Aug 302009
 

I’ve spoken at several conferences but never at SXSW.

This year I am up for speaking at two separate panels. There is a voting process so that festival goers can have a say in what next year’s panels will be.

I would appreciate if you voted for my two panels at SXSW by clicking on the image/buttons below:


Marc Urselli on 'The New Now Of Music'
Marc Urselli on ‘The New Now Of Music’
In this panel I will discuss how the undergoing changes in the music industry have affected its monetization and how to make a living as a musician in this new situation. The primary difference between this panel and other similar panels is that I will not be trying to analyze why there have been changes or when such changes occurred nor will I attempt to tell people how to revert to the previous state of things. This panel accepts and embraces that in this new state of the industry changes have already happened and money is not made from the sale of music anymore. “The New Now Of Music” is the new state of the industry, where money can only be made from playing live an from filtering what’s available, which are two of the solutions to survive as a musician that I will discuss.


Marc Urselli on 'Recording & Mixing Tips & Techniques
Marc Urselli on ‘Recording & Mixing Tips & Techniques’
In today’s music industry more and more artist choose to record their music at home and are faced with the challenges or capturing quality recordings, producing mixes and even mastering their project. In this panel/presentation we will offer ideas, tips, techniques and advice on how to achieve quality recordings on a budget, taking into account the financial limitations of up and coming artists and the possibilities provided by today’s technologies.

Thank you!

Aug 082009
 

Grace Potter kicks ass and after a kitesurfing session in Long Island this is a great way to end the day, even if I only caught the last half hour of the show. The band is so tight, it’s as if Black Crowes made the great Chris Robinson into a woman or turned him for an excange with a Janis Joplin or Beth Heart! Music is just fucking awesome and makes life taste so much better!

Apr 122009
 

This year at SXSW I attended several panels focused on the future of the music business, and although I am obviously in the business myself and would probably draw larger benefits from an old-school music business model, I am very aware of the fact that it is never going to be like it was ever again, for better or for worse.

Throughout the panels I attended I came to an alarming realization: the major players and their lawyers have not yet understood how radically everything changed and are still hoping that they will be able to somehow monetize the distribution of music. They are desperate to find solutions to do so but in the process can’t even agree on anything amongst themselves. So, in the meantime, everything keeps moving towards the point of no return (that being the point where the old business model for monetizing music becomes 100% obsolete) – which I think we already passed anyway. They think that the music industry is changing and are trying to move along as swiftly and cumbersomely as they possibly can. I think that the change has already taken place and it’s irreversible.

The most interesting of these panels was the one called “Is Collective Licensing for P-2-P File Sharing a Future Source of Income for the Music Industry?” featuring Songwriters Guild of America president Rick Carnes, entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt, Future of Music Coalition general counselor Walter McDonough and McGill University professor and Schulich Distinguished Chair Sandy Pearlman (definitely my favorite speaker as well as a great producer, radio Dj, manager, record executive, poet and more):t probably some of the brightest, most engaging and well meaning of all the panelists I have listened to this year. Contrary wise to some other backward thinking stone age movers and shakers who are in denial and just can’t swallow the fact that they are not making as much money as they were used to making and that their pants are around their ankles (as a smart fellow attendee eloquently put it), these four individuals definitely have a more mundane and intelligent approach. Nevertheless I personally think some of them are missing the mark (at least on some of the things discussed) and I would like to offer my personal opinions on the matters.

The ubiquitous paradise of infinite storage theorized by Mr. Pearlman will soon be here (at least in the western world) and I look forward to having my first infinite mobile storage implant (and of course a second implant for the backup – unless that will be in the cloud). Whether storage will be cloud-based or solid and personal, it will be virtually unlimited for everyone soon enough, which means that even if there will be successful subscription-based total-catalog-access music services, future generations will probably still choose to go “steal” the music rather than pay for it (we are in a recession after all ;-)). The reason for that is simple: the old “stealing” is the new “getting”. New generations don’t perceive it as stealing and that’s how they are growing up.
Therefore I cannot share Mr. Pearlman‘s hope for a re-education of the masses because I just don’t think that is a realistic proposition. As a professional audio engineer and producer I have great appreciation for high quality audio and for the differences between a compressed mp3 and an un-compressed wave file. I would love nothing more than for my work to be heard uncompressed and on good systems and I would love nothing more than for the world to even be able to tell the difference. Unfortunately that also has changed. The “kids” of today are unable to discern or just don’t care about quality all together (whether that is their fault or a result of the habit of listening through computer speakers or $5 earbuds is another story). They care about free and free is all they know. They don’t know that people used to pay for this and the future generations will barely even know about the existence of the CD (let alone the vinyl) and of how these medium(s) sounded. As Pearlman pointed out, surveys show that people are not willing to pay for music anymore because they have gotten used to free instant access. This is the new now.

