Driving into work the other day, the first week of February, I caught a KCBS radio report on double-digit percentage stock drops at McClatchy Media and Warner Music. Traditional ad buyers weren’t purchasing at the start of the year, and apparently neither were consumers. The story veered toward doom and gloom and then it was gone, quickly followed by traffic and weather. It almost didn’t register. It felt a little like background chatter—same song, different players. And it’s been going on for nearly a decade. First Napster, then Google ads. Then YouTube and streaming and subscription vs. download. Media budgets slashed, prerecorded music not selling. It’s scary because it’s true.
Then I got to work and prepped for that morning’s Webcast on Wireless Theater, sponsored by Lectrosonics and presented by Suzanna Bailey, director of audio at America Conservatory Theater. It wasn’t text on a page, but it was a story. A good one that reached the people who most wanted to view it directly. And there were advertising dollars attached, so Mix benefited by what we have learned to call an alternative revenue stream. Media has to evolve, same as everybody else.
Right after the Webcast, I got a call from Allen Sides, thanking me for the February cover shot from Ocean Way, with Josh Groban. Josh sells a lot of records the old-fashioned way, but he’s also putting himself out there in the larger mediasphere. He had performed a hilarious sendup on Jimmy Kimmel, singing the tweets of Kanye West, and he and Allen had just returned from New York where they did a live Webcast, direct to fans, from Avatar Studios. Big audience. Loyal audience.
Later that same day, I received an e-mail with a link to Echo Mountain Recording’s Facebook page, where I found that more than 30,000 people had clicked to watch a Webcam stream of Dierks Bentley live in the studio, 24/7, for five days. (The link itself was actually to Dierks’ site if you want to go find it.) Fifteen songs tracked in a work week, writing and recording live with producer Jon Randall Stewart and engineer Gary Paczosa. Fans chatting among themselves. The ultimate access to the studio. Promoted through Facebook.
All this in one day, and it got me to thinking about the old saw that with every challenge or every change comes opportunity. It’s been particularly relevant in the Mix office of late because the week before, we, along with EM and Sound & Video Contractor, were sold to NewBay Media, publishers of Pro Sound News, EQ, Pro Audio Review, Guitar Player, Keyboard and many other magazines and sites. It’s not the first time we’ve been bought, but it promises to be a most exciting time in the audio press, and we are thrilled to be part of a group that knows professional recording.
But there are challenges, too, as there were a few talented people who won’t be making the move with us: our art director Isabelle Pantazis, publisher Shahla Hebets, the extremely talented EM editor Mike Levine and a couple of Mix editors near and dear to my heart: Barbara Schultz, a talented writer, superb editor and good friend who anchored our music and studio coverage these past 18 years, and George Petersen. What can I say about George? I’ve spent half my life greeting him each morning at 6400 Hollis St. When I joined in 1988, he was a legend, and when I watched him pack a box last week, he was even more of a legend. He taught me the ins and outs of recording, and he was always gracious with his knowledge. He remains a dear friend, and I rest easier at night knowing that we haven’t seen the last of George.