The art of the matter
Precision, quality, sophistication: Talking all things audio with d&b audiotechnik CEO Amnon Harman
Live depends on us “The functionality and the sound quality are outstanding” Steve Corr, Niavac, - FOH Engineer Peace Proms Tour
Perfecting The Art of Live Sound #43426 - PM Steve Corr PSNE Strip.indd 1
P3 APRIL 2020 www.psneurope.com • Twitter.com/PSNEurope • Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope • Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble firstname.lastname@example.org • +44 (0)203 871 7371 Senior Staff Writer: Fiona Hope McDowall email@example.com • +44 (0)798 3168221
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ADVERTISING SALES Account director: Steven Pyatt firstname.lastname@example.org • +44 (0)1225 687713 MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, Content Chris Convey Brand Director Simon Lodge UK CRO Zack Sullivan Commercial Director Clare Dove Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to www.psneurope.com/subscribe-to-newsletters-digital-editions faqs or email email@example.com ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU.com. Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please email firstname.lastname@example.org LICENSING/REPRINTS/PERMISSIONS PSNE is available for licensing. Contact the Licensing team to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of Print Licensing Rachel Shaw email@example.com Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN number 0269-4735 (print) © 2019
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othing about the world feels familiar at the moment. Whether it’s the way we go about our work, interacting with friends and family, or conducting even the most mundane of chores, there’s a queasy uneasiness in every action. Even the job of writing this welcome note feels oddly discomfiting. The global spread of the coronavirus has taken the framework that upheld so much of people’s professional and personal lives and fundamentally dismantled it, leaving nothing but mounting uncertainty and an ocean-wide chasm where the future once lay. And for those in the pro audio industry the effects are acute, as the widespread cancellation of major tours and events poses serious implications for touring crew, engineers, performers and all involved. What’s clear, though, and has been demonstrated time and again by this industry, is that it is one of the most resilient businesses on earth. So many of the conversations I had at ISE back in February, before Europe started to comprehend the full force of what was about to hit, were based around the determination of the audio community to absorb
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief ﬁnancial oﬃcer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
whatever adversity may come its way and not only survive, but thrive. And it is that resilience and togetherness that everyone in this industry must draw on now and for the months ahead. From rental firms, distributors and manufacturers, to studios, engineers, crew and us in the media, we must do everything in our power to support each other and communicate clearly with one another. We may be existing largely in isolation at the moment, but we need to be speaking more now than ever before. None of us has ever experienced a challenge like this, so dialogue has to be clear and constant; the more we know about how we can help each other, the better off we’ll all be. I’m determined to make sure this message doesn’t descend into an elongated play on the ‘keep calm and carry on’ tawdriness, so I’ll wrap up on the subject of the c-word now, but please, be kind, be supportive and be together, even if it can’t be in person. And remember, however long it takes, this will pass, and when it does, the appetite for live shows, music culture and nights out will be more ferocious than ever. Onwards.
P4 APRIL 2020
In this issue... People P9
Jobs Find out who’s moved where over the past month in pro audio
P13 Amnon Harman We talk business strategy and look to a busy year ahead with the d&b audiotechnik CEO
P6 JAMES GORDON THE DIGICO MD TALKS AUDIOTONIX AND THE ART OF ACQUISITION
Report P18 Dramatic license Phil Ward talks to some of the most prominent sound designers in the theatre world to find out how rapidly evolving technology is forcing the sector to rethink its approach to sound
Interviews P28 Fab Dupont The multi-talented producer and musician discusses the art of great sound
P26 ABBEY ROAD ASKS
P40 Pamela McCormick The Urban Development founder looks back on over two years of creating opportunities for urban music artists and producers, and explains why the organisation is needed now more than ever
HOW MUSIC AND TECH ARE SHAPING ONE ANOTHER
P45 ISE IN REVIEW THE BIZ GIVES ITS VERDICT ON THE SHOW’S FINAL OUTING AT THE RAI
DiGiCo managing director James Gordon
A tonic for the troops Enlightened acquisition is at the heart of the Audiotonix group, discovers Phil Wardâ€Ś www.psneurope.com
P7 APRIL 2020
he Audiotonix website has come in leaps and bounds. Well, all it had to do was add one paragraph and that would have been a Greg Rutherford-sized long jump. Its original, unfinished brevity, as reported in PSNEurope two years ago, accidentally gave a true impression of the backroom nature of the holding company and the independent spirit of each of the brands held: Allen & Heath, ‘mixing for live, installed sound & DJ’; Calrec, ‘putting sound in the picture’; DiGiCo, ‘live mixing consoles: own the room’; DiGiGrid, ‘audio processing & networking solutions’; Group One Limited, ‘US pro audio & lighting distribution’; KLANG:technologies, ‘immersive & personal in-ear monitoring’; and Solid State Logic, ‘iconic consoles for studio, live & broadcast’. Enough to own any room, or outside space. All of these brands still operate as separate entities, but the group mentality has evolved, and an overall strategy has emerged with stated concentration on technology leadership, customer focus and ‘a passion for the industry’ – all underpinned by what is now clearly demarcated as “a Group-led R&D and production strategy”. Meanwhile, next-phase investment has been secured from global private investment house Ardian, adding to ongoing support from European private equity firm Astorg and propelling Audiotonix from the company of businesses in a portfolio worth €4 billion to one worth US $90 billion. Even Greg Rutherford would have to stretch for that one. Motherboard There’s also a new chairman: Simon Downing, an IT veteran who built up a major software services company from launch to £1 billion via three private equity buyouts, and who continues to serve on the board of that plus three other organisations in SAP, property and investment. So it may be, as DiGiCo managing director James Gordon states, that Audiotonix in itself is of no particular interest to the customers of those individual brands, but its marketing presence is now considerably more than it was. For Gordon, though, the new web-washed Audiotonix is still less than the sum of its parts. “We’ve never pursued the philosophy of buying a company to show off,” he says, “by acquiring it and then having its brand identity taken away. Each of the brands stands proud on its own. They deserve to be supported properly, and Audiotonix is the vehicle that allows all of us to be the independent companies we want to be.” DiGiCo has held private equity investment since 2007, but this has grown with the advent of Audiotonix. “We undergo a change, or expansion, about every three years,” continues Gordon. “Astorg first invested in 2017, and we’ve recently agreed the deal with Ardian in addition to that. Each partner has an investment phase, and for us it means we can grow each brand organically, especially in terms of R&D, or grow in terms of acquisitions of those companies we think we can help – or who can help us. “What tends to happen is that after three years, significant things have been achieved, and it’s a logical time for somebody else to come in and help you go to the next stage. Normally, the existing investor maintains a small share and the