Mixing desk basics: Routing

Routing signals within a desk refers to the designated signal path running through the desk. All mixing desks have a preset route and routing options within the channel strip.

 

An input signal comes in to the mixing desk via the channel input, through an insert point and runs vertically downwards from there on out. In the specific example of the Soundcraft LIVE 8, as is present in The Sue Townsend theatre, the signal first runs through the a phase reverse switch and a gain pot and then to a 100Hz High pass/ Low cut filter. A filter used to removed unwanted low end from sounds. From this filter the signal then has the option to pass through an EQ consisting of four bands – A high shelf, two sweepable bells and a low shelf. The EQ is enabled via a switch. From this point the signal runs through 6 auxiliary sends, controlled by pots, which allows us to split the signal path and send it to a desired destination. This may be used to send to an effects rack, which would then return in to a new channel. Two of these sends are pre-fader, two switchable and two post fader – this differs between desks. The signal then runs through ‘MIX’ (sometimes L+R) and group switches, which are used to designate a signal to the main mix or group channels together. Most commonly used to collate instruments of the same type to a bus mix, to make adjustment more practical in a live scenario. From this point the signal proceeds to run through a mute button (function self explanatory). And then to mute groups. When a mute group is enabled on a channel strip, master mute control is to an button external of the channel strip, making it possible to mute multiple tracks at the same time. Just before the fader is a PFL button. This pulls the signal from the main mix allowing the engineer to monitor the signal before patching it through to the main mix.

Current Music Trends

The music industry has changed drastically over recent years with its profits ebbing from the from the great heights in which they once stood. The music industry peaked in 1999 with an income of 28.6 billion US dollars, whilst 2016 only managed 16.1 billion dollars. Only in very recent years has the decline been subverted. The decline is widely believed to be result of the Internet. Introduction of peer to peer sharing networks such as Napster and the beginning of illegal torrent sharing provided the rest on which the bullet of dystopia was discharged. Regardless, the way in which we consume music in modern times is hugely different that of our not so distant past selves. As a result of which, the music industry has succumbed to a sudden metamorphosis. One which has reshaped the approach taken by all within.

We as human beings lean towards that which is most convenient, a fact that industries have been exploiting have been since the conception of commercialised technology. Convenience sells. So why would the delivery format of music be any different? Since the introduction of vinyl to the gramophone, every technological innovation within the audience addressing department of music has been convenience inspired; until Apple released wireless earphones. Any how, this is a climb to which we seem to have reached a pinnacle, instant access to any recorded song at the tap of a finger, streamed directly at a satisfactory audio quality. All of these innovations are of course product of the competition within the media and technology driven society in which we exist. In modern times, it is safe to assume that the average music consumer no longer buys the majority of their music on physical formats. With physical sales making up only 34% of income in 2016. Digital formats first overtook their predecessor in 2014 according to Statista. The graph below depicts sales income from records sold between 2005 and 2015 and the first sign of improvement since the beginning of the decline. The term digital

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in this example is a blanket term applied to all types of digital format. This rise is product of the streaming revolution, the now predominant form of music consumption. Streaming is up on a worldwide scale by 60.4%. 100 million subscribers contributed an offset of 20.5% of all digital revenues in 2016, so one may assume that streaming is a wholly positive contribution to the industry. The financial times states “it looks as though the internet may resurrect the business it almost killed.” But then continues to suggest that only the higher tiers of the industry are currently benefitting. Spotify for example pays around £0.0048 per stream, a figure that cannot provide substantial enough return for smaller independent labels. Below is an excerpt of a Spotify pay receipt with streams amounting to 1,023,501. This amount of plays made an undivided income of  $4,955.90. To see full payment receipt see: FULL RECEIPT AND ARTICLE.