LaPolt is absolutely correct when she points out that nobody is able to agree on anything. Frankly I strongly believe they never will reach an agreement because the nature of free markets pushes all the players towards greed and competition. They can’t agree because they are unwilling to share, every one wants it all for themselves.
Where I think LaPolt is mistaken is when she invokes the help of the ISPs to regulate the distribution of music by charging a blanket fee for having access to music downloads (which would probably not go over well with people who just check their email once every couple of days). ISP’s aren’t even subscribing to the three-strikes-and-out policy lobbied by the record companies because they are so afraid of loosing subscribers.
Charging a blanket fee is highly unfeasible for two main reasons: (a) as McDonough points out, with the availability of encryption and hackers always being a step ahead it won’t be possible to control what data users are downloading; and (b) we are slowly but surely (at last!) moving towards a wireless world where free internet access is available to everyone everywhere, and once there are enough open networks and enough bandwidth people might no longer even need to have a contract with a specific ISP.
Either way, surely it is easy enough to mask your mp3 download as a (say) picture download, so how would we know who is downloading what?

If on the other hand we can establish the absolute identity of the user (as Carnes advocates) it might be possible to charge based on bandwidth usage. Aside from the great online privacy and security concerns that this would generate, I think this solution is also impractical for two other main reasons: (a) there are bandwidth-intensive uses that we already pay for in other ways (think Netflix subscriptions for instant on-demand movies) and (b) there are users (for example photographers or videomakers or business people who do 4 way netmeetings and audio/video-conferencing) who stream, upload, download and share huge files without ever infringing a single copyright (and these users would probably need to take out a mortgage to pay for their bandwidth usage).

I believe it was Carnes or LaPolt who suggested that the government should step in, but nothing good has ever come from the government so I doubt they have any interest or motivation in trying to resolve the conflicts between spoiled music lovers and greedy music sellers. Wars pay (better) and that’s what keeps Uncle Sam busy all year around.

Conceptually I agree with Mr. Carnes when he says that music is more like wine rather than water, but in my opinion this almost egalitarian view of how wine should be paid for is anachronistic and inapplicable at best. I would like to think of music as wine but truthfully nowadays, at best, it is watered-down wine and it is definitely traded more like water.

I had a nice chat with the same well-spoken fellow panel attendee I mentioned above, and he brought up an interesting point I tend to agree with: most likely, while all these players are busy fighting amongst each other, somebody like Google will probably suddenly “solve” the problem on how to put the ‘m’ of money back into the word music.
This is an especially forward thinking opinion when you think about the fact that Google has been quietly acquiring fiber optical properties and licenses and telephone/VoIP companies left and right.
Once bandwidth won’t be a problem anymore (and Google might have a big say when it comes to bandwidth) the move will probably be from desktop (or even laptop) computing to absolute mobile computing. When devices like the iPhone will have the processing power of today’s laptops and be able to project a keyboard and a larger screen on a surface OR when cloud computing becomes the new computing (the recent increase in netbook sales could be a testimony to this development) the people in control of the internet’s bandwidth will be the people in control of the access to the cloud, in control of information and in control of the world.

Personally, if there was a service which gave me (1) ALL the music of the world and gave it to me in (2) HIGH quality and gave it to me (3) EVERYWHERE and (4) AT ALL TIMES (even when I take the subway underground), I would pay for that service. But that’s just me. I care about music, I care about quality of the music, I work in the music business and I am old! Let’s face it. I am barely 32 but that makes me old. That makes me somebody that remembers CDs and vinyl and remembers that music used to be paid for.
Personally I highly doubt that there will ever be a service like that (one that offers all four things) so infinite personal and portable storage is probably much more realistic at this point.

I believe we have to accept that music distribution can just NOT be controlled any longer and that from now (or yesterday) on music is (to be) considered a free commodity. We need to find out how to trade free and make money at it.

I would like to offer my own personal opinion on what will be the only ways left to make money from music in the future (besides control of internet/cloud access, which will realistically not be something start ups and young entrepreneurs will be able to partake in). Of course there are theories and possibilities (added value, subscriptions, tie-ins etc) but I think it will boil down to two big areas:

1. Filtering Services: with all the music in the world soon to be available on a USB9 keychain dongle (or whatever), there will be a big new need to catalog and filter this music accurately and beyond id3 tags. Accessing millions of songs is no joke if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for and this presents a great opportunity for new business models and ideas.
Example: today the google search engine is free but you don’t always find what you are looking for and you could end up getting lost searching for something and never actually finding it. If there was a google premium search service that lets you find exactly what you are looking for right away and every time, wouldn’t it be worth your money?
I believe this might be one important aspect of how the music industry will change, evolve and maybe find alternative revenue streams again.