new backer steps in and takes the rest alongside management and staff shareholders, of which there are a few – and that’s exactly what’s happened this time. Astorg is reinvesting alongside us as management, while Ardian has become the main stakeholder.” The grouping of audio brands remains firmly electronics-based, as opposed to syphoning transducer-level acoustics or power amplification into the cocktail, but the last two additions represent something of a departure from the homeland of the mixing console. Firstly, there is the immersive in-ear monitoring (I-IEM) pioneer KLANG:technologies. “It’s not electro-acoustics,” points out Gordon, “it’s processing. One of the things we’ve been able to help KLANG with is to take their original combination of technology – a DSP chip, an FPGA and an ARM device – and integrate all of it into one FPGA. It is a similar expertise to ours: audio processing; its positioning; and its control via a user interface. That’s very close to what we do.” Five-year old KLANG:technologies sprang from acousticians and electrical engineers from the Institute of Technical Acoustics at Aachen University in Germany, and takes IEM into the realms of immersive audio. On stage, it supplies musicians
with an ‘acoustic virtual reality’ and the technology has been on DiGiCo’s radar for some time: technical director John Stadius and his team integrated its control with the SD Series in 2017. It consists of processor and Dante-enabled amplifier components that work with conventional ear buds: KLANG:quelle (source) is the amplifier; KLANG:fabrik (factory) is the processor; KLANG:vier is a four-channel version; and KLANG:app is the remote control. When HD Pro Audio’s Andy Huffer first brought it to the UK, he stated: “KLANG:technologies’ 3D IEM processing has the potential to be the next major step in the evolution of stage monitoring.” Speaker connection Audiotonix’s current aversion to the full ownership of electro-acoustic components, whether in business or technology terms, by no means implies any lack of commitment to meaningful cooperation with the leading protagonists. Setting aside the detail that some independent developers of immersive audio for FOH systems could also be considered more processing than acoustics, for now the final output stage remains a matter of joint matriculation rather than marriage. “We partner with speaker companies,” confirms Gordon, “and across the group there are many different associations. DiGiCo has worked closely with L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik, Meyer Sound, Adamson, Coda Audio… we’ve done something with all of them. We have also spoken with Astro Spatial Audio, for example, about how we could do more with them in terms of control – in just the same way as we do with L-Acoustics, d&b and the others. On the other hand, KLANG is much more involved in the world of the monitor engineer and the quality of the mix they can give their artists on stage. It’s all about the DSP that allows them to do that.” KLANG resonated with the Audiotonix leaders because it has the same pioneering spirit that kick-started DiGiCo when digital consoles were just a twinkle in Bob Doyle’s eye. Other brands in the group were considerably more established and, as such, were a little more daunting. “When we made our first acquisition we were very nervous,” Gordon admits. “We knew our own business very well, but when you walk into somebody else’s territory – and you believe they value it just as much as you value your own – you should be nervous, and you have to be respectful. “It helped that we were going into something that was familiar to us. We know mixing consoles, that side of it was easy for us to grasp. But we still had to learn all the rules of acquisition, and how to make sure you get the best from people and you don’t make them feel like you’re taking over in some dictatorial way. I think we did that side of it pretty well, too. As you get more experienced in these processes, you get more comfortable with going through them in other places – and that helped at KLANG.” Then there’s Group One Limited, the New York-based distributor already closely associated with DiGiCo and a very different proposition for Audiotonix. Since becoming part of the group, Group One has quite naturally added Calrec and SSL to its own portfolio, joining KLANG, Avolites, Blue Sky monitors and the established pairing of MC2 Audio and XTA Processing. According to Gordon, the addition of Group One to the Audiotonix team was a more organic evolution. “I’ve personally worked with Jack [Kelly, Group One CEO] for many years,” he states, “and he’s been instrumental in developing many of our key brands in the US. Having strong partners like Group One, and the team at AM&S who manage distribution of the Allen & Heath product lines, is fundamental to providing ‘on the ground’ operational and dedicated sales support in North America.” Gordon describes the acquisition of KLANG as a ‘quarter-step’ away from the mixer business, implying that speaker and microphone companies would represent a whole step if they became part of Audiotonix. Clearly the group is cautiously building not only its portfolio but its experience as a holding company, even if for now they mostly operate within the same product bracket. The sense of philanthropy is palpable, and with more mileage on the clock the Audiotonix model is sure to pick up more willing passengers. “It’s not an aspiration of Audiotonix to have a microphone company and a speaker company, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility in the next 10 years,” reflects Gordon. “10 years is a long time…” n
P9 APRIL 2020
Movers and shakers
"I have grown up around Point Source and have seen the work and effort that it takes to make the reputation it has today": Mitchell Ho
Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio industry...
Point Source Audio makes three new hires THE three new additions were made across the education and customer service teams. Joe Cota has joined the pro audio manufacturer as customer education specialist, while Justin Hall has become key account manager and Mitchell Ho has been named account manager, Western US. James Lamb, president at Point Source Audio, said: “We are delighted to welcome these three to our PSA family. When we hire, we look less for their direct industry experience and more to see if they have the right personality to fit with our company’s customercentric focus. Joe, Justin and Mitchell all have this in abundance and will be a real asset to our customers as well as the company.”
WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME THESE THREE TO OUR PSA FAMILY. JOE, JUSTIN AND MITCHELL WILL BE A REAL ASSET TO OUR CUSTOMERS, AS WELL AS THE COMPANY JAMES LAMB, PRESIDENT, POINT SOURCE AUDIO
"I'm a professional singer and musician by trade so I can relate to many of the challenges our customers face out in the field": Joe Cota
"I have serviced customers, managed projects and dealt with international distributors for a great deal of my career": Justin Hall
Focusrite hires Greg
Grand Central Recording
Sennheiser hires Sarmad Riaz
Westall as director
Studios promotes Aaron Taffel
as new business development
to senior sound designer
manager for Pakistan
GREG Westall is now director of product for Focusrite, Focusrite Pro, Novation and Ampify. Westall has a strong reputation in the MI and pro audio industry, having helped grow many leading brands, including Line 6 and Universal Audio. Westall will be relocating to the United Kingdom and working out of the company’s two offices located in High Wycombe and Tileyard in central London. Westall said: “Working with such an amazing team of product managers and developers at Focusrite is a once in a career opportunity. I’m thrilled to help shape the next generation of products at the company that’s already defining the future of music creation and professional audio.” Tim Carroll, CEO of Focusrite, said: "Greg’s deep industry knowledge, leadership ability and personal style is a great fit for Focusrite, and we are all very excited to have him on board.”
