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Sound Treating the Studio

This week began the exciting task of sound treating two of the rooms in our new music recording studio, dubbed Laetoli Music Recording Studio, home to Demo My Song.

”Sound treating” a space, often confused with “sound-proofing,” is a very important way to gain more control of the acoustics in your room, usually through the use of sound absorbing panels and diffusers.

Most rooms are naturally prone, due to their shapes and sizes, to various acoustical anomalies. One such problem in mixing situations is a phenomenon known as “one note bass” in which there is one particular note in the bass register that sounds significantly louder than the others.  For example, a bassist could be playing a C major scale and then suddenly, the G note sounds twice as loud as the others.  This is due to the sound waves being produced actually bouncing off the walls and combining in an additive fashion to create a perceived increase in volume at that pitch/frequency.  Most rooms are prone to this problem and the exact frequency (i.e. note/register) at which it occurs varies based on their size and shape.

A common solution for this problem, and one that we have employed in our new studio, is low frequency and wideband absorbers.  Low frequency absorbing panels may also be referred to as “bass traps.”  We began with the mixing room.  Luckily we had already assembled all of the panels themselves as they were initially built and installed in our previous studio in Langley, Washington.

Frequencies in the bass range tend to “build up” in the corners of the room so it is common to attempt to “kill” your corners with sound absorbing material.  Pictures below show both home made versions of such panels as well as ones purchased specifically for that purpose.  We also built and installed a pair of  “helmholtz resonators” in the “Orange Room” which are designed to absorb low frequencies while deflecting higher ones.  They are finished with untreated
Western Red Cedar 1×4’s which gives the “Orange Room” a distinctly sweet aroma reminiscent of a sauna.

The next thing we installed was high frequency foam panels (begrudgingly purchased from Guitar Center.)  I find it’s easy to make the mistake of using “too many” of these types of panels rendering your space so devoid of reflective wall space that it sounds unnaturally “flat” or “dry.”  The extreme example of this effect would be an anechoic chamber, which is so “dry” (i.e. without any natural reflection) that people often describe the experience of walking into one as “nauseating.”  This is because our equilibrium relies partially on the ability to interpret our surroundings from sound reflecting back to us (just like bats and their ability to navigate), so it’s easy to be thrown off balance when suddenly, we perceive no reflection of sound at all!

In order to have some flexibility in how much high frequency absorptive material was being used at any given time we developed a simple system for mounting the foam that lends itself well to various applications.  The system involves stringing two strands of bailing wire (used for it’s affordability) in parallel between a pair of brass hooks (see pics below).  With this system panels can be added or taken out as needed and need not be glued directly to the wall which is great!… because you can use them again and again.

This technique also worked great on the ceiling at our old studio .

Panels on Ceiling of OLD studio in Langley, WA

The only panels we have yet to install in the “Orange Room” are the pair of semi-cylindrical poly diffusers.  These two units were also built while at our previous studio space and the design came directly out of How to build a small budget recording studio from scratch…with 12 tested designs written by Mike Shea and F. Alton Everest, which is a great resource for those building their own recording studio.  We will mount them soon but haven’t yet decided where they will be best placed.

Another great idea we picked up from the aforementioned book involves the use of garden trays.  They are built from standard square gardening trays (the ones with the perforated bottoms, widely available for free at places like wal-mart and home-depot) and are filled with two layers of ¾ inch owens corning 705 rigid fiberglass insulation.  Between the gardening tray’s perforated bottom and the panels of 705 is a layer of fabric which serves not only to keep the irritating fibers concealed, but also give you an opportunity to get creative with various designs and patterns.  When completed the panels are fixed directly to the wall or ceiling with 4 small screws.  Below is a pic of the panels we installed in the “Red Room.”

