Music

Imagine

Fall always reminds me of one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard in my life. It was written by John Lennon. He was born on October 9, 1940 and murdered on December 8, 1980. I bet you have heard the song; it’s a song full of hope and peace.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

imagine John LennonIt’s pretty hard to imagine a world where there is no war, no religion and no politics. Especially as we approach another election and there is more war and hatred in the world than ever. Is it possible Mr. Lennon was right? Is it time to put down our guns and set aside our hatred for one another and surrender to peace? What would our world be like if all of humanity lived in harmony? John Lennon thought it was possible and made peace his mission during the second half of his life, his post Beatles years. He staged two ‘bed ins,’ one in Montreal and one in Amsterdam. They were intended as non-violent protests for peace; a first of their kind which was a very revolutionary form of protesting. The song “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded and filmed with dozens of friends and reporters present that were interested in Lennon’s vision.

How ironic is it that the song “Imagine” was produced by Phil Spector, the creator of ‘the wall of sound’ in dozens of hit records throughout the ’60s and early ’70s, who was later convicted of second degree murder. Even more ironic is that Lennon himself was murdered on his front door step. Was Lennon an impetus for peace but the rest of the world wasn’t getting it?

Imagine has become one of the most recognized songs of all time. It is certainly arguable that it was the best song John Lennon ever wrote. Other artists like Seal, Pink, A Perfect Circle and Joan Baez have covered “Imagine”. It is definitely one of the most emotionally moving songs ever written.

What would our world look like if John Lennon would have his dream come true? Do you think it’s possible for all of humanity to lay down its ego, beliefs and morals so everyone can live in peace? Listen to the words of “Imagine” and let me know your thoughts.

My Beatles Playlist – Fifty Years of Sound Variations

Beatles PlaylistMy friends know how much I love the music of the Beatles. I recently discovered something new that motivated me to write this blog post. In other blog posts, I have written about audio, both analogue and digital. I have also written about the mixing process in studio when making records as well as the mastering process for putting the mixes to vinyl which takes place in a lab.

You should also know that I am a huge fan of alternate mixes and alternate takes of Beatles songs. There was a time when somehow a lot of alternate mixes and takes of various Beatles songs hit the streets. Most of this collection appeared on the Yellow Dog label. I happen to own pretty much every alternate mix and alternate take of every Beatle song. As a result, I get to hear quite a bit of the Beatles song variations. Writing and studio recording variations and alternate takes and versions of these songs.

Recently, Apple Corps Ltd released remastered Beatles albums on compact disc. I just had to make a playlist on my iPod of songs from the alternate mixes and takes combined with the remastered released tracks (songs). The variety of sound fidelity is a carnival for the ears! While listening to this playlist on my premium Sony in car sound system, I realized something that hit me right between the ears. To explain, I must digress.

In the early days, when the Beatles made records, they recorded on a two track reel to reel analogue tape machine. They would record a rhythm track consisting of bass, drums, guitar and vocal most of the time on track one. They would then go back to listen to the rhythm track on track one and record overdubs onto track two. The overdubs would be doubled vocals, lead guitar and some of the time percussion like maracas or tambourine.

For the first couple records, this process worked great. But as the Beatles songs became more complicated, additional tracks were required to record more layers of instruments to the songs. So, Beatles producer George Martin consulted with the audio engineers employed by Apple and they came up with the process of synchronizing a second two track analogue reel to reel tape recorder adding two additional tracks for the Beatles music.

Once the first two tracks were recorded, the Beatles would record two additional tracks of music layers. While recording the second two track or tracks three and four, they would wear headphones to listen to tracks one and two and play while recording tracks three and four. Once the song was finished, the engineer would mix everything together and voila, a new Beatle record.

Then, the Beatles out grew this four track method and incorporated a recording method called ‘bouncing’ which allowed them to actually mix tracks one through three onto track four while recording another live track in the studio. Bouncing is the single most important reason the early released Beatles songs did not sound absolutely amazing. The second reason was because of the vinyl mastering process.