AARON Taffel has worked at GCRS for seven years and has sound designed for many high-profile clients, including Sky Cinema, Nike, Heineken, FIFA, PlayStation, Jaguar and Friends of the Earth. His work has also won multiple awards. Taffel said: “My biggest learning has probably been how integral sound design is to the storytelling of moving picture, whether that’s a short ad spot to a feature film. There is some exciting work taking place at GCRS and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my craft in one of the best facilities in Europe.” Managing director of GCRS, Carole Humphrey, added: “We’re really proud of how Aaron has developed both his sound design and mixing skills. He has some great and varied work and is sought out by discerning directors and creatives alike who admire his passion for his craft. Anyone who hasn’t worked with him yet doesn’t know what they’re missing.”
IN his new role, Sarmad Riaz will look to expand Sennheiser’s market share in Pakistan’s pro audio segment while strengthening its channel and expanding its network of professional AV resellers. Following an internal restructuring, Sennheiser now includes Pakistan within the remit of its Middle East sales organisation. The company has an especially well-established customer base in the broadcast sector in Pakistan. A broadcast and AV industry veteran of over 15 years, Riaz started his career as a sales engineer at Media Links Pakistan. Riaz said: “Sennheiser is widely recognised by TV channels and broadcasters in Pakistan as the market leader. I am excited to join the company and it is my intention to further strengthen its leadership position whilst working closely with the channel to introduce the latest pro audio technologies to this key market.”
P11 APRIL 2020
NEXT GENERATION STUDIO SPOTLIGHT PSNEurope's Next Generation programme, in association with Genelec, will shine a spotlight on the most exciting emerging talent in the studio sector...
SNEurope is delighted to announce the launch of its Next Generation studio spotlight, in association with Genelec – a brand new initiative that will shine a spotlight on the most exciting emerging talent from the studio sector. As part of our ongoing commitment to championing and supporting the future of the studio sector, PSNEurope is compiling a rundown of some of the most potent breakthrough talent, encompassing producers, mix engineers and mastering engineers. Spanning the full spectrum of styles, genres and budgets, our aim is to profile the incredible, often unsung, work being carried out behind the desk across the industry. The Next Generation list will be presented in the form of a print supplement included in the May edition of PSNEurope, in which we will feature profiles on the selected individuals. This will also be published across
all of our digital platforms – website, social media, newsletter, digital edition, etc. So, how to get involved? To be considered for inclusion, we ask all entrants to provide, in writing, examples of significant career progression over the past 12-18 months, such as client rosters, details of particularly challenging/innovative projects they have been a part of and any awards/prizes they have won or been nominated for. In essence, an outline of demonstrable career development during this time frame. To put yourself forward, please email PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble on daniel.gumble@ futurenet.com by Monday, April 1. Who can enter? Absolutely anyone. There is no barrier to entry and anyone is free to put themselves, or someone they know, forward. All we ask is that submissions clearly detail key areas of career progression. “The standard of talent currently emerging in the studio sector is truly exceptional,” said Gumble. “And as a hub for the most exciting engineers and producers in the industry, it is PSNEurope’s duty to recognise and support those shaping its future. This Next Generation initiative represents the latest in our ongoing commitment to highlighting the very best the business has to offer.” Partnering with PSNEurope for our Next Generation spotlight is studio monitor giant Genelec, whose PR director, Howard Jones, commented: “Genelec has always had a strong commitment to fostering the next generation of studio engineers, since they are so obviously the lifeblood and future of the recording world. From our annual sponsorship of the MPG Breakthrough Engineer award through to the Ilpo Martikainen Scholarship programme that we run in conjunction with the AES each year, we see this as an essential part of giving back to the industry. Hats off to PSNEurope for this initiative – for us, getting involved was a no-brainer.” n
P13 APRIL 2020
TECHNIKAL PROWESS From the opening of a new facility in California, to the addition of a major new line to its fixed install portfolio, d&b audiotechnik has enjoyed a busy start to 2020. And, as the company’s CEO Amnon Harman tells Daniel Gumble, there’s plenty more in the pipeline…
P14 APRIL 2020
n January 15, the day before NAMM 2020 opened its doors for another record-breaking edition of the Anaheim, LA trade event, d&b audiotechnik CEO Amnon Harman cut the ribbon on a brand new facility located in the neighbouring town of Signal Hill. The grand opening kicked off both the show and the new year in style, with key members of the local and international industry out in force to take a look at the office’s state-of-the-art demo space and comprehensive training facilities. “Accessibility to our growing base of customers and partners in the US is critical,” said Harman at the time of launch. “In the audio business, relationships are paramount and this new facility demonstrates our desire to build strong, long-term partnerships with both the audio technology and broader entertainment community. Designing excellent sound experiences is at the core of d&b’s mission to accurately transfer passions. With our new Signal Hill facility and the investments we have made in customer services, d&b is well-positioned to serve this mission and, together with our partners and customers, work to continue creating some of the world’s most inspiring sound experiences.” Harman’s pledge to continue delivering said sound experiences was in evidence less than three weeks later, when d&b presented its KSLi installation range at ISE 2020 – a complete installation package featuring the KSLi8/KSLi12 loudspeakers, combined with KSLiSUB/ KSLi-GSUB subwoofers, the new 40D installation amplifier and a full catalogue of system specific accessories and customisation options. The loudspeakers are acoustically identical to the mobile KSL system with full-range broadband directivity control, extended low frequency response and enhanced high frequency resolution, while the 40D installation amplifier has been engineered specifically for fixed installation applications and is d&b’s most powerful four channel class-D installation amplifier yet. Meanwhile, away from the exhibition floor, d&b has been planning a major refurb of its HQ in Backnang, Germany. The development will see the company significantly ramp up its production capabilities to meet ever-escalating demand by incorporating the most advanced technological manufacturing processes in the market. Following PSNEurope’s visit to the existing site at the tail end of 2019, Harman told us: “We are investing in a 2,700 square meter building, which will allow us to better segment production and anticipate increasingly dynamic market requirements. The new facility will feature new coating and painting capabilities and will combine improved process automation technology to compliment the handmade work of our production teams. Adding this manufacturing capacity will ultimately increase quality, shorten lead times and strengthen our ability to deliver custom solutions.