2. Live Music: although there has definitely be an inexplicable decrease in interest towards live music in the last decade, I strongly think/believe/hope that there might be a huge come back of concerts because this will always be the thing you cannot replace, steal or download. Yes, there is youtube and you can view, download and even steal concerts online, but it will never be the same as actually being there. Blood, sweat and tears are not digitally reproducible and the enthusiasm and emotions that you can feel at a great live show can hardly be felt any other way. Wherever the music industry will go, I believe there will always be a place for live music and that sector (marketing, promotion, venues, managers and agents) will become a more valuable asset.

Possibly concerts might even re-rise the bar and become the new filter for good music made by good musicians (it’s easy to cheat in the studio but on the stage technology isn’t gonna make up for a crappy performance). But I am just being optimistic now…

Of course everything remains to be seen and I am just speculating, like everyone else is, but these are the reasons why I think the currently discussed plans to salvage the old music industry are not practical. We should just stop thinking of the old music industry all together and start inventing the new now of music.

Dec 312008
 

Wow… 2008 was a crazy one and a great one!

I feel bad for not having posted anything to my blog in months (since last April), but that should give you an idea of how busy I’ve been. I’ve been away for a good part of this year on tour and business trips to Austin, Europe, Japan and so on and so forth… Many things have happened so, today, I want to take the time to thank all of those who have made my year special, in the hope that I have contributed some good to their 2008 as well.

 

John Zorn at the Guggenheim

John Zorn at the Guggenheim

 

First and foremost I want to thank my new good friend John Zorn, one of the smartest and most talented composers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Our collaboration started early this year with his gorgeous album “the Dreamers” and has continued ever since. In 2008 alone I recorded and mixed close to a dozen albums of his. Most importantly though I consider John a dear friend and I look forward to each and every time we get together, whether it’ll be in the studio, live or just for a dinner or a hang. Too bad Tonic is not around anymore, or else I’d know exactly what to do tonight! Dig?

Skuli Sverisson (bass), Lou Reed (guitar), Brad Hampton (tour manager), myself, Laurie Anderson (voice, electronics), Bill Berger (lights/production), Peter Scherer (keys)

Skuli Sverisson (bass), Lou Reed (guitar), Brad Hampton (tour manager), myself, Laurie Anderson (voice, electronics), Bill Berger (lights/production), Peter Scherer (keys)

 

In 2008, through John, I’ve also had the pleasure to work with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. Laurie is an incredibly talented performance artist/composer/poet/writer/violinist/inventor/sculptor etc… I’ve always had great respect for her and liked her music and her multi-dimensional approach to the arts. I’ve been on tour with her for a few months and never grew tired of her incredibly beautiful, haunting and thought-provoking live show (now that it’s over, I feel bad for anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to see it). She always smiles and probably is one of the sweetest and happiest people I know. Recording and touring with her and all the great people in the band and in the crew was a great experience and all the traveling and the special moments shared together (we were in Tel Aviv the day Obama got elected) brought us all closer together.  Becoming friends with Laurie and Lou was a treat. We’ve had great times together, on tour and back in NYC (Thanksgiving dinner and all that) and I look forward to spending more time and doing more work with both of them.

Patti Labelle, myself and Liel at EastSide Sound Studios in NYC

Patti Labelle, myself and Liel at EastSide Sound Studios in New York City

 

Another great artist of 2008 I’ve worked with is Patti LaBelle. Producer Bob Cutarella (whom I worked with on the Les Paul tribute album) hired me to record a duet of Patti and the Israeli singer Liel (also featuring Slash on guitar). Furthermore this year I got to see the reunion of Patti’s group the Labelle at the Apollo Theater on December 19th and 20th, beautifully organized by my promoter friend Massimo Gallotta. A memorable two nights during which the Labelles literally set the Apollo on fire (the first night the sound system just shut off, allegedly due to electrical problems, which is why the show was repeated the following night). I can’t say that I became close friends with Patti or Liel, but nevertheless it was a great experience of 2008. You can also see a video of the recording session here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ8IJliemEo&eurl  

 

Less than seven hours before 2009 and minutes before my good friends in Europe will pop the cork, I want to thank all the people that made my year special. I am looking forward to find them all again in 2009!

My new year’s resolution is to post in my blog more often which, thanks to the people at Effigent (which as of now allow me to post to my blog from my iPhone), will probably actually happen!

I leave this year behind thinking of my best friends. My thoughts in particular go to Barry and his family.

I wish everyone all the best for 2009: much love, health, success, $$$, satisfaction and everything and more of whatever it is you wish for!

See you next year!

Apr 112008
 

I have been slacking on my blogging duties because I’ve been too busy for such a self-indulgent activity, however, every once in a while comes something that is really worth talking about, and this incredible documentary movie called “Before the Music Dies” definitely qualifies as one such thing. I just finished watching the movie and all of the special features and I am blown away! An “unsettling and inspiring look at today’s popular music industry”, this 93 minute feature film (released back in 2006) ties together a series of interviews with very very notable people to get a point across and to investigate where it all went wrong in the music industry, when we stopped caring and how we went from undeniable talent to no talent.

