The Best Way to Distribute Your Music in 2017

Having just released two new singles, I did some research beforehand to find out the best way to distribute the tracks (i.e. get it on Spotify, iTunes etc.). I figured since I'd already put in the work, I might as well share the results that I found and the distributor I ended up going with. Nobody paid me for this, I simply went with what made the most sense for me. Check it out in the video below... I hope it helps!

The Best Gear for your Recording Studio Under $15

Check out this video to see the best piece of gear I ever bought for my studio for less than $15. Really happy I finally got it. As you'll see, sometimes the impetus to buy something so basic (the most basic really) can come from the silliest of circumstances. 

Why are my ears tired?

I was driving to a wedding the other day (a gig, not a friend's, or my own for that matter, which was recently ;)) and my friend (the drummer) decided to put on a new artist who has been getting a lot of hype. We plugged my phone into my car's stereo and loaded up the tracks on Google Play Music and we proceeded to listen. The musicianship was incredible and the sound was huge but somehow we both felt emotionally unmoved by the music. Also another thing happened, our ears hurt.

We live in an age of over-production. Everything sounds big because we have the tools to do so. It seems to me that when mixing in the past people tried to find a balance, whereas today it's all about having everything stand out loud and the amount of compression (aka dynamics processing or limiting) that goes in to doing this can be just downright painful to listen to.

Let me take a quick pause to explain to the layman reader what compression is. In order to control the relative volume of an instrument or a group of instruments, one can use signal processing to contain the output of the signal and lower the decibel level by a certain ratio once the incoming signal passes the threshold. Used properly, compression can help contain audio and even "glue" the music together and can also create a very cool sounding effect. This tool can also be used to make music appear louder to a listener by chopping off the transient peaks and basically squishing the audio. When used too much, we get what is called "hyper-compression" by the industry pros. This method, to many people's great distress, is used all too often these days and you get instances like the story I just relayed to you.

All this makes me think that nobody is going to be listening to the music coming out today in years to come because I find it physically difficult to listen to it now. Let's compare this current music with the open sounding music of 70s (for example). After listening to several tracks off of this artist's record, we put on some old-school Elton John (again using Google Play music streaming), and the sound felt like a warm bed you could sink into. Everything sounded open and round and full. Yes, we had to crank the volume knob a bit more, but who cares? Our ears were happy and so were we.

I think that digital audio can sound great, but I also think that we producers push the limits of what you can do with it too far. Don't get me wrong, I love what compression can do to bring out a vocal or make a snare drum crack, but at a certain point, slamming the tracks too hard makes it very difficult to listen to something for more than a snippet at a time. Who knows, maybe that's why people don't listen to records anymore and we've slipped back to the age of the single? The point is that my ears are tired and I'm tired of them being tired. How about you?

24 Bit and the age of Awesome

When I hear the way music sounds coming out of smartphones, I can't help but ask myself how can it be that in a world with technology has come so far is it possible for developers to allow for such poor results in the audio world?  I was talking to a well known music publishing lawyer the other day and we started talking about some of the issues in the business industry. One thing that I brought up is that I really feel that even Mp3s that are sourced out of 24 bit files sound significantly better to my ears than even WAV files at 16 bit. In Bob Katz's book "Mastering Audio" he briefly mentions the fact that if someone has to convert files to Mp3, she's much better off doing so from 24 bit audio source than 16 bit. The obvious reasoning here is lack of floor noise, which is pretty audible to my ears in 16 bit files even after dithering.

In my mind, there's really no excuse to cut corners anymore, especially considering how affordable hard-drive space is these days. With Neil Young's new Hi-Fi digital music system PONO out and about, let's hope that people start making use of the technology we have for music to sound great. This will improve the value of music in the long run and maybe keep the doors of the industry open.

What do you listen to these days?

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook: "What do you listen to these days when you have history's discography at your fingertips?" I thought about it for a second and replied: "Good question, existentially speaking." I don't know about the rest of you, but I have been listening to everything these days but at the same time I've been listening to nothing. 

It wasn't that long ago that I would take some of my hard-earned/saved cash to walk into a CD store and purchase an album - of course after many minutes of deliberation over which one to buy. That CD would then spin (or play in my mp3 player) non-stop until I had the record down cold in my brain - all the subtle guitar phrases; the exact drum fills; everything. Those days, of course, are over. Even as a record producer, I myself have basically stopped listening to albums. People listen to singles and even if they're listening to singles, chances are they're watching a music video on YouTube while listening and if not that, then it's blaring off in the background while they work, hardly even noticed. On the one hand, we have access to everything. On the other hand, nothing penetrates. I feel like I'm swimming in an endless sea of music and not a single drop clings to my body for more than an instant. 

I understand that the music industry is evolving and I understand the need for change, but I'm missing that primordial emotional response to music that I once had. I wonder who else is missing this and wants it back. I wonder, how can we shape the music industry together so that people still involve themselves in the music they listen to. If that happened, people would value music again and maybe even be willing to pay for it.