Internally it will also provide an improved work environment for our production teams.” Construction on the new site is expected to start this year, with a view to being fully operational by 2021. With so much achieved already in 2020, and with so much more to be accomplished over the coming months, PSNEurope's editor Daniel Gumble caught up with Harman to discuss his strategy for the road ahead... You started 2020 with the opening of a new facility in California. What can you tell us about it, and why this particular time and location? The facility at Signal Hill in LA is important on a number of fronts. First, is the accessibility it provides to our customers. LA has a vibrant, influential and growing production community that has increasingly gravitated toward d&b and the comprehensive solutions we provide. We wanted to be certain to address the demand for systems and support. We also wanted to provide the depth of manufacturer training that production companies and production professionals require. Secondly, growth. The bicoastal presence that we now have is a statement of intent that d&b is deeply committed to growing in the US. Audio professionals in live sound, musical theatre and the fixed install, are all looking to do more and provide higher levels of precision, quality and sophistication and d&b is uniquely positioned to address that need. And thirdly, the growing presence of immersive audio - I purposefully demur from saying it will be the standard because it is not or ever will be a commodity. It’s more of a craft; Soundscape is a natural extension of the sound designer's skillset and we want to be able to demonstrate it in an optimal environment. d&b also unveiled its new KSLi range at the beginning of the year. How much of a focus is there from the company on the installation market at present? Our roots will always be in the production community, but at the higher end of the fixed install market you’re seeing an increasing demand for rider-friendly systems that support the new business models of both performing arts venues and artists. As the tool of choice of the elite mobile community, d&b is a natural consideration for fixed installations in high-end venues. After all, if you’re going to invest in a system, don’t you want the best system so you can attract the highestgrossing talent? With d&b’s cardioid design we deliver unmatched precision, which is critical in the fixed environment. Builders and architects measure doors and windows so that there is precision. They measure and carefully specify stairs and lifts so there is precision. So it is only logical to apply the same level of precision to the
Amnon Harman (right) cuts the ribbon on d&b's Signal Hill facility
P15 APRIL 2020
audio design so the purpose of the building gets to its full potential. Our principle is more art, less noise to optimise the sound experience of the entire building – and the neighborhood for that matter. The install and AV markets have been expanding significantly in recent years, and look set to continue in this fashion. Just how much opportunity is there in this sector for d&b? There is a general trend to more quality of sound across all market segments. There is a strong opportunity for us to create that special experience that you are used to from live performances. Hence, we always remember where we have come from and what made our brand and culture successful. For d&b, we grew up in the production and performance communities collaborating with sound designers, FOH engineers, tour companies and artists. We address the fixed install market but do so in our own way, working with sound designers and consultants in the particular installation markets and bringing with us our unique pedigree and perspective. That means that we are in the arenas, the performance rooms and the university auditoriums and not the hallways and bathrooms. We are in the high-end retail environments and restaurants where architects and owners are looking to create an experience and not the big-box or warehouse stores where it’s all about price. Do you forecast the install market levelling out any time soon, or do you see it continuing to grow? I think it will definitely continue to grow. Conferencing shows no sign of slowing down; retailers are finding that an in-store experience or brand-showcase is a strong antidote to online shopping; clubs and restaurants are also differentiating on the experience, and performing arts venues are looking to be versatile and attractive to artists and audiences. All of this is driven by the fact that consumers are getting better sound and visual experiences in other parts of their lives – from 4K to immersive sound – and are demanding that level of quality in live performance environments as well. The commoditisation of sound in fixed install still exists at the low end, but we are observing an ongoing trend for higher sound quality in mid- to high-end environments. On that basis, a stratification has occurred and in the more sophisticated venues architects, designers and owners are now working with audio professionals to create an environment that delivers a complete, quality experience. This is where d&b excels. Last month, ISE completed its run at the Amsterdam RAI. What are your thoughts about the move to Barcelona? Amsterdam is a great city with great infrastructure and
P17 APRIL 2020
amenities that everyone enjoys, but the success and growth of the AV industry reflected in the growth of ISE resulted in there not being enough space available at the RAI. We definitely will miss Amsterdam. On the other side, Barcelona can support that growth and is logistically and infrastructure-wise a good place to host ISE. I am convinced it will be a good platform for fresh ideas, new relationships and good business. Spain is a great market for d&b; we have great partners and deployments there, so I am personally excited.
Musical theatre is a critical market for us because of its creative and demanding character. You have an adventurous, innovative sound designer community always seeking tools that will advance the audience’s experience. Our mantra and tagline is More Art. Less Noise, and this is very relevant in musical theatre. Our customers are applying Soundscape with great effect and creating the reference for other applications across a broad market in performing arts, house of worship and conference centres.
Another rapidly growing area of the market is the spatial audio sector. What can you tell us about your plans for Soundscape over the coming months? Soundscape is transformational on so many levels. We strongly believe that spatial audio is the next logical evolution of professional-grade sound and that it will bring widespread, positive change to many areas of our industry and community. We also believe that d&b comes to spatial audio from a position of strength and depth. We’re not just starting now as some brands are, but instead we have an excellent, highly evolved technology platform in Soundscape and we have strong collaborative relationships with some of the more progressive audio pros in spatial sound. I am excited about the attention that spatial sound gets and the direction that we at d&b take.
Tours such as Björk’s Cornucopia have benefitted greatly from the incorporation of spatial sound. How do you go about demonstrating to artists that a system like Soundscape could transform their live shows? This is a great example of what we just discussed. Björk is a phenomenal artist and a relentless innovator. Our facilities like Signal Hill and other d&b experience centres are important for demonstration, testing and planning purposes. Visits by artists and tour companies to our HQ in Backnang, Germany, and our other global experience centres, for demos and deep dives into the technologies are important for generating trust in our community. And, these artists and audio pros go to successful, well-reviewed shows that feature d&b and they’ll typically call us the next day and ask how we can work together. We’re happy to take that call.
Are you seeing an ongoing move towards spatial audio across the professional sound industry, or are long-time adoptees of this kind of technology, such as the theatre market, still where the biggest growth opportunities lie? Yes. The West End community in London has long embraced spatial sound and we’ve been privileged to work with the very best sound designers on the West End on some of the most successful and iconic shows. Read the reviews and you will notice that some of the successes of these shows has been the amazing sound design and spatial audio experience. I think this is a reason why they’re going from the West End to Broadway now and they’re taking d&b with them. Some people in the mobile community are already considering how to adapt spatial and immersive sound to the touring market and apply learnings from theatre to mobile. Our teams are already collaborating with several European audio pros on this and I think it will drive growth for artists, mobile companies and for brands like d&b as it takes hold. How important is the theatre market to d&b? What have been some of the company's key developments in this area, and what are you plans going forward?