B4MD coverThis movie was written, produced and directed by two regular people, music fans from Austin (Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen), who without any prior experience in filmmaking created a movie that IS great and even looks great (it never looks like a low budget film, it’s edited tightly, it’s got good cinematography and never drags).

It starts with some archival footage of Ray Charles accompanying an incredibly great singing and dancing performance by Billy Preston but soon gives the lead to interviews with Erykah Badu (who has some of the best, funniest and most controversial things to say), a very passionate Questlove, a disillusioned but re-affirmed Doyle Bramhall II (also performing with Eric Clapton), a transparent and down to earth Branford Marsalis, a comfortable Dave Matthews, an incredibly sharp and sensitive Les Paul (as always!), a knowledgeable and experienced Bonnie Raitt, short snippets of  interviews with Elvis Costello and Hubert Sumlin as well as Calexico, My Morning Jacket, North Mississipi Allstarts, Widespread Panic and some others…

Narrated by the great Forest Whitaker, the film talks about the disappearance of talent and original music in the wake of big label marketing, the promotional power that radio has lost in the wake of its flattening content-uniforming conglomeration under Clear Channel, the fact that most of the few talented people today barely even stand a chance of being heard (although this is not entirely true if you consider and you harness the power of the internet, which the movie sadly doesn’t talk much about) and even attempts a challenge of recording and shooting a video clip with a good looking un-talented singer to prove the point that you can promote pretty much anyone that looks good even if they have no talent because the technology allows us to do so today.

The sweet naivety and the undeniable passion shown in this movie are charming and inspiring. What really comes through and what makes this film so special is that it comes from the heart (like Sumlin says) and it really does come from a fan’s perspective, with great clarity and intelligence.

Thanks to the internet, it is extremely easy for everyone to see this movie (thankfully!). As a matter of fact “Before the Music Dies” pioneered a very unique distribution model consisting in allowing you to buy the full DVD with all the extra content (extended interviews and performances) for $16.99 or to buy a full-resolution DVD quality download for $7.99 or a DRM-free compressed download for portable devices for $2.99. Remember this was 2006! Two years later I don’t know of anyone else who distributed their movie this way.

Please go out and get a copy… let me rephrase… please go to the website and watch the preview and then download or order a copy of this great movie. If you are a music fan you owe it to yourself!

www.beforethemusicdies.com or www.b4md.com or www.bside.com

Nov 072007
 

Wow, it feels like I haven’t posted in ages!!! Of course it doesn’t matter because I am not some popular blogger like Arianna Huffington, Beppe Grillo, Guy Kawasaki or David Lawrence… Other people write blogs for themselves and their mothers: I don’t. I know that because my mother doesn’t read my blog!

I swept through October like a hurricane. The pace of the best runners at today’s NYC Marathon (taking place as I write) hardly compares to the pace I set for myself during the month of October. The reason? Hundreds of concerts, dozens of panels, large exhibition floors, movie screenings and of course the ever present work!

Les Paul, Marc Urselli, Geoff EmerickFirst of all there is the AES Convention. A geek fest of colossal proportions which gathers audio aficionados from all over the planet inside the Javits Center of NYC every other year. This year’s 123rd edition was bigger than last year’s and rich with exciting educational opportunities, new hardware, software, services, award shows and after parties. I attended as many panels as I could to further my knowledge, but the most exciting talk was probably the one where the legendary Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick (see my post about his amazing book!) commented the scenes of the the BBC documentary “It was 40 Years ago Today” about the re-make of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by some of Britain’s most popular rock bands. Seeing these bands grapple with having to get it right to tape without the luxury of Pro Tools and stuff like that was inspirational to say the least. Razorlight, Kaiser Chiefs, The Fray, Stereophonics, Travis, Magic Numbers and Bryan Adams were among some of the bands involved in this re-make, which took place at Mark Knopfler’s personal studio, with the original Beatles engineer and assistant and the original Beatles gear (4 tracks and all that cool stuff). The documentary is an initiative by Bob Geldof, whose production company shot it, but unfortunately has only been aired in the UK (on BBC). If you look on the internet you can actually find it (I did), but you won’t find the specials features contained in the DVD version (which is not and probably will not ever be released). These features include interviews with Emerick and other people involved in the original recording sessions of the historical Beatles album as well as tech talk about the equipment being used back then and being re-used for this re-make (if somebody does find these features online please contact me – I would love to see them!). Seeing these chapters and hearing Emerick comment on them was an absolute treat, considering that they’ll most likely never see the light of the day due to contractual issues and due to the fact that there were too many parties involved (BBC, Geldof, the Beatles estate, the Lennon estate a.k.a. Yoko Ono, the producers etc). At the TEC Awards dinner and show (hosted by the great and funny Will Lee) I was talking to Les Paul and his son Rusty when Emerick came over to say hi to Les, so I actually had the pleasure to get my picture taken with Emerick and Les Paul at the same time, which was like being in the middle (literally and figuratively) of two of audio history’s most influential, unique, ground-breaking and revolutionary characters! What a treat!

