Point of Origin
I am a jazz artist/producer/musician and I wanted to let you know a few facts about your article “On the Cover: Memphis Meets Music City at House of Blues” (May 2009, about House of Blues Studios in Nashville). My father, Pasquale, and I built the studio from the ground up. It was called Stonehenge Music Recording Studio, and Chuck and Randy Allen bought it from us. Since then, they added a control room and lounge.
No big deal, but I thought you would like to know.
Steve — Studio manager Mike Paragone did mention your name and gave full credit, as did studio owner Gary Belz; my apologies for not working it in.
— Tom Kenny
As someone who started off working at Radio Shack selling 6×9-inch car speakers, it made me laugh out loud to read George Petersen's analogy about “whizzer cones” in the Sterling ST-69 review (May 2009). I haven't thought about whizzer cones in decades. Thanks for the chuckle.
3D Audio Inc.
Unsung Woodstock Engineer
I read the article about recording Woodstock in the July issue of Mix (“Sound for Picture: Woodstock (Re-) Generation”). I very much appreciated Eddie Kramer's remembrances about his herculean efforts to get the whole thing on tape. However, I couldn't find any mention of his co-engineer, Lee Osborne, who was my former teacher. Lee is credited on the CD as co-engineer, but wasn't mentioned anywhere in your article. I'm wondering why.
From the stories I've heard from Lee and his compatriots, John Chester and Bob Godard (who built and ran the sound system at the Fillmore East), it was basically an exercise in recording under battlefield conditions, and Lee certainly did his share of the heavy lifting. I particularly remember a story about how one of the guys had to run out of the trailer in the middle of a set and pound another ground rod into the muddy field, because the previous one just suddenly failed and the hum was atrocious!
I and all of my fellow students at NYU Film School in 1972 gave Lee a lot of extra consideration when we would walk into the classroom and find written on the blackboard: “Class canceled — Lee stuck in North Carolina with The Airplane.” He was that band's road mixer for a while, as well as the sound engineer for some of Martin Scorsese's early films, including Mean Streets.
Why is there no mention of this truly pioneering mixer, nor any mention of his album credit in your Woodstock article? I can only hope that this helps Lee's star shine just a little brighter in the future. He is truly a brilliant and extremely talented guy.
Keys to Success
I never trusted [Wired magazine editor] Chris Anderson's theory [an economic model that Anderson calls the “long tail,” as described in the May 2009 “Mix Interview”]. It was based on data from Rhapsody, which does not represent actual choice or purchases of music. (I am assuming this based on Anderson's quotes.) Rhapsody uses technology to create radio channels and its subscribers choose a channel, but not necessarily the songs.
We see today, as always, that popular music sells the most, gets ripped-off the most and is shared the most. By definition, popular music is music that many people enjoy. Mass acceptance usually happens after many people are exposed to the same song. There are as many successful artists today as in prior years, and there have always been three main groups of musicians: musicians who create interesting new product regularly and can sell out large venues; up-and-coming artists who can support themselves or earn some money from music; and hobbyists, who play some gigs and record tunes in their garages but do not make money from music. I believe Anderson is a hobbyist musician.
Every sector of the music community has seen a decline in revenue. Convenience has trumped the economy of music and listening quality. The public has access to music in many more places now. Artists cannot get their music on the radio unless a major record company spends a huge amount of money. The radio audience has declined and a vast number of people still listen. Sirius and XM have miniscule numbers of people listening to each channel, and the same goes for most Internet channels.
A “local music” paradigm has always worked: An artist develops a local following, plays in clubs, gets played on college radio and creates street teams. My theory: If a band is successful selling beer and T-shirts, they might have a career. Today, there are many more ways artists can make recordings — thanks to manufacturers who have helped democratize recording technology — and gain exposure.
None of the above guarantees that an artist can become successful. There is the potential of a longer tail for music consumption, but it looks like the curve as presented by Anderson is not reflective of music commerce.
The formula that works: Write a great song that lots of people enjoy. There are no rules.
Next month's issue focuses on new products and technologies to be introduced at the AES show in New York City. E-mail your favorite New York recording story to firstname.lastname@example.org.