We understand that d&b is planning on completely refurbishing its HQ in Backnang. What can you tell us about this? How will it improve upon your exisiting operations? I would call it a logical and continuous expansion and improvement of our existing operations. We kicked off a project called Backnang21 and are undergoing a significant upgrade that affects all areas of our operations. As a result of these changes, our productions and logistics in Backnang will be expanded, partly automated and modernised to the latest and most efficient shop floor principles. This is to create more capacity for growth, an even better place to work, a better place to innovate, and a better place for collaboration with our partners and customers regarding training and future idea generation. What are your plans for the rest of the year? The KSLi launch at ISE was a great success. With the D40 we have a new installation amplifier and new software is coming soon. We’ll also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic M2. However, with the global spread of coronavirus we, like any other player in the market, face a period
of uncertainty. Cancelled festivals, events and tours will have an impact on our customers' markets, especially in the mobile production business. Our installation markets are not so much affected by the current developments. In general, I truly believe that the fundamentals of the AV market are very healthy and that – after a short difficult period – the markets will relax and continue to grow in a healthy and stable manner on a global basis. I think looking ahead long term – if ISE is an indicator – we’ll have some truly amazing deployments on the road (and in fixed install) with artists, tour companies, sound designers and systems integrators. What are the biggest challenges facing the pro audio industry as we enter a new decade? Audio networking is a phenomenal advancement that delivers great efficiencies and experiences but audio is not just data. Audio professionals and audio brands provide unique value in shaping and sustaining the experience, and we need to actively promote that role. With that in mind, technology continues to advance and we all need more training. This is part of the reason why we opened our facility in Signal Hill and why we run such comprehensive training programmes. It’s something our industry needs to work on and something we’re working very hard on at d&b. Finally, I would say that immersive sound experiences are a new opportunity to put sound back on the awareness level where it needs to be. With more and more other media on a show, audio is sometimes left in the background. However, the reason why people are coming to a live performance is to feel the passion that is created on stage, to be inspired or to simply enjoy it. That is why the increase of quality in audio and tools like Soundscapes are so important. Immersive sound is a big opportunity for the whole industry to bring audio back to where it deserves to be and at d&b, we will provide venues, audio professionals and artists with professional-grade solutions that empower them to create unforgettable audience experiences. And what are the biggest opportunities for the pro audio industry? The combined impact of the cloud and 5G are going to transform every technology. Pro audio and systems integration will undoubtedly be impacted. In the near-term, however, I think that immersive sound is the biggest opportunity for our industry, our audiences and for the d&b community, both external and internal. We have spectacular technology in Soundscape and I have deep confidence in its transformative impact for our community and our business at d&b. n
Mary Poppins on stage
Mary Plugins www.psneurope.com
Phil Ward investigates how theatre mixing capacity just keeps on growingâ€Ś
heatre market leader DiGiCo began using seventh-generation FPGAs two years ago, speeding up data between ICs and increasing capacity for any given application. These chips are therefore the key to production ‘headroom’ and the quality of the audio enjoyed by today’s audiences and, even though DiGiCo’s SD7T seemed to satisfy even the most demanding of sound designs as shows blossomed into fulsome sonic gardens, the new Quantum consoles are now being welcomed as the saviours of ‘max’d out’ mixing. Harry’s gain Sound designer Bobby Aitken acknowledges that the Quantum console’s matrix is much bigger, and the processing much faster, than anything before, and has found the need for some radical re-thinking as a result. “Over the past five or so years the advances in control equipment have been staggering,” he says. “Performer tracking, spatial reinforcement systems and viable plugin platforms have opened a new world of creative possibilities for theatre sound designers. However, as a result we have had to devise a whole new strategy for signal flow through the consoles. “To give an example, I might not use as many matrix busses as in the past, but my aux buss count can be quadrupled. It’s not unusual for me to use 50 or 60 nowadays. Fortunately for us, DiGiCo and other console manufacturers have also been busy improving the power and flexibility of their products.” Aitken admits that discovering ways to use the consoles to their capacity is “inevitable”, as he opens new vistas onto the sound. “Because I have 250 inputs available,” he continues, “and because I can use multiple instances of a Waves device, I might, for example, take a stereo guitar and repeat it four times on the console. One would be dry, one would be a monitor source and another three might have different effects or widths. This way I can make music mix choices during rehearsals and previews. So you can see, just with this small example I’ve expanded my channel demand by 400 per cent. If the channels weren’t available I’d easily find another way to work, but I like this method. It allows me to concentrate more on the content and less on the technology.” Gareth Fry, sound designer and first-ever chair of The Association of Sound Designers’ Board, has some real figures from the show that’s been keeping him busy for the last four years. "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” he reveals, “has 48 channels of QLab sound effects playback; 16 channels of Ableton Live music playback; 14 channels of reverbs and effects; and 48 radio mics. There’s also a whole bunch of utility inputs and outputs that relate to things the audience never hears, such as feeds to the comms systems, FOH latecomer TVs, show relay systems and so on. “Then we have a slew of redundant backup systems. We don’t want the show to stop for sound, or worse still, be
APRIL 2020 cancelled. So every system has a backup, or a contingency plan, in some form or another. And that eats up inputs and outputs, too. They might not be active for the show, but they need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.” The 160-plus inputs are spread across a DiGiCo SD10T and a Yamaha CL5, for a show that doesn’t have any live musicians. Fry estimates that the addition of live music to a show like this would probably double that input count, but there are pressures on capacity other than extra players. “I’m a big fan of spatialisation systems like TiMax and Soundscape,” he says, “but that does result in a much more complex sound system than previously. On Harry Potter we have 40 outputs from the CL5. The SD10T is outputting every single radio mic on a direct output to the TiMax system, plus another 16 outputs to other places, giving us over a hundred outputs from the mixing desks.”