A week after AES, CMJ 2007 took place downtown. I was a speaker at one of the panels and I attended as many other panels as I could, because you can never stop learning! Of course I went to plenty of shows as well, as many as I could fit in my schedule. I didn’t go see any of the movies, but CMJ is always a great networking opportunity, so I walked away with cards and contacts. I am not going to talk about CMJ at length because I actually was asked to write a full report about it, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Recording Magazine (along with another article about Vocal Recording that I wrote for the same magazine). Of course as soon as it is published I will post that news here in the blog so anyone can go out and get a copy of the mag to read my article and all the other interesting features. In short, however, I will say that some of the bands on the CMJ bill that you should look out for are Raining Jane (LA), The Section Quartet (LA), Mieka Pauly (NY/Boston), The Hard Lessons (Ferndale, MI)… There were of course many other very valid bands but I could only be in some many places at any given time, not to mention I spent some of my evenings checking out some of the more established acts that this year’s CMJ pass allowed badge-holders to see (Zakir Hussain with Mickey Hart and Giovanni Hidalgo, Holy Fuck opening for UNKLE, M.I.A. and some others).

Finally, since I do have a passion for photography, at the same time of CMJ (of course!), there was also PDN happening, the big photography convention at Javits Center with plenty of cool gear and stuff for the visually-inclined. I sprinted (literally) through the looooong aisles of Javits’ huge exhibit floor (bigger than AES!) on Saturday morning and then catapulted myself back downtown to see more panels and shows!

So that is what kept me busy and away from blogging… we’ll see what my excuse will be next time!

Aug 232007
 

Summer’s coming to an end but every year the hot months spent in the city are a great time for good music and free shows. This year I’ve been roaming the parks looking for good music and found some really good one and, as always, some less interesting one… In my quest for fresh sounds at open air public gatherings I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated with some of the rules and attitudes at these events.

First of all, what is up with the no water bottles policy at Summer Stage? It is 100 degrees for chrissake! How can you ask people not to bring water? If anything, water should be distributed for free if ask me (especially if they insist on enforcing this ridiculous rule)! Not sure if they do it because they want you to buy their water or because they think you’ll fill your Poland String bottle with grappa or with liquid explosive? With hundreds of people in that heat, somebody might dehydrate and just pass out! Who’s fault is it going to be? We’ll have to ask a good lawyer!

Then there is photography… At Central Park I used my long lens SLR camera to take some shots from the front row and nobody said a thing. At Prospect Park, while I was just shooting birds between shows, some staff member on a power trip told me to put the camera away because, I quote, “long lenses are not allowed”! Since when are they making a separation? I have a point and shoot camera with an optical zoom that is bigger than the long lens I have on my SLR! I walked around reading the signs and all they said was that flash photography was not allowed. The same thing was said on stage by the announcer. Nobody said anything about non-flash photography with long lenses! No announcements and no signs. I contacted Celebrate Brooklyn through their website but I received no answer. I just wonder what they are going to do in 5 or 10 years when there will be 15mpx 25x optical zoom camera phones or pen-shaped cameras that fit in the palm of a hand…

Finally there is the crackdown on freedom of body movements and shows of love. The other day I went to Pier 54 on West 14th Street and watched John Lee Hooker Jr and a a few other artists on the bill of the 8th annual Blues BBQ under the light rain of that afternoon. Outside this Hudson River Park organized event the list of “don’ts” was longer than the list of performers on the stage! I could not believe my eyes when I saw these private security employees that were telling people not to dance… Are we serious? Is this what it has come down to? People are having a good time and happen to feel like swinging their bodies and shuffling their feet and some nazi security guard tells them not to? Their argument was that people are not supposed to dance in the middle corridor between the seating, but that corridor was really wide, there were no cables on the floor and on BOTH the exterior sides of the two seating areas the staff and security had two extra corridors.

I am telling you: these security policies and attitudes are the new fascism of today and the new real threat to art and to its wide-spread diffusion. What are they gonna do next? Tell you that you must wear shoes on the Park’s grass? Kick you out cause you are kissing your partner? Chain concert goers to the Park benches and seating so they won’t move? (oh wait, they are not gonna do that because they do want people to go buy overpriced drinks and food at the concession stands! right! just walk there slowly, do not dare running there or dancing your way to the food stands!) Maybe they’ll burn all the books at the library because readers are not sitting up straight enough in their chairs? These are the new fascists of our time and the new obstacles to future’s generation peaceful fruition of art, community spirit and events attendance. Shame on them!

