Musician/engineer Steve Pageot in his home studio
Style: versatile. Producer/
engineer/mixer/performer/educator/programmer/composer Steve Pageot takes that approach to making it happen in New York City — not an easy task for today's owner/operators. For audio pros who choose to work as sole proprietors in 2009, it's all about nonstop diversity, discipline and dreams.
Since coming to NYC from Montreal in 1997, Pageot has assembled a wide range of credits: Bone Thugs N Harmony, Talib Kweli, ABC, ESPN, Burger King, Playstation2's “NBALive07,” engineering on Aretha Franklin's Grammy-winning single “Wonderful” and a lot more. Singularly focused on music, Pageot has built a career by moving seamlessly between as many roles as possible, as the local market dictates.
An award-winning flutist in his homeland of Canada, Pageot studied digital systems technology as a side career, then combined those skills in the trenches until he hit the wall in Montreal. “I could never make a living doing music there,” he says, “so I went to New York City, and that's where my career really started.”
Adept at making his own breaks, Pageot started to apply his production, engineering and performance talents to building a true one-man business. “You can't just do music these days: You have to look at yourself like you're the brand,” explains Pageot. “For people to buy your product, your product has to be real. For example, [NYC-based composer] Wendell Hanes taught me how to express myself in 30 seconds and 60 seconds for jingles. But the reason I was able to do this was because I already had the fundamentals. A lot of people know how to do tracks, but they don't know how to compose — they're two different things.”
In addition to having the chops to take on a wide range of assignments, Pageot uses his natural business sense to keep everything running at optimum efficiency. To start with, he eschews an expensive Manhattan address for a much more spacious studio/apartment setup in West New York, N.J., just across the water. Inside, the gear list is tight but right.
“My idea of reducing overhead is that I have a nice spot, but not in the city because it's too costly,” notes Pageot. “Every piece of gear that I have helps me create. I'm using the Digi 002 running Pro Tools 8, a Mac G5, and a maxed out UAD-1 card. I also use the Yamaha Motif ES8, the Akai MPC2000 I've been using for 10 years, and the Neumann TLM127 going through a Universal Audio 6176 for vocals and flute. To reference my mixes, I'm using Event Studio Precision 8 monitors.”
On any given day, Pageot might be producing a track for a label, mixing a TV jingle that Hanes wrote, composing for the likes of MTV or ESPN, working on ringtones for Thumbplay.com and Hudson Entertainment, creating soundtracks for Web shows on channels like Bud.tv or practicing for a gig at the Blue Note. In the classic yin-yang, Pageot understands that maintaining this level of flexibility requires rigid discipline.
“Every second is important, and one lost second could throw off my whole day,” he says. “I keep a strict schedule. Business people operate in the daytime, so I get up at 8:00 a.m. and I'm making calls at 9:00 a.m. At 12 noon people are already playing golf, and by 4:00 p.m. people are wrapping up. So you've got to do business, and then make music.”
Living and working successfully in New York City means being a people person, and Pageot knows that meeting the right people is the perfect follow-through to having mad skillz. “The way to get into these different types of markets is by building good relationships,” says Pageot. “You have to know how to approach people without being cocky or arrogant, but if your product is good you can get into any market with it. My question was, ‘How am I going to find these people?’ So I'd go to different functions with my business card, meet the right person, and once you do that you'll meet the next one. You have to impress the person you play your music for, and they'll play it for the next one.”
Much of the above may sound elementary, but the remarkable thing about Steve Pageot is the consistency with which he pulls off this multitasking. That, and keeping firm on the value of his time, are critical components for a solo act keeping up a long-term NYC career. “The trick is not to get stuck doing just one thing,” he confirms. “The minute you're stuck, you're no good, because money has to keep coming in, and in order for people to respect you, you have to set a price. We have to pay our dues, but after a while our dues have to start paying us back.”
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