Below: Bobby Aitken
Quantum leaps The role of a mixing desk has fundamentally changed in recent years, Fry correctly points out. 20 years ago, mixing desks were just that: they’d mix a selection of microphone inputs down to a few outputs. Now, mixing desks are more often a control surface for a complex routing matrix. Furthermore, it’s becomingly increasingly rare to see a microphone plugged into a mixing desk. The microphone preamps are in the stage box onstage, the outputs to the amps will be from another stage box onstage, and all the audio in and out of the desk is on a computer network connection. “It was the sound of the mic preamp that defined the success of a mixing desk; now it’s the software,” Fry says. “This is why DiGiCo leads the way in live theatre events: the company has spent much time listening to what sound
OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS THE ADVANCES IN CONTROL EQUIPMENT HAVE BEEN STAGGERING. PERFORMER TRACKING, SPATIAL REINFORCEMENT SYSTEMS AND VIABLE PLUGIN PLATFORMS HAVE OPENED A NEW WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES FOR THEATRE SOUND DESIGNERS. HOWEVER, AS A RESULT WE'VE HAD TO DEVISE A WHOLE NEW STRATEGY FOR SIGNAL FLOW THROUGH THE CONSOLES BOBBY AITKEN, SOUND DESIGNER
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THE SHEER POWER THAT THE QUANTUM 7 BRINGS, ALONGSIDE THE SOPHISTICATED SOFTWARE, PROVIDES HUGE FLEXIBILITY TO RESPOND QUICKLY TO COMPLEX DEMANDS. SHOWS AND EVENTS ARE GETTING BIGGER AND BIGGER AND MORE IS BEING ASKED OF US, OFTEN WITHOUT ANY EXTRA TIME TO ACHIEVE IT GARETH FRY, SOUND DESIGNER
designers and engineers need from a desk for particular markets and has written software and created a control surface to meet those needs. We’re seeing Yamaha begin to follow suit, with theatre features added to the PM7 and PM10 mixing desks. “The sheer power that the Quantum 7 brings, alongside the sophisticated software, provides huge flexibility to respond quickly to complex demands. Shows and events are getting bigger and bigger, and more is being asked of us, often without any extra time to achieve it. Obviously having lots of extra inputs allows us to plug more things in, but it also allows us to deal with those inputs more flexibly. For example, if we have a moment in the show where we want a microphone to have that talking-down-the-phone effect, in the past we’d probably recall a scene that changed the EQ and FX routings of that microphone. Then we’d have a scene to change them back. Now we’re likely to have that mic appear on two channels: one dry; and one with the effect always active on it, so we can throw that fader up to get the effect any time we need it without having to do complex scene recalls. That might not sound like a lot but being able to respond quickly is everything for a sound engineer.” “Sound designers like me have a guilty habit of using everything they can get their hands on,” comments Sebastian Frost, currently touring Sting’s The Last Ship in the US and preparing for Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with Opera North in Leeds. “The SD7T was great, but its real impact was functionality rather than capacity. We could max out the SD7T, no problem at all. Funnily enough, I have already had a couple of occasions when I’ve max’d out the Quantum 7 too! But in traditional theatre, not yet. The way Gareth Owen uses the Avid S6L, for example, has different parameters: typically, he occupies a lot more channels very quickly. But there are many things you can do on an S6L that you can’t on an
SD7T or Quantum. It’s a different architecture.” In terms of channels and buss counts, Frost points out, there is always the physical limitation of what you can get into the theatre: the size of the orchestra; the number of sources. “To create more mixing options,” he continues, “it’s always taken some out-of-the-box thinking to make more efficient use of the processing. If it’s there, we will find new ramifications of the workflow to get what we want. Bobby’s method of running parallel mixes of the same instrument is actually quite analogue: the way you can layer up lots of inputs from the same physical input is almost invited by the manufacturers as a way around the old limitations of a console. It’s an old way of doing new things, because we have more channels available.” Frost draws an interesting distinction between ‘hi-fi’ sound and ‘produced’ sound. To the extent that, postMartin Levan, theatre sound reinforcement has brought the audio comfort of home closer to the auditorium, it is still a very different experience. “Hi-fi, I would say, is purely defined by audio quality,” he says, “as in being able to hear absolutely every single sample as recorded. Produced sound is the ability to manipulate those sources in different and multiple ways, just as you do in the studio, to make statements about them – to style them individually. We’re now at a point where we can do that live.” The producers The delivery of produced sound is a much more active process; not a passive exercise like playing out a CD. But as Orbital Sound managing director Chris Headlam says, complex productions today certainly do combine live and virtual sources. Not only do they demand more capacity, they also question the terminology… “I really do not like the phrase ‘backing track’,” Headlam says. “Yes, we understand what click tracks
Top: Chris Headlam Below: Gareth Fry
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and backing tracks are, but the next evolution of those is a situation where you really don’t know what is real and what isn’t. It’s a very creative medium. It might be a virtual instrument triggered by a sequencer or human action, or it might be a backing track. Who knows?” And capacity needs careful definition, Headlam points out. “There’s an important distinction: the number of channels you can access, potentially thousands, is one half of the equation; the number of channels you can actually mix simultaneously is the other. It’s usually the latter where we hit the roadblock. That figure is the one that needs to go up and up each season, for multiple reasons. One is that we no longer have the age-old constraint on radio mic technology – you can get upwards of 70 to work happily together nowadays. Then you have that whole world of virtual instruments side by side with real ones. And, finally, these things called plugins… that’s a real bottleneck in DSP in the real world. Not the brochure world. “It all adds to channel count, and that’s getting bigger in a world of Dante or AVB because you don’t have all that chaos of electric string: it’s just signals down a network. But even the efficiency of the network adds pressure on mixing: previously, if you wanted to add 40 channels of audio, you needed 40 mic preamps, and the rest. In the theatre world, we’re doing a lot more digital production: 3D spatial sound; effects; and if you do have ‘backing tracks’ you’re mixing off the original stems, you’re not premixing – you’re taking it all into the console. All these numbers are somewhere between 16
AS WELL AS THE CONSOLES, THE NEW LOUDSPEAKER TECHNOLOGY IS LIKE STUFF FROM MARS! FOR THE FIRST TIME EVERYTHING CAN SOUND REALLY GOOD, IF YOU HAVE THE TALENT TO BRING IT ALL TOGETHER CHRIS HEADLAM, MD, ORBITAL SOUND
and 48, and you don’t need many 16s and 48s to head upwards of 200…” Whichever it is, real or virtual, the audience enjoys a clearer and more involving audio experience because of it – and that, according to Headlam, is the most important criterion of all. “As well as the consoles,” he says, “the new loudspeaker technology – especially the materials used in the loudspeaker drivers and so on – is like stuff from Mars! For the first time everything can sound really, really good, if you have the talent to bring it all together. I know that implies there were shortcomings before but, hey – there were. What digital mixing desks brought was the ability to have 200, or 400, or 600 cues in a show instead of 20. It can be part of a timecode sequence that is constantly making subtle changes to a very small part of the mix, and you can have as many as you’ve got time to programme. That’s what leads to a far higher level of finished quality – and the audiences don’t simply demand it. They deserve it.” The challenges to mixer capacity not only remain, they are primed to increase. In the midst of all the other medicines for healthier theatre sound, a higher number of simultaneous, mixable channels will always be the one with the most welcome spoonful of sugar. “It will be really interesting to see where this technological push ends up,” reflects Aitken. “I remember years ago hearing that LaCie, I think, was about to market a 1TB portable drive and thinking, why? No one will ever need a portable drive with that capacity…” n
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (left) and Sebastian Frost (above)
2% RISING introduces Thea Cochrane
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% RISING, a new online networking hub for women and non-binary studio engineers and producers, was launched last month by mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini and artist/producer Rookes. The new Facebook-based platform has been launched in response to the widely reported statistic that female producers only make up two per cent of the industry. The group, which (at time of writing) has attracted nearly 130 members since opening on March 5, is intended to serve as a safe space for producers and engineers to converse, share opportunities, ask questions and network. Here, Rookes introduces us to one of its members, the multi-talented Thea Cochrane… Where are you based and what do you do in the pro audio industry? I'm based in Northamptonshire but work in London. I'm mostly working as an audio transfer engineer at the British Library. I'm also working on small music, audio drama and podcast projects. How did you come to work in music and audio production? When I was young my dad bought a little Yamaha keyboard that could sample for about one second at 10kHz. I loved recording different sounds and playing with the pitch; playing sounds backwards. By the time I was 16 I had a synth and a portastudio. Things just spiralled from there. Tell us more about your work in audio preservation. I'm one of a small group of engineers based at the British Library in London, there are 10 more engineers working in hubs all around the UK. The plan is to digitise around 470,000 at-risk recordings over five years. A lot of the material hasn't been played in a long time, there are some surprising pieces. Some people were very organised with their recordings, but with some it's more of a random jumble.