I don’t remember the name of the security company (I believe it is a three letter acronym) but I am pretty sure it is the same people who handle security at Central Park Summer Stage and THEY SUCK. My beef is not necessarily with them as a company or with their employees, but with what event security has come to mean and be today. First of all their bag check is absolutely useless and ridiculous! Even more ineffective than the ones they do at airports. At airports, where the terrorism threat is real, they do a lousy job at checking bags but at least there is a metal detector and they try to feel the contents of the bag. At the parks they look inside and you could have literally ANYTHING in there in any of the side pockets or just covered under a newspaper or what not and you’ll get through no problem! And if you happen to be a skateboarded you are totally out of luck! You cannot go in unless you surrender your “vehicle”. I’ve seen people part with so much stuff just to get in after they stood in line for an hour… Mostly perfectly harmless stuff. Sad indeed! Seriously now: how many terrorists do you know that are interested in attending concerts or blowing up big crowds, it’s not like the concert is in the Gaza Strip!

I am not advocating no security at all, but I’d like to see smart security employing smart and effective methods. And I’d like them to focus on the important things (prevent weapons to make it into the park, don’t waste time trying to prevent people from dancing if that’s what they wanna do: after all they went to the park to have a good time)! But the reality is that as always we need to wait for something bad to happen and we won’t smarten up until then. Sad.

Between 9/11 and Giuliani’s own doing, NY has become a city of rules and regulations and has lost a lot of what used to make NY a great city. Very often I feel like I am in a fascist state (I am not even gonna talk about the rules at the beaches). Terrorism is used as an excuse for anything nowadays. All these rules to prevent or control public gatherings along with the completely anachronistic enforcement of the even more anachronistic Cabaret Laws need to stop. Authorities need to chill out and leave the kids alone to focus on some more important stuff!

What happened to NYC? I’ve only lived here 10 years and I barely recognize its spirit! I can’t even imagine how a long time resident must feel about all of this.

Don’t let the good-time killers win! Peace, love and rock’n’roll!

Jul 212007
 

Apple iPhoneThat seems to today’s biggest Shakespearean dilemma for internet/phone-dependent networkers, gear-sluts and geeks alike (whether I fit in one, two or all three of those groups of people is subject matter for a whole other post)…

I absolutely ADORE the looks and feel of the iPhone. The user interface is just so easy, so great, so fast, so friendly, so slick: in one word so Apple!

The iPhone’s appeal to me consists primarily in knowing that the synchronization with OS X (which is vital to me!) is flawless when it comes to Address Book and iCal. I actually haven’t found out whether iPhone supports the Address Book’s groups and iCal’s categories but, considering it is Apple, I am sure that you can safely assume all the data will be in sync.

Having both Wi-Fi and EDGE internet on the phone is priceless. The good thing is that if you don’t need push email and you are happy with checking your emails every once in a while when you want to, if you live in a city like NY with hotspots or open router’s signals at every corner, you could easily just have a WiFi-enabled phone and not have to worry about paying for a $20/mo unlimited data plan on top of your voice plan.

The iPhone does have all of that but has some major issues, first and foremost, locking you into having to use a provider like AT&T (notoriously bad with voice and slow with data not to mention horrible with customer service) with plans that aren’t flexible and with the HUGE disadvantage of not being able to even stick in another SIM when you really need to (I go to Europe a lot so I have SIM cards for other countries that I would not be able to use ever again if I had an iPhone).

There are several things that the Apple iPhone lacks and that are making me strongly consider buying a different product (or waiting for the next generation iPhone).

Ever since the advent of smartphones (when PDA’s and phones became one) everyone had different expectations and needs from the device of choice. I have been a proud owner of some of the most ground-breaking devices this rapidly evolving market has seen (most notably Sony Ericsson P800 and P900) but recently I found myself using a BlackBerry, which has some nice things to it but which I hate for the most part (the Mac synchronization is crappy and the life-less one-column no-scripting-supported internet is awful – they call that SSR for Small Screen Rendering, I call it SSR for So Shitty Rendering!). Everyone’s bar has been raised and my most important requirements of today are:

1. ability to synchronize at least with Mac OS X’s Address Book and the iCal calendar

2. ability to check IMAP e-mail via Wi-Fi and EDGE/UMTS

3. unlocked (or unlockable) so I can use my European SIM when traveling

4. GSM (wait… are people seriously even still considering different networks?)

5. Wi-Fi (surfing the internet faster AND not have to have a data plan unless I really want to)

6. Bluetooth

7. good battery life (everyone except SonyEricsson seems to have forgotten that all together!)

8. real internet with JavaScripting, Flash and such (as opposed to SSR!)