So when audio engineers went back into the Beatle archive to make the current remastered versions of the Beatles records, they took first generations of track one and two reel to reel tapes and laid them off in Pro Tools using a multi track format. You could say they went back to the egg. These earlier generation tapes had much higher sound quality than the mixdown mastered versions because they are originals. Listening to this remastered set of recordings back to back in a playlist is amazing. What a huge improvement in sound quality the remastered music has! Since they used the best microphones, pre amps and other recording equipment when recording their songs, these original tapes sound amazing. The engineers pieced these recordings together using first generation recordings instead of bounced and multi tracked mixdowns.

Now, I do not know for a fact that I have every detail 100% of this process accurate. What I do know is the theory is correct. Listen to the new remastered Beatles music by purchasing the CDs on Amazon. In my opinion, the CDs sound better than the downloads. You will hear what I am trying to communicate. If you have early released audio CDs or even records, compare the mixes and sound quality. It a wonderful experience.

photo credit: The Beatles via photopin (license)

Tom Petty and the Market-Breakers

Tom PettyWhat Tom Petty’s New Album Can Teach Us About Online Marketing

Not many artists can do what Tom Petty has done. Between countless hit singles, sold out tours around the world, and even performing at the Superbowl halftime show, Tom Petty has practically taken the music world by storm during his career. Now, Petty is in the midst of a task not many of his peers are lucky enough to do – reinvent himself with a fresh, new album.

The album, Hypnotic Eye, is very different from any prior, or any created by his peers. Why? Because Tom Petty understands the power of Internet Marketing.

Petty gave a digital download code to every person who bought a ticket to his show for the tour that just began.  If you go to see Tom Petty live, you get a free download of the new album. Not only that, but once you’ve received the album, Petty’s record company sent out emails that allowed fans to share the album with three people of their choosing. This means that a total of four people are able to download the new Tom Petty record, for FREE.

You might be thinking this is a huge loss for Petty. Why would he give away his album when he’s such a big superstar? The answer isn’t in the hypotheticals, the answer truly lies in the results. Between this offer and copious social media promotion, this album marks the first time in history that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers topped the Billboard 100, coming out at number one.

Considering all of the hit music that has come out this year, and the generational gap between Tom Petty and current hit music listeners, coming out number one on the Billboard 100 is a huge accomplishment.

This also becomes a huge testament to “free is the best price.” Offering such an easy medium for people to download your album like this converts into more customers (more ticket sales, more physical album sales, etc), especially considering that every person that received a free copy of the album is given another three. Giving away music like this creates incentive, and that incentive turns into listeners. What is there to lose?

Petty doesn’t have much to lose by giving it away, either. Giving away his album for free may hurt iTunes sales, but there’s a bigger picture. Tom Petty is a household name to many rock ‘n’ roll fans. His seats will be filled so long as there are rock ‘n’ roll fans out there. The exposure to new generations and old, is a huge gain as far as ticket sales and physical album sales are concerned. Taking over social media is a new way for Petty to connect with people; similar to how Weird Al Yankovic promoted his last record. Petty and Yankovic are trying to utilize this new medium to share their products with the world amidst our post-MTV culture, and it’s working. Both Petty and Yankovic understand that the radio, MTV, and the media in general no longer have control of the music industry. In the digital age, the music industry is dictated by us, the listeners. We’re slowly moving out of the world where we’re told what to listen to and into a world where the audience can decide for themselves what they want to hear. Social media is becoming the new music media.

I think the biggest lesson internet marketers can pull from this campaign is that exposure and connection are sometimes more valuable than money. Not only that, but an online presence and subsequent connections can lead to the sales your product deserves. Sometimes it’s not about gaining instant financial gratification; it’s about connecting with people in an easily accessible way.

Petty is definitely onto something here. After countless hit singles and albums over the years, his goal of reaching number one has finally been accomplished. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about a hit radio single or the best video on MTV. It was about providing incentive, accessibility and keeping an open mind about the ever-changing music marketing industry.

As content marketers, we should always keep an open mind to new marketing strategies, as Petty has.

To purchase the album, or to see his upcoming tour dates, visit TomPetty.com 

Watch Tom Petty perform “Forgotten Man on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!

Read more here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/tom-petty-scores-first-number-one-album-in-38-year-career-20140806

Analog to Digital…and Back to Analog

Digital to AnalogThe mastering process used in pressing a vinyl album was complex, and required significant pre-processing, unlike today’s digital media. Due to the physical limitations of the LP format, some additional processing was necessary before and after the cutting of the album to achieve the best sound. The most important part of mastering for vinyl was the RIAA pre- and de-emphasis curve. This was an equalization curve that was applied to the audio as it was cut, and then the exact opposite of that curve would be applied during playback. 