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However, the opposing argument of such a thought would be that in the modern age the production costs of music are at an all time low. An extreme example of this low production rate is an artist called Steve Lacy who produces music on his smartphone using Garageband and an iRig. An Artist whom has proceeded to work with big artists such as Kendrick Lamar. Along with this, the difficulty of self promotion has reduced with social media providing a convenient platform and business models such as fan funding creating possibilities for emerging artists, it appears the necessity of a gatekeeper lessens by the day. However the big money in streaming still relies on making your way on to featured playlists or other such big company promotion.

 

The recording sector isn’t the only department resisting turmoil. Whilst the live music sector is thriving financially (rising from 26.9 to 42.9 billion between 2015 and 2016), the figures are offset by the rise in ticket prices and by the increase of income in the large concert area. Of course the audience is growing also but this conglomerate mentality that consumes the music industry is having a heavy impact on the development of new talent and emerging artists. Large building development corporations are forcing good independent venues out of business. A good independent venue adds to the culture of its surroundings and helps the urban eco system. Providing a platform, or a stepping stone if you will to aspiring creatives, the small independent venue is key to the figurative ontogenesis of urban culture in the UK. The rise in demand for expensive inner city accommodation threatens these venues the most. Once the flats are inhabited, occupants tend to find the noise less than satisfactory, filing complaints, forcing closure and opening a door to prime real estate within a busy city centre, which may then be bought by a company very reminiscent of the first, who then convert to more flats. Seems like a fair system, right? According to The Guardian, The Point in Cardiff suffered this death: “The Point in Cardiff: they installed £68,000 worth of acoustic baffling to stop the complaints from a new development, and servicing the loan put them out of business. These little things just build up.”  Many iconic venues have perished in recent years such as The Roadhouse is Manchester, Madame Jojo’s and The Astoria in London; not only down to corporation but other side effects of the modern world such as the increasingly high rent and overly punctilious licensing scrutiny. Many others such as the 100 Club and the Tunbridge Wells Forum are also considered to be at risk.

Many industry innovators are implementing new techniques to keep the market engaged. Such as the Biffy Clyro track released alongside the Samsung Virtual Reality advert campaign, with a VR experience music video. Other live performance bands such as Kasabian have also found a way to exploit this new technology, charging their audience to view a 360 VR live recording of their concert. This type of innovation increases the profit margins within the music industry, allows those who cannot attend live to enjoy the music and the gimmicky aspect engages the less active end of the viewer fanbase.

For the industry to thrive it must fall to the feet of its audience and asks that their appreciation for music is reflected in their contribution towards it and to the artists that create are made able to keep on doing so. This may seem a colossal task in the modern era when every occupant of western civilisation is over exposed to media, so there is very little point seen in appreciation, but schemes are underway that could provide the solution. Methods such as crowd funding are becoming ever more popular and could provide the necessary components to fuel future creation. Within the idea, the artists make request of their audience to fund projects. Companies Such as Indiegogo, Patreon and Kickstarter provide such a service. These are essentially forums in which the artists are able to make their request. The costs taken by the companies are mostly claimed to be running fees and tend to be a very small percentage, making it a stable platform for emerging talent.

Whilst the music industry on a whole is on a rise in the UK with profits “outperforming the UK economy over the past four years” according to ukmusic.org, the main question lies in sustainability and what is to happen in the future. With the creative petri dish of the small venue dwindling and the sentimentality and appreciation of the physical format inert, can streaming do enough to support the mammoth industry or will technological innovation take precedence once again? Fortunately music is one of those things pursued with a passion and love, and a song will always be sung, but the measures taken to ensure the industry survives must bow to the media immersed modern world and the audience that expects no exertion of effort.

 

 

 

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/istudents/small-music-venues-in-the-uk-are-under-threat-and-we-need-to-do-something-drastic-about-it-a6825456.html

http://www.ukmusic.org/research/measuring-music-2016/

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/05/26/band-1-million-spotify-streams-royalties/

https://www.ft.com/content/cd99b95e-d8ba-11e6-944b-e7eb37a6aa8e

http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/musician-tips/which-crowdfunding-platform-is-best-for-musicians/

The Publishing Sector (draft)

What are publishers responsible for? The publishing sector, in an elemental sense, faces the task of commercially exploiting musical compositions. Whilst Record Label Companies exploit the physical recording  of a song, a publisher will set to promoting it’s intellectual content. This is the main role of a publisher, they are given permission by artists to license music on their behalf.