Lastly, we installed a cord “run” so that it was easy to share mic and computer cords between the Red and Orange Room.  This was built of a 6 inch section of 4 inch diameter ABS black plastic pipe.  We were surprised to find when we cut into the wall that, rather than cutting into a traditional wall cavity, we actually cut into an old doorway which had been “walled” over at some point in the past.  We cut the hole in the wall first with a drill with a 1 inch diameter, then completed the hole with a jig-saw.  After inserting the pipe we caulked the edges on both sides… voila!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on our studio building progress.

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Studio Progress

Hello loyal readers!

It has been a few weeks since we started working, and the studio is shaping up nicely.

We have thoroughly cleaned and painted the mixing room, tracking room, and one room that will serve temporarily as our business office, but we will eventually be turning it into another recording room.

The mixing and tracking rooms were quite easy.  The tracking room was the first thing we tackled, and all it needed was a fresh coat of paint on the walls and floors.  The mixing room was next, and was equally easy.  It required a little bit of spackle to fill some holes in the walls, and again a fresh coat of paint.

Next came the floors in the  hallway connecting the mixing and tracking rooms. They were covered in linoleum which must have previously had carpet on it, so it was covered in carpet glue and foam.  Trystan ripped the linoleum out and painted the floor grey to match the floors in the tracking and mixing rooms.  The floor in the entrance to the studio was also covered in the same glue and foam.  For several hours Trystan sanded this section of floor, with the intention of restoring the hardwood floors, but eventually decided to paint the floor grey so that it would match the floor in the rest of the studio.

Then finally we cleaned up the room for the business office, painted it, and put in the furniture and office supplies.

In the coming weeks we will be sound treating the mixing room, which we have decided to dub the “Red Room”, and the tracking room, which we have dubbed the “Orange Room”.  We will be using wide band absorbers, a pair of Helmholtz resonators, bass traps, high frequency absorbing panels, and semi-cylindrical poly-diffusers.

Here are some pictures of what we have been up to.  Enjoy!

-The Demo My Song Team

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We’re Building a New Studio

The Demo My Song team has been busy these past few weeks, not only producing high quality music tracks, but also moving to Portland, Oregon and expanding our studio!

Located in Southeast Portland, the new studio, which will be known as Laetoli Music Recording Studio, is approximately 1,000 square feet.  When completed it will have three tracking rooms, in addition to a mixing room and vocal booth.  Our goals for the new studio will be to provide a facility for our new record company, and to greatly expand our musician/vocalist roster, and ultimately create an “in-house” band (larger roster of musicians and vocalists means faster turnaround time).

Other key new features of our studio will include a new piano and vintage Wurlitzer organ.  Stay tuned for pictures and exciting updates as we build the new studio!

We are very excited to show you all the new space, so watch for pictures of our progress.  We are also excited to be expanding and will be celebrating the completion of the space with some great deals on our production packages and services!  You can stay updated by reading this blog, Facebook, or Twitter and be the first to see the studio and take advantage of some great savings.

Using Social Media to Promote Your Music

We are witnessing a golden age for independent musicians.  The industry had historically been directed by record labels; putting the careers of musicians and songwriters at the mercy of massive, soulless entities.  Artists are now able to make their music directly available to the public, putting the power in the hands of fans rather than companies.

This can mean fabulous opportunities for aspiring musicians, but it also means a greater saturation of the market.  There are countless online venues for fans to hear and purchase music, but when the listener has so much to choose from, how do you make yours stand out?  Knowing which sites to use and how to make the most of them is the secret to success in the ever-growing online marketplace.

First let’s address the Big Four.

Facebook – If you haven’t already, you need to sign up to create your personal profile and musician fan page.  It’s free and relatively easy to do.  Facebook has over 400 million users worldwide, spending more than 500 billion minutes on Facebook per month.  Pretty impressive.  The site gives you the ability to get your music and your name out to the entirety of this broad-ranging audience.  You can also inform your fans of upcoming shows and releases, interact with them on an individual basis, and offer them exclusive content.  Facebook is also easily integrated with other social media sites.  If you are looking for free and easy sources of online exposure, Facebook is one of the first places to look.