Photo: Rianna Tamara
Welcome to 2% RISING, a new and rapidly growing network for female and non-binary music producers and studio engineers. This month, Rookes from 2% RISING had a conversation with one of its members, Thea Cochrane, a composer, audio editor and preservation engineer…
What has been your favourite project to work on? I did some music for a short film called Cleaning Up and got to visit De Lane Lea Studios for the final mix. It was great to see how each step they were making improved things - not only with the music, but layers of ambience and foley. Of which achievement are you proudest? The work I'm doing just now for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is probably going to have the biggest impact in terms of people being able to listen to archive sounds that wouldn't have been easily available otherwise, and probably don't exist anywhere else. What are the main challenges in your job? One of the reasons we are rushing to digitise recordings is because some of the media is breaking down in various ways. With some recordings there's just not much oxide left on the tape, or there are too many errors on the CD-R to get much from it. What do you want to focus on in the future? This archiving project is due to finish in 2022, so after that, possibly more music production/engineering if I can find some collaborators, or some podcast and radio. How do you feel about the representation of women and gender minorities in terms of the industry-wide statistics that are available today? It's better than it has been, but there's a long way to go. I'm really hopeful that some of the amazing people visibly doing work now will encourage more young people to recognise that this is an option for them, too. How has the industry has changed since you started? I do mourn the loss of larger studios; I hope we don't lose some of the specialist skills of engineers that are approaching retirement. But I am glad that there are fewer barriers now to artists to create.
You have specialised a great deal in sound design, most notably through your work with the Dr Who franchise. What’s the strangest sound you ever had to create for your Dr Who work? A group of humanoid goats fighting Nazi soldiers in a Grand Guignol-style theatre. A lot of that was layering stock sounds against recordings of the actors, because no one would let me bring goats into a theatre... Have you ever been star-struck by anyone you’ve worked with? When I was looking to do an internship I was interviewed at Real World Studios and I hadn't anticipated that it'd be with Peter Gabriel. Luckily, I didn't know this until I got there so I didn't spend my whole journey anxious about what to say. What is the most exciting thing happening in industry right now? Streaming has been problematic in terms of income streams for artists, producers and songwriters, but for the people starting out with songwriting it means that there is no barrier to exploring the extensive back catalogues of influential artists. This generation is going to have some very diverse influences as there isn't a barrier to access. n Twitter: @thea_cochr Unlocking Our Sound Heritage: @blsoundheritage Website: thea-cochrane.co.uk
ABBEY ROAD ASKS:
What's next for tech in music and audio?
PSNEurope and the legendary Abbey Road Studios have teamed up to present an exclusive monthly exploration of the technology shaping the future of the industry. Here, Karim Fanous, head of the studio’s innovation hub Abbey Road Red, examines the impact of technology on musical artistry…
bbey Road Studios, the birthplace of stereo and countless innovations in recording technology, created Abbey Road Red in 2016. Inspired by the original in-house Record Engineering Development Department of the 1950s to 1970s, Abbey Road Red is the studios' open innovation department designed to support the endeavours of the brightest music tech entrepreneurs, researchers and developers. They run a unique music tech start-up incubation programme – the first of its kind in Europe – to support the most promising music tech start-ups, as well as collaborating with the brightest minds in academic research. In 2018, the programme expanded with in-house R&D activities taking part within the music creation space. The white lab coats are long gone at Abbey Road, but the spirit of adventure is still as present as ever. Enabling artist creativity and empowerment is (and always has been) central to everything done at Abbey Road Studios. So at Abbey Road Red - the innovation arm of the studios - we are always keeping an eye on the very forefront of developments in creativity, technology and tools in the wider audio world. Man & Machine: Creativity in collaboration? We are seeing a wave of creator empowerment on the horizon: a bunch of new tools using algorithms and machine learning to help with making music. That could be turning your voice into a versatile soft synth, creating evolving albums or music experiences, AI plugins jamming and tracking with you, help choosing samples, automating production processes like mixing and more. We’re seeing this impact already all over the music-making toolset with our own Abbey Road Red alums: Vochlea, which turns your vocal inputs into soft-synth outputs; LifeScore, which makes adaptive music from high-quality recorded audio inputs; Scored, an adaptive music platform for sync composers; Humtap, which generates music using humming, tapping and genre inputs; and CloudBounce, which helps automate the mastering process. Outside the Red universe, automated mastering platform Landr has launched its Selector sample recommendation tool, Popgun has added an automated mastering platform to its AI music generation suite of tools, Boomy offers a generative music platform with distribution straight into many streaming and media platforms – these are just a few of many examples; and we are wondering at Red if the introduction of Logic’s AI Drummer will be the first of a series of tipping points for AI jamming tools into the mainstream. While considering the effect technology will have on creativity, we should be asking ourselves questions like: was the synthesiser a good or bad thing? What about arpeggiators? When the Abbey Road Record Engineering Development Department created the ground-breaking REDD four track recording console did the Beatles say, "I don’t want that"?; nope, they said “give us more!" Musician and innovator Benoît Carré coined it nicely by challenging us to try and imagine what it may be like when Artificial Intelligence has its AKAI MPC hip hop moment. I like that analogy. That drum machine propelled hip hop into mainstream culture, giving it a signature with its drum sounds and step programming. What could emerge from generative music tools? Remember also that you don’t have to use these tools because they exist;