Believe it or not, even stopping at only two of these eight requirements, there are just a handful of devices that pass the test! I looked into all of them: P990, Nokia N95, HTC Touch, HTC 8525, HTC Dash, HTC Wing, Smasung Blackjack, LG Prada and many more… For the longest time I was looking into getting a P990, since I know that phone is rock solid and I owned its two predecessors, but unfortunately I just recently found out that the latest Symbian OS that it runs, just do not talk to Apple at all! HTC stands out among its competition for having some of the most feature-packed, slick looking and versatile devices… Talented guitarist Robbie Angelucci (who pretty much has my same requirements list) uses a Dash phone and he almost talked me into buying one… I have only one major issue with all of these HTC devices: they run on Windoze!!! I have used Microsucks Windows in the past but I have been on a Mac for years and would NEVER EVER go back (and I dare anyone who has used a Mac for more than 6 months to say they would!). Although issues with sync-ing Mac OS X and Windows Mobile 5 & 6 seem to be addressed and taken care of by MarkSpace.com, the question still remains: do I really wanna have a reliable Mac and rely on a Windows operating system for my day to day mobile connectivity and productivity? Hell no! So I am still waiting and trying to decide…

At the end of the day, it would seem that when iPhone v2 (or even just a European iPhone v1) I just might have to get one… in the meantime, if I change phone, I’ll let you know!

Jul 082007
 

Gene MartinGene Martin’s photography possibly represents some of the finest examples of rock star portraits ever. His style is unique and stands out in the myriad of pictures available online.

Gene started out as a guitar player so his passion for music was true, deep an ever-lasting. This also gave him that special connection with musicians which went beyond just the lens. When he turned to photography he knew how to capture the true essence of the subject. He was creative with props and he was a master of lighting technique.

Although in most recent years he started shooting in digital, he was a true believer and supporter of film and he maintained that “go for THE shot” attitude (as opposed to the shoot-a-million-RAW-pictures-and-then-spend-a-week-Photoshopping attitude). I have seen Gene do things that I didn’t even know could be done without a computer… Shots that look like the result of some skilled Photoshop wizard, Gene achieved without the use of any software, with techniques and experimentation that go beyond my bare understanding of photography (for some examples check out the shots of Joe Chambers, Pat Metheny, McCoy Tyner, Ray Mantilla, Al Di Meola etc etc). Gene Martin was a true artist of photography.

I have been interested in photography for a long time. I picked it up as a hobby many years ago and then dropped it when the film development made it unfeasible to pursue such a costly hobby. Some years ago I got back into it again and have been enjoying it and doing more of it. With my girlfriend being in the photography business and having had a few of my own shots published in magazines and online, I even flirted with the idea of pursuing photography more seriously.

Gene had been around the recording studio several times. I first met him when he was shooting some of the Les Paul sessions but I distinctively remember him being in our studio at least two more times to shoot some major jazz artists I was recording. It is because of how inspired by his work, attitude and knowledge I was, that on one of those sessions I asked him if I could assist him on one of his next shoots, just so I could pick up some tricks of the trade and get better at my photography hobby. I offered to do it for free of course, I just wanted to learn a little bit from a professional like him. He said he’d keep it in mind and I for sure thought that I’d never hear from him again.

Not only did I hear from him one or two weeks later but he actually even paid me for the assisting job AND split the tip he got from his client 50/50 with me, which was completely unexpected and unheard of! I was really impressed by his character, his personality, his spirits and of course his work.

The ride to the shoot was about an hour so we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. We talked shop (cameras, lenses etc) but we also went into our backgrounds and of course we extensively talked about music. He told me about his guitars, his passion for the instrument, his past as a professional musician for 15 years and the many turmoils of his life. He also told me about how much Charles Carlini and Bob Cutarella had done to revive his career. He felt indebted to them and told me that some of his greatest shots had been a result of the acquaintance with Charles and Bob. Gene was secure and confident but he was also modest and gave credit were credit was due. Gene Martin was a fascinating person and a true gentleman.

When I got back from Europe this last December, I was terribly saddened by the news that Gene had passed away. Charles Carlini broke the news to me during the Ennio Morricone sessions and I couldn’t believe that a person as young, talented and kind as Gene was no longer with us. The world suffered a terrible loss! The people that knew him personally were completely surprised and devastated by the news. However it also makes me sad to think that not enough of his peers realized what a great photographer passed away. Gene’s career was definitely going through a climb. His popularity had been peeking and his photography was finally gaining the recognition and Awards that it deserved.

Luckily our common friend Charles Carlini has put together a tribute site that will make the spirit and the photography of Gene Martin live on forever: www.genemartinfoto.com

Check out the website to see some of the biggest rock, pop, blues and jazz stars of our times through the eyes and the lens of Gene Martin.