MySpace – Although Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the number one social networking site; MySpace is still a great resource for musicians.  You can make your music readily accessible to anyone online by setting up a Music Profile and uploading your tracks directly through their music player.  You can easily customize your profile, and gather a large fan base, as well as network with other musicians.  MySpace also offers a handy Tour Calendar to show your fans where and when you’ll be playing, and how they can purchase tickets online.

Twitter – Another free online resource, Twitter is a type of microblogging tool mixed with a social networking site.  Fans who are interested in getting your latest news can become your follower on Twitter.  It allows you to send updates, called “tweets”, to your followers, using posts of 140 characters.  You can connect to your fans by letting them know tidbits about your personal life, or give them information on events.

YouTube – A public bank of user-submitted videos.  Using simple software, such as Windows Movie Maker, you can create your own music video using your tracks and images of your choosing.  Create something kitschy or unique, and it could go viral literally overnight.

These guys are massively influential tools that, once mastered, can prove to be successful in helping you to promote yourself.  As an artist/musician/songwriter, you may be looking for more ways for your music to be heard.  There is an ever growing number of resources available to the independent musician; here are 5 tools for the independent musician from Mashable, an online blog specializing in social media.

Going back to the beginning of this article, you may be wondering, with over 400 million users on Facebook, how am I ever going to get my page noticed?  While it can be overwhelming with a lot of clutter and white noise, the fans you’ll need to be successful heavily use these tools.

First of all you need to make sure you have a recognizable and eye catching profile photo, up to date contact information, a way for fans to hear your music, links to your other social media profiles as well as a link to your band/artist website.

Staying active and fresh is huge.  If you aren’t posting on a regular basis, you won’t register on your fans radar.  You need to be posting fresh content at least once a day to keep followers engaged.  Be mindful to keep your posts concise and to the point, but at the same time eye-catching, interesting, and useful.  Fans love to hear about exciting news, events and activities.

In blogger and social media PR extraordinaire Miss Destructo’s post about using social media to your advantage, a key focus is offering content that is only accessible if users become a fan or follow you via social networking sites.  This could be the location of a secret show, a downloadable new track or special remix, web chat or online stream of a live performance.  You could also give fans incentives such as discounts when purchasing tracks or your latest CD.

Keeping your fans engaged is vital to successfully utilizing social media.  It can help them find you and your music without having to go through a long-armed label with a highly targeted audience.  It takes a little bit of effort and upkeep, but if you stay diligent and active, you can make social media, and your fans, work for you.

Copyright and Royalites – How Songwriters Get Paid

My name is Trystan Matthews, owner and founder of Demo My Song. In an effort to better understand copyright law as well as how royalties get paid, I recently did some research on the topic. Here is what I discovered:

Copyright:

Under present copyright law, a work is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is created and exists in a tangible or audible form such as mp3, CD, sheet music etc…

The type of recording needed to copyright your work could be a simple demo of your song or a fully produced studio version. Sheet music is most easily prepared as a “lead sheet” which contains lyrics, melody, and chords all in one.

Not all artists choose to copyright their songs with the U.S. Copyright Office but you are more likely to receive compensation in court should your copyright ever be infringed upon. It costs $45 to register your song with the U.S. Copyright Office but you can register a published collection of songs with one application fee if you are claiming sole ownership of all the songs in the collection.

In cases when a lyric writer and songwriter/producer co-author a song, copyright law dictates that the two writers split the copyright 50/50. While this is a fairly standard split, songwriters and lyricists can split it up however is deemed most appropriate, like say for instance 60/40 and so on… To avoid later confusion with your band members or co-writers, it’s always a good idea to square away these agreements early on.