How does it work?

In times long lost, it was common for artists to sell sole rights of their compositions to labels for a set fee. This means that all royalties earned, whether they be mechanical or transcribed sheet music, are owned outright by the label. Time proved this to be an unstable model and in the 1960’s and early 70’s artists, armed with their lawyers, spurred the true development of the modern publishing sector, setting the industry standard model that we know. The law states “Any user of music that publicly performs a song must secure a license and pay a royalty to do so”. Publishing companies use collection societies to obtain these royalties, which are then split, (in an industry standard contract) ranging from 50:50 to 25:75 favouring the artist. This ratio will be negotiated by either party based on many variables including but not limited to: brand prestige, expected monetary returns and the artists history. Once the contract is signed, like the artist, the publishing company drives to increase the success of the artist. The way in which they achieve this varies on the type of company.

Much like record labels, publishers are defined by the following categories: Major, Mini-Major and independent. Whilst the key role takes no falter between each company, the methods implemented by each vary slightly. Larger companies have a wealth unmatched by the smaller companies and are therefore more affluent in their pursuit of return. However smaller companies offer larger percentages in favour of the artist. This is down to the roles adopted by each company. Smaller companies are typically associated with less legwork because they offer a smaller cut, these are commonly assumed to be of more use to smaller artists, the ones that wouldn’t necessarily benefit from the extra running around. and vice-versa for larger pop artists- legwork means securing larger deals, achieving more exposure.

In the modern world, one enveloped by media, there are many different types of royalty attainable in the eyes of the music publisher. All of these fall down to copyright and are responsible for paying what is owed for the use of intellectual content. These royalty types are:

Public Performance Royalties

This is the most well know type of royalty. The one that springs to mind when the word is mentioned. However publishers do not mind themselves with the recording of the song. Instead the content of it, the composition – not the recording! Collection societies collect public performance royalties from radio, television and other users of music- i.e nightclubs and concert halls. This type of royalty will be due whenever the song is played in a   Last year in the US ASCAP and BMI, the two largest “PROs”, collected approximately one billion dollars each.

Mechanical Royalties

Mechanical royalties are the monies that songwriters earn from the inclusion of their songs on records.  The rate is set by a court of justice, specialised in the area, called the Copyright Royalty Board. The current average rate in the US is 9.1 cents per copy of each record sold (unless the song exceeds 5 minutes, in which case the 1.75 cents for every minute thereafter.

Sync Fees

A sync fee refers to the synchronisation of a musical composition in a media work such as a movie, TV show, advert or video game.  Sync fees vary depending on the nature of the song. To provide an example, an already successful pop song has the potential to gain over 6 figures appearing on an advert, whilst independent songwriters may only earn a few hundred pounds for their compositions to appear. Not only is there benefit of monetary reward but composers gain further exposure.

Sheet music

Sheet music used to be the primary source of publishing income however development has seen it become the opposite. Although publishers still process all forms of sheet music, both physical and digital.

 

 

Like much of the music industry, income within the publishing sector has declined significantly over recent years. According to Billboard.com Sony Music’s publishing sector alone fell 12.6 percent to $152 million (¥15.65 billion) from $174 million (¥17.844 billion as of June 30th 2016.

 

Record Labels: their roles and how they’ve changed

Over recent years the music industry, in general, has received a mass overhaul – in answer to socio-technological developments, with the standard methods of promoting, performing and commercialising being rethought.  With recent development of media sharing, digital formats and social networking, record labels would be forced inert if they were unable to evolve. But how have they approached this challenge?