More links about Gene for you to check out:

http://www.genemartinphotography.com

http://www.genemartinphotography.com/music.htm

http://www.nikonworld.com/portfolio/martin/viewer.html

http://www.modernguitars.com/archives/001881.html

http://www.jazzhouse.org/jpg/gmp

Rest In Peace…

Jun 272007
 

eSession logoTwo weeks ago I attended an event promoted by the NY Chapter of NARAS at Jazz at Lincoln Center aimed at making music industry professionals familiar with eSession.com, a Texas based company founded by two highly achieved producers/engineers and aimed at making online music collaborations easy and effortless.

eSessions has been around for a while but their infrastructure has become much more solid over the past few years and these demo sessions were an eye opener in that regard. Although I wish they hadn’t used Flash or Java Applets, their new beta site is much better organized and functional than it was when I checked them out a few years ago. eSessions basically allows you to hire talent (or be a hired talent) in the music industry without being limited by geography or by a limited network of contact. If you are a band or a musician you suddenly have easy and direct access to all these Gold, Platinum, Grammy or up and coming engineers and producers who you can hire to mix, record, edit or produce your album or your track. Producers and engineers, like myself, have access to a wide array of musicians from all over the world, and although this might not be the greatest asset to somebody that operates from within New York City (where some of the best musicians in the world live) it is an enormous asset for somebody living in cities that don’t have the same kind of musical scene that New York does!

I would imagine that this idea should really catch on in far away places. Suddenly somebody in the middle of nowhere in the US (or I guess in the middle of Iceland for that matter) can hire a top notch musician from Los Angeles and negotiate a price for him. Speaking of which, everything is negotiable and eSession keeps 15% of profits.

With great power comes great responsibility… eSession founders are well aware that by creating such an amazing platform for collaboration they are also handing the music industry the key to outsourcing everything and anything just like major corporations do today.

When everything is negotiable and you bid on talent’s services almost like you bid on eBay, talents might start to compete with each other (instead of collaborate with each other) and this might corner them into under-selling their services only to stay on top of the competition. Although it is true that it might be hard to find an Indian singer that will sing the blues as good as a cat from New Orleans does or to find a Taiwanese drummer who can play funk/fusion like some people at the Baked Potato do, it also needs to be noted that struggling musicians in “expensive” cities like NY or LA might likely not welcome the idea of being replaced by cheaper players from some rural town in the mid-west, especially if the people hiring the talent live in NY or LA themselves.

Studios might also likely be hurt by this approach, since the eSession way pretty much entails or assumes that the hired talent can deliver the goods without having to hire a studio (because if he or she had to do, their final price would not be competitive with musicians that have home recording systems – which will of course push every eTalent to get equipped with some kind of home recording tool aimed at replacing a professional studio’s services). eSession tried to address this issue by having an eStudio section for recording studios, but I think it’s really only meant to show that their are not insensitive to the issue itself. It’ll be interesting to see if the bulk of eSessions commissions and traffic comes from studios or from talent… I’d put my money on the latter.

Last but not least, one other concern I have is: what will you choose to do when given the chance to inexpensively hire a guitar player from Kalamazoo, a bass player from France and a drummer from Australia as opposed to a solid rhythm section that plays together in the same room in the city you live in, right in front of you? Does anyone remember the old concept of playing together, vibing off of each other, feeding off the each other’s ideas and style? If you are paying these folks to play, wouldn’t you wanna be there (in most cases) to provide them with your input and your feedback so that they can adjust their aim and get you what you are paying them for? I don’t want to sound old fashioned… I have myself hired people (before the days of eSession) from other countries where I did not have a chance to be present and I had to either deal with FTP or with mailed CDs and have had to ask for a variation on their first try, therefore prolongating the process… When compared with that situation, being able to drag and drop tracks into a browser and connecting with these people easily via email or messanging is certainly a huge leap forward. However, I will say that, unless there is a specific reason (your no.1 choice hired gun is on tour but has access to recording system, you need a tabla player and you want to hire an actual Indian guy from India etc…) I might still resort to calling up local talent because (a) face-to-face interaction is irreplaceable and (b) it’s always great to be able to bring work to people you’ve worked with before. I am not saying I won’t experiment with new talent, but if time is of the essence why not go back to someone that delivered promptly and exactly what you wanted in a previous work-for-hire scenario?

I think my approach and/or opinions might be slightly different than that of others because I live in NYC, a crib for/of awesome talent where you really almost never have to look beyond the city limits to find exactly what and who you need.

Although I might have my concerns, legitimate or not, I do embrace the changes brought on by the digital revolution we’ve been living in and I welcome anyone and anything that makes good use of this digital revolution (bringing new musicians together for sure qualifies as good use!).

Either way, I still like the idea of eSession and I like the people at eSession (if you have any questions contact their main rep Ryan who is super responsive, really nice and very knowledgeable!) so after the NARAS event I decided to give it a try and see how it goes… eSession might very well be the next big thing in the music industry professionals’ world!

Here’s my profile eTalent profile at eSession.com