Publishing:

Publishing royalties are paid to the composer if someone covers, samples, or licenses their song for a movie, television show, or commercial.  David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, refers to publishing rights as a songwriters “pension plan.”  He wrote an interesting article on the topic which can be found here.

Performing Rights:

Performing rights are the right to perform music in public.  Royalties must be paid to the songwriter or copyright holder of a song in exchange for permission for you or your band to perform the piece in a public venue.

Performing rights are also paid to the artist and/or copyright holder when their music is played in public, for example the radio, or in any store-front or restaurant which are required to pay music licensing fees in order to legally play music for their customers.  There has been an interesting development in Spain recently, where store owners are being required to pay similar music licensing fees for the first time ever.  Some business there are even boycotting the radio altogether.  In the U.S. however, business have been required to pay these fees for quite some time.

Mechanical Royalties:

Mechanical royalties go the songwriter anytime a copy of one of his/her songs is made.  This pertains to the physical manufacturing of CDs as well mp3 and electronic distribution.  It is not un-common for the songwriter to share mechanical royalties with his/her band members and occasionally, studio musicians depending on their contractual agreement.

Do I get paid as a musician on a record or album?

Studio musicians or band members who perform on recordings sometimes make money through mechanical royalties (described above) depending on their contractual agreements.  Not to be confused with performing rights royalties, which are paid to the songwriter only, mechanical royalties can be paid to all musicians present on the recording.

Do I get paid as a producer of an album?

The answer depends on the specific contractual agreements set forth by the parties.  A freelance producer is generally paid a flat rate that is agreed upon (and often paid in full) before production begins.  The royalty rate a producer can claim varies on their status in the industry.  A producer can claim royalties at a rate of, none at all, to the industry standard of about 3% to 6% of the PPD (Published Price to Dealer).

A song can also be produced on a “work for hire” basis meaning the producer as well as studio musicians sign away any claim to rights or ownership of the songs regardless of their artistic input.

It is always recommended that contractual agreements be prepared and signed before work on a song begins.

What is the difference between a record label and publisher?

Record labels roles in the industry have been dramatically altered over the past decade as internet sales and peer to peer file sharing have radically changed the way that we buy and listen to music.

Recognizing that the old model for distributing music was no longer viable, record companies are now attempting reinvent themselves and how they do business in a whole new landscape.  The larger record labels have taken a big hit, while some smaller, leaner, and more efficient companies are still thriving as they continue to find more and more ways to re-imagine the industry.

It is a bit unclear what record labels of the future will look like and what they will offer they’re respective artists.  Here is what record labels used to be responsible for:

Funding studio recording sessions
Artist development
Accounting and bookkeeping
Marketing
Manufacturing
Distribution
Loans for expenses such as touring, music videos etc…

A music publisher is an intermediary between songwriters and record companies.  Historically, music publishers assumed copyright ownership of the song and split the royalties with the songwriter.  In exchange the publisher would try to place the songs with recording artists, as well as in movies, television, and advertising.

Publishers also used to help performing artists obtain recording contracts.  While some publishers still take this approach, the advent of hard-disk recording has made producing in general, more economical than ever before, and increasingly, traditional models are giving way to a trend of more self-produced material as well as more professional songs being produced in smaller, project studios.

Self-Producing:

You own the publishing rights to any song you have written.  If you have co-written a song with another songwriter each are entitled to an equal share.  Therefore, you are by definition a publisher the moment your song exists in tangible or audible form like say, for instance, a recording or sheet music.


Welcome to Our Blog

Hello and welcome to the Demo My Song blog. I am Trystan Matthews, the owner and founder of DMS. I began this blog to share some of my knowledge about the music industry and to hopefully learn even more in the process. Please join our email list, or check back for regular updates on helpful topics on things like copyright control,  songwriting, and recording techniques.

Thanks for reading!

Demo My Song Announces Accreditation by the Better Business Bureau!

We are excited to announce that in October, 2009 we were accredited by the Better Business Bureau.


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