The curve was developed to address two limiting factors: high frequency noise and large cutter excursions during low frequencies. Records tended to have a lot of noise during playback that was concentrated in the higher frequency range. A solution to this was to roll off the high frequencies, but this also took away a lot of the shimmer and natural sound of the audio. To compensate for this, the RIAA curve boosted high frequencies by quite a bit during the cutting of the album. Then on playback, the high frequencies would be rolled off by the same amount they were boosted. This brought the music back to its original sound, and it simultaneously reduced the high frequency noise.

The same process was used for the low-end frequencies. Because lower frequencies have much larger wavelengths, they took up too much space on LP’s as they were cut, reducing the playing time available on each record. To fix this issue, the low frequencies would be rolled off during the recording. Upon playback, the low frequencies would be boosted the same amount they were rolled off, bringing the bass back to its original level. (Imagine a continuous playback equalization curve that is boosted 20 dB at 20 Hz, flat at 1,000 Hz, and attenuated 20 dB at 20,000 Hz.) The RIAA curve became an international, industry standard, ensuring that all records and record players would boost and attenuate audio frequencies appropriately.

While this was a good fix for the aforementioned problems with records, the process of dramatically boosting and cutting frequencies did not help the overall quality of the music. Lucky for us, many of the old recordings that went through this process still exist as original master tape recordings, free of the distortion introduced by applying the RIAA curve during vinyl mastering. Recently, many studios have been releasing “re-mastered” versions of classic music such as the Beatles. For those of us who really appreciate the sound quality of the music we listen to, this is great news; we can now hear some of our favorite bands the way they were originally recorded. 

Interestingly, many modern bands are beginning to release their music in both digital and analog formats. Although technology has improved in the world of cutting and producing LPs, the same principles and processes apply. While most bands will give you a digital download card with your purchase of their record, there still seems to be some sentimental satisfaction in owning a vinyl version of your favorite vintage album.

photo credit: Yeah I know what that button does via photopin (license)

Rare Beatles Recordings and Internet Marketing

rare Beatles recordingsI was recently in Guadalajara filming additional footage for our El Viejito Tequila documentary. While checking my email in my hotel room at the Hilton one evening, I opened an email from the band that I manage, Soulfreee, about dates available for gigging. In the end of the email the musician put a link to a song that he said was very interesting. I almost didn’t click on it, but I’m glad I did because it took me to YouTube to a video titled “Deconstructing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’” I watched the video, which was 17 or so minutes, with all of the isolated music tracks back-to-back. Back when the Beatles were recording the White Album, which is where “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” came from, they were recording with 8-track analog reel-to-reel tape recorders at Abbey Road Studios in London. This was a video that somebody put together isolating those tracks, which I found absolutely fascinating. The video was images of the Beatles that I had never seen before, but what really fascinated me more than anything was how on earth anyone was able to get ahold of those original master recordings to create these videos. I entertained listening to the entire piece in fascination, and at the end of the video YouTube displayed six or seven similar videos. There was “Deconstructing ‘Get Back’”; there was “Deconstructing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ Part 2”; and there was the Eric Clapton isolated guitar part from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which was absolutely incredible. If you’ve ever read the autobiography by Eric Clapton, you would really appreciate that guitar solo—he was the first person outside of the Beatles ever to be asked into a recording session to participate. He was very nervous, and addicted to heroin at the time, but still did an absolutely incredible job making that song a huge hit (not that it wasn’t before). But there was one song in particular, “Deconstructing ‘Sgt. Pepper,’” that’s probably one of the best videos I have ever seen. There’s not a lot of activity in the video – it’s an After Effects plug-in that displays sound wave formation on the screen while the music is playing. There’s a different color sound wave for each of the four tracks because back when “Sgt. Pepper” was recorded, the Beatles were recording on 4-track analog reel-to-reel tape recorders. The first track in the video, as you will see embedded below, is the rhythm track. You can hear two guitar parts, bass and drums, which are the four Beatles playing the song as it was composed. The second track was probably the most thought-out track because it’s a combination of George Harrison’s guitar solos and the French horn ensemble. The third track, probably the most fascinating on the video, is the vocals. They’re isolated vocals and you can hear the headphones bleeding through. When I say “bleeding,” I mean you can hear the rhythm track playing as they listened to it while they were performing their vocals. You can distinctly hear the harmonies that the Beatles were so amazing at, including Ringo’s voice, but Paul’s lead vocal is undoubtedly the most amazing performance he ever gave, on the title track from “Sgt. Pepper.” Track four is sound effects that George Martin, the Beatles producer, added to enhance the song. It’s worth ten minutes of your time to watch this video if you’re at least interested in the Beatles and how they composed their music. It is by far one of the most amazing pieces I’ve ever seen. But here’s what hit me, and I guess what motivated me to post this blog: YouTube has been incredibly controlling, especially lately, of the content and music licensing for the videos that are posted on YouTube. So you have to ask yourself how these people have gotten away with uploading these entire recordings without having the recordings removed because of copyright infringement. Then it hit me. Perhaps Apple Corps., Ltd., which is the name of the Beatles company in London (not to be confused with Apple Computers, although there was a lawsuit at one point—but that’s another blog post) authorized the release of these rare recordings in their entirety in order to create interest from the public to sell more CDs. And now that the Beatles have been on iTunes for well over a year, another purpose may be to generate more downloadable music sales from iTunes. Fascinating – brilliant – incredibly powerful marketing campaign. This is video marketing in its finest form. Unless there’s another reason that I’m not aware of as to why these videos exist, it has got to be an incredibly well thought out and executed video marketing plan in order to sell more music. Take a look at the video below – you will not be disappointed.