 

Roles of a Label

Let’s start with the fundamental roles of a Record Label. A record label, regardless of status is in place to support artists in the creation of their work and exploit profitable characteristics in return. This model translates to many modes of practice, ranging from investment to artist development, but in essence a record label is responsible for selling the artist.

Investment-

Investing in an artist, is one of the major functions of a record label. Labels tend to have access to a world of dream worthy resources, that artists do not. The label parts ways with money to support the artist in living, writing, recording and overall creation, in return the artist will provide a pre-agreed amount of musical content and argo profit (usually in the form of a percentage of income). Via deduction it is easy to assume that larger labels are able to perform this task with more affluence: paying for better studio work and bigger promotion. But all record labels, one would assume, are willing to pay a little for the development of their product. According to IFPI, in America last year, a huge 27 percent of Major Label revenues were represented by investment in to Artist and Repertoire.

Development- 

Development refers to both business development and artist development. Business development is the act of seeking out new opportunities, markets and creating new partnerships. This happens in many different forms. One of the more explicit ways that labels boost the fan base of the artist is by linking them to artists of similar genres. Organising events in which the artists perform together or record tracks, allows the pre-fabricated fan base of the established artists to transgress into the base of the upcoming.

Marketing-

According to BPI inside a record Label marketing is “the department of the record label responsible for the promotion and general exploitation of an artist’s output.” This essentially means that they are responsible for making the most money they can out of a product outside of its production. Pre internet revolution and rise in availability of technology this would have consisted of billboard promotion, radio plays, magazine spreads, interviews and anything that could potentially broaden the labels pot of gold.

How have they adapted?

Now, in recent years this model has been questioned and remoulded. With the introduction of social media and mass use of the internet, not to mention the price drop in technology, the pre-assumed gatekeeper role of the record company is dispersed. Recording equipment is so easy to come by; distribution sits in the click of a web browser; promotion need look no further than social media – the problems faced by record labels. New methods are needed as profits of record sales have taken a staggering drop alongside the development of technology. To amend this even playing field, record labels introduced the notion of an artist becoming THE product. 360 deals allow the label a return on every aspect of the artists persona: live music, merchandise, record sales, etc. This exploits modern societies disposition toward media immersion, realising that our obsession with celebrity culture could be manipulated and exploited. For example Taylor Swift, who boasts a massive 83.1 million followers on twitter sells on average per head 17 dollars of merchandise, per concert. Seeing that her recent 1989 tour sold an astounding 771,460 tickets thats a fair return on cheaply manufactured t shirts.

For more see: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6655958/taylor-swift-1989-tour-earnings

It’s not necessarily all restructure and rebuild! Some of the many marvels of technology that battle against the growth of the music industry, aren’t necessarily all bad. Whilst self production and distribution has given the modern listener a huge pile of mediocrity to sieve through, it also provides a new method of scouting for record labels and a new method for scouting work. This is clearly positive for aspiring artists too, however the skin that covers the metaphoric custard that is an artists journey to a recording contract, isn’t necessarily made thinner. If anything, having to battle alongside thousands of artists makes the progression harder for artist. However from an A and R point of view, life is easier. Social media and media sharing have made it possible for A and R representatives to sit through as much new music as they can stomach. Band camp for example, provides a platform from which artists can sell themselves, more easily than ever, to scouting agents. Alongside this huge growth of self produced artists, recording studios are also becoming cheaper, meaning live bands with little knowledge of technology are able to begin their journey. A possible downside of all of this growth and progression is that a lot of talent may go undiscovered, because of the veils of mediocrity layered above it.

Labels have effectively been forced to expand and find new points of sale for artists, whilst carrying out all jobs that one would assume they would, they have to remain superior to methods of self release. As it stands aiming to sign to a record label is still a target aspiration for the majority of music artists and this is because of their ability to provide, nurture and exploit. This ability, mixed with experience and knowledge gained over years, I believe, will forever set labels ahead of endeavours lacking them.