internet providers who can charge $100 a month for access to all the material, which they don’t pay for and then are free.) We now live in a world where the internet really is the land of the free.

Now add on to the fact that once a fan does find that awesome speck in their 2″ x 2″ viewing field they will most likely do one of the things above (like, +ing, tag, ect…) to show their support, and the concept of creating art (a very expensive – time or money – pursuit) becomes something daunting. How do you create income in an industry where the consumer won’t pay for a product??? Pose this to a business major, as every major label is doing, and it becomes clear there must be a different interaction and model than what many artists are doing now – throwing everything in the pot with prayer.

If one looks around this site a little bit they’ll see several mentions of Amanda Palmer. Her TED talk has some really interesting ideas – and an approach that seems to work for her evangelical (not religious) fan base. There is significant issues with it (here, here, here, just for starters.) But even with all of these criticisms it comes back to the same dilemma; if fans expect to actually pay by clicking “like,” how will anyone be able to continue to create? What does it cost to create an album? I mean really create. For example if I’m an artist/performer I can go tour, until I have a kid. But what if I’m the studio owner, the back up singer with a family, the arranger of the string parts, the conductor, the technician, the string players, … the song writer, the lyricist…; the things that make great albums great. These people can’t go tour, and artists don’t have the money to pay all of them – well at least not if the only income is from touring.

Touring is a short term solution. For example, if I build an awesome fridge, and the only time one pays for the fridge is when I hall the fridge and sell it on location, but the fridges that are in stores all across the world are free, will this generate enough income to make the next fridge? No. Even if everyone in the world loves my fridge and has it, if there is no exchange where is the innovation and evolution of the fridge?

This may sound like a rant, but really it’s the components of the equation that artists, producers (those who are not at the front line) and fans of music must solve. And REB Records believes there is an answer, probably several answers. We’re working (as artists and sort-of business people) on a path that may lead to something that works, one that both consumers and artists and producers can accept. One that allows artists to create with a “___” centric concept for ART, not one that is based on “selling” or capturing a fan base. The fans, the supporters come because art pushes boundaries and it is exciting to be a part of new art and entertainment.

Ok, I’m done … for now. 🙂

Ryan

Keeping Busy

Posted on May 28, 2013
REB has been working hard these last couple weeks behind the scenes. Getting the whole YouTube thing going, as well as revisiting contracts and business structures. Also Black’s Backbone has its first single coming soon, and instrumental versions of all the TEE tracks are on their way.

Going back and listening to the Naz and The Cleft Way album (as it was being put up on the YouTube page) was great. She has an outstanding voice, and is playing gigs around the Chicago-land area with her band The Slowbots.

REB Records is working on its next step, and should have new music coming soon from Black’s Backbone, Audio Synthese and Theft to the Gallows.

– REB Records

Art Work for most Artists

Posted on April 25, 2013

Around rebrec.com one can now find artwork from your various albums and artist.  It is very exciting to have these up and available, finding those from the older albums and getting the newest art work for TEE back from our graphic designer (Amy) in New York!

For What It’s Worth

Posted on March 29, 2013

For the few of you who have discovered our little record label and have listened to our artists and their music I want you all to know how grateful and appreciative we all are at R.E.B. Records. Ryan and I both hold down day jobs (as most artists do) so we can carve out a few hours each week to produce and create, what we think, is interesting music by interesting, talented people. Some may agree, some may not. Either way I feel it is better to create something and throw it out into the universe then not at all. Who knows, one of our artists may not be “Big in Japan”, but if there is life on other planets Naz or TEE may be mega stars on Jupiter.

Regardless of what the universe holds in store, we will continue to be true to ourselves and true to our craft hoping that we are able to make “that” connection. A connection that is both true and sincere with our artists and their supporters.

B.B. Mayes

“are you an artist because you want an audience, or because you love your craft”

Keeping Up

Posted on March 24, 2013

Weeks go by where one is so busy they can’t do anything. Day jobs are nice because they give structure; a set time to work, and a set time not to. Starting a business this is not the case, that is where teams are needed. An explanation: It seems that there are often groups of two or three individuals that work together to make big things happen. Often one one person gets more of the credit (Bill Gates and that other guy, Ahmet Ertegun and… Herb Abramson) and this is probably fine, because consumers can perpetuate the mystical genius and luck, as opposed to hard focused work and time. (Ok that was a little cynical…) If you want to go more in depth on this check out Michael Eisner‘s book “Working Together.”

So this week has been one of those weeks where nothing got done, at least of the important stuff towards REB Records. There was substantial paper work, planning of lectures and classes (I teach audio production) Benefit dinners, trips to the doctor, trip to the DMV, run out recording for the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (great concert by the way,) taxes, and other stuff. No mixing, no writing, no web updating, no composing.

But then B.B. Mayes got a little free time, and started working on the verbiage for the website (probably the one you are on now.) And stuff got done. The momentum kept going. The drop did not happen, the one that seems to come when I work alone. It’s probably happened before, but this week it was obvious.

The pursuit gives meaning, and with so many necessary jobs and “important” distractions of life, it is often justified to not have time to get to these passions. Then the momentum fades, has to be built back up, and is now on a slightly shoddier foundation. It is a balance, one that is made easier with a team.

This week the teammate stepped up and caught the ball coming down the hill. Next week (or even later today) we’ll be ready to roll.