This Isn’t Rocket Science

CD DiscBack in the 1960s as Cold War tensions were just heating up, the Soviet Union and the United States were constantly trying to outdo one another in what was known as the space race. In the midst of this competition, the United States spent millions of dollars to invent a pen that would write upside-down. The Soviets sent their cosmonauts into space with a pencil– which was obviously much easier and less costly.

So the United States invented an upside-down space pen and the Soviets sent regular old pencils up into space. The same unnecessary complication holds true for the answer to a question I’m often asked by friends, family and clients: “What do I do with all my old cassette tapes?” Of course, the number one answer seems to be to transfer them to a compact disk so that you can listen to them in a compact disk player. Unfortunately, because of the way time operates for most of us, this never gets done. And our cassette tapes from long ago remain in their cases because we can’t part with them.

After pondering this, I quickly realized that the most logical answer to this question would be to hook up a cassette player to my main stereo system and find one of the hand-held cassette players I have had in storage for years so that I can listen to my cassette tapes when and where I want. The portable system even has a headphone jack so that I can listen to my cassette tapes with my headphones if I choose to. Now, the one that’s hooked up to my own stereo system is a pretty nice older Marantz that I’ve had for many years. It has some different settings for noise reduction so no matter how the tape was recorded, there are some options for optimum playback listening quality. This would be a great alternative to listening to a portable cassette tape in your car: instead you could listen to it in the comfort of your own home. If you’ve lost or misplaced your own personal cassette player, the Salvation Army is a great place to pick one up at a fraction of the cost.

I find it interesting that sometimes the most obvious answers are right under our fingertips and are often the easiest solutions to some of our biggest problems. For a long time, I spent hours and hours loading some of my motivational cassette recordings into my computer and authoring CDs. I thought that would be easier because CDs had become one of the easiest means to listening to audio recordings.

But now, technology lives pretty much everywhere and it’s constantly being reinvented and innovated each and every day—even with record albums. I can impress my kids sometimes because some of the artwork on some of the earlier music cassettes is pretty cool and the same holds true for record albums. Instead of transferring records and turning them into CD’s, why not listen to them on record players? Record players are being reinvented and are available almost anywhere on the Internet in places like eBay and Amazon. They now have a USB connection so the record player plugs into a USB port so you can load them into your computer or you can play them and listen through the provided speakers that come with many of the other models. In short, as quickly as technology is advancing, it can also become useful when applied properly to life’s everyday challenges regardless of how modern a piece of technology is.

There’s More Than One Eagle at the Toledo Zoo

eaglesThis is a follow up to an earlier post that I wrote about Joe Walsh performing at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater. The concert was last night, and even though the drive was about ninety minutes each way, it was worth every bit of effort to go see Joe Walsh perform live in Toledo. He played every song and then some that had become forgotten as well as some that I had even forgotten that were popular title tracks from movies. I recently saw the movie, “Grown Ups” which had a Joe Walsh song titled, “A Life of Illusion” and that reminded me of Joe Walsh’s library. So oddly enough, before I saw the ad on Facebook for his performance at the Toledo Zoo, I had restocked my Joe Walsh archive and went through one of those musical phases that we all go through throughout our lives: I dove into his library and listened to those songs that I used to listen to back in high school. He played every one of them last night and even in between the songs, his wit and sense of humor took the show up to another level. I always love it when you go to a concert and the performer takes time out to talk to the crowd. Joe Walsh is probably one of the most genuine entertainers. He made us laugh in between songs and very effortlessly and genuinely told us stories. He came out and he had such a “matter of fact” personality.

His new album, “Analog Man” is featured on his website and is his first music project in twenty years. The video for “Wrecking Ball” is an edit of a life performance. I love the song, especially the lyrics. As he explained at the concert last night, the name “Analog Man” is about the fact that we live in a digital society walking around looking at our smart phones, texting, tweeting and emailing without enjoying the moment. The title “Analog Man” has to do with detaching yourself from the Internet craziness of living in a virtual world and— to use his phrasing—living a life of illusion.

I’ve posted a few photos below for your enjoyment. If he comes to your town, I highly recommend that you purchase a ticket to go see Joe Walsh—former Eagle, James Gang Band member founder and soloist.

 

Joe Walsh at the Toledo Zoo

the eagles toledo zooLast week I was on facebook for a moment when I noticed an ad for Joe Walsh at the Toledo zoo amphitheatre. I thought it was kind of strange because it didn’t make sense when I first saw the ad, so I clicked on it. I’ve noticed a lot of Facebook ads popping up lately on the few occasions that I visit Facebook, but this one really caught me because I absolutely love Joe Walsh.

A quote from one of his songs that I personally love goes, “Spent the last year Rocky Mountain Way, couldn’t get much higher. Look out John Denver.” Joe Walsh is also big part of my childhood because after listening to the James Gang for so many evenings and at so many parties during high school, I gradually fell in love with his music.  Then his solo career was a blockbuster with “Rocky Mountain Way” and after the Eagles connected with him, this took that already successful band to another level. Now as I look back at Joe Walsh’s career I’m absolutely impressed with his expertise and eloquence with the way he writes and composes music.

One thing in particular, though, that I didn’t know about Joe Walsh was that he lost his young daughter in a car accident and he composed a song  for her, which was similar to what Eric Clapton did with “Tears In Heaven.” In my opinion, when a songwriter can use their craft like Joe Walsh did to work though a major tragedy in their life, my respect for them increases tenfold.

Continuing on with Joe Walsh’s history, he completed his career with the Eagles and then took some time off for himself. I remember this because the first time I ever saw him in concert was with the Ringo Star All Star Band, which is composed of many performances of different musicians who had been in retirement and had come back again. Joe Walsh absolutely kicked ass with the rest of Ringo’s band.

When I saw this ad on Facebook and clicked on it, I was taken to Ticketmaster which gave me the opportunity to search for tickets. I then called a friend of mine who always goes to see shows of this nature with me. He also thought it would be awesome to go to the show. I clicked the best two tickets available and up popped some incredible seats. I thought this surely this had to be a mistake, and as I followed though the purchasing process I realized that the ad must have just come on Facebook. It was all very serendipitous and we ended up getting two front row seats to go see Joe Walsh at the Toledo zoo amphitheatre.

In a way it’s kind of sad that such a legendary talent has to resort to playing at such a bizarre location. I’m sure there was a reason behind it that might become clear between now and May 31st when I go to the concert. But initially, it’s a very strange situation. Now it looks like it’s outdoors, so it’s rain or shine and there’s probably some kind of an overhang above at least part of the pavilion seats. I have to admit, I’ve never been to the Toledo zoo before, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it so this is going to be an interesting experience. I might even go early and take in some animal viewing before we go to the rock show that night.