they are options. I am extremely excited to see what a new generation of artists and producers exploring their own creativity will do with them. How will they use them in ways that weren’t intended? What kind of genres or sounds could they help spawn? Music as medicine? Music makes us feel good, but did you think it would be prescribed by the NHS? We’re already seeing experimental deployments to aid wellbeing and we’re not far off the possibility of music being a formally approved medicinal aid. Start-ups are using aggregated data sources including brain activity via EEG, BPM, movement, location context and more to curate, adapt or generate music to help us relax, sleep, focus, run harder and faster, or just… feel good. This year we’ll see music and wellness increasingly intertwined in cultural discourse via apps, products and experiences. Rights: what lies ahead? As an artist, songwriter or producer, your rights are your lifeblood. We are seeing demands for music proliferation across different platforms and the revenue is increasingly incremental. For example, distribution across music streaming services or ‘micro’ uses in social media clips, podcasts, sync in online adverts, original content in each of the many new VoD platforms; the list goes on and it’s a good list. Each one of these demands is an opportunity for you to make money from your music. Place all this proliferating demand and usage alongside traditional sales, radio and public performance though and it has never been more important for creators, artists and performers to get their rights in order and for the industry to track them accurately and pay out quickly. Last year we saw movement here with our own alum Lickd introducing licensing structures to allow YouTubers affordable use of mainstream music and this year we’ll see more, not just from other Red alum Audoo, which is creating a wall plug smart meter to listen, match and report plays of tracks in commercial establishments of all sizes. These sorts of start-ups will help license and monitor tracks and playback. Others are exploring how to help spot, register and distribute your rights and assets automatically. How cool would it be to walk into a writing session and leave hours or days later knowing that your app or DAW-based smart assistant has recognised and recorded your writing style and motifs/lyrics automatically, then registered them with the appropriate rights platforms and PROs? There are already steps being built by start-ups to at least help you find this process easier. Stereo... and beyond There’s actually one more area I’d like to nod to, which our colleague, head of audio products and Red board member, Mirek Stiles, will tell you about in a future column: we’re going beyond stereo in our listening. That will start to gain real momentum this year. A tipping point was Amazon’s new Echo giving us four directional speakers and a sub in one affordable pod, plus distributing Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 tracks in its music service. Directional power to the people! Exciting times lie ahead for making, sharing and listening to that thing we love: music, sweet music. n
Fab Dupont: analogue heart, digital mind From one of the last remaining multi-room studios in Manhattan, Fab Dupont has lent his talents to a dazzling array of projects. “I am able to make music every day, which is all I have ever wanted to do,” he tells David Davies...
eflecting on the team of creative musicians and technicians who have gravitated towards his Flux studios complex over the past 15 years, Fab Dupont is in no doubt that he has been extremely fortunate. “I did not get into this business to make money – I got into it to make music, and I am lucky that all the people I work with have the same spirit,” he says. “They are also determined to make the music as great as possible and won’t ever let anything that is ‘good enough’ go out the door. Of course, that can sometimes mean the projects take forever…” The fragmented nature of modern recording – in which many artists have small bursts of studio activity interspersed by longer bouts of touring or other activities to balance the books – means that Dupont invariably has “half-a-dozen or more projects on the go at any one time. That’s just the nature of the business these days.” A closer inspection of his current workload underlines the eclectic approach to music-making that Dupont has pursued throughout his career to date. Following on from his mixing and additional arrangement of the acclaimed High Highs to Low Lows album by R&B/pop musician Lolo Zouaï, he is now collaborating with Zouaï producer Stelios Phili on the next album by alt-pop band Cruel Youth, who are led by “unbelievable” singer and writer Teddy Sinclair. Dupont is also mixing material for French electronic act Terrenoire and producing an album for Canadian singer/keyboardist and David Crosby band member Michelle Willis, which he says has “been in the works for a long time but is now nearing completion. She is an
incredible singer and I am really proud of this record, which is sounding fantastic.” This heady mix of styles is business as usual for Dupont, who has been happily exploring different genres since he started making “very nerdy” music as a teenager. “You do find that a lot of producers these days tend to specialise,” he says. “It might be that they just work on hip hop or glossy pop records, or maybe they are the person to go to if you want to make something that sounds like an old Paul Simon album. Whereas I have always wanted to try to work across [the musical spectrum] – it’s much more interesting for me.” State of Flux Dupont has also been fortunate in having a studio base that has developed as organically as his own career. Starting off in the mid 2000s with a single room, Flux has gradually taken on more space at its 2nd Street location. Today it houses distinctively designed and equipped ‘Rooms’ – Dangerous, Dungeon, Inspiration, Revolution and Dupont’s own space, Fabulous – that combine classic outboard gear with the latest digital recording technology. “We call it music-making with a vintage heart and a modern mind,” says Dupont. Neither analogue loyalist or digital obsessive, he says the studios have been developed “to allow people to work the way they want to work.” Dupont cites two recent clients – Frank Ocean and Norah Jones – by way of example: “Frank Ocean came down here with his ‘trash-can’ Mac, plugged into Thunderbolt and did not use any hardware except the vintage synths. Whereas Norah Jones’ engineer, Jamie
Landry, came to mix her new album [Pick Me Up Off the Floor, to be released in May] and summed 32 channels as well as using every single piece of hardware in the studio.” It would appear that Dupont himself resides somewhere between these two polarities. He tends to use Dangerous Music 2-Bus+ summing units or mix in the box depending on the project. He has a Pro Tools | HDX rig and countless plugins, as well as a lengthy roll-call of physical outboard that includes API 512c preamps, Manley Pultec EQ, George Massenburg Labs 9500 Mastering EQ, and multiple Chandler compressors and limiters. A keen aficionado of classic gear, Dupont has also had the benefit of long and productive associations with a number of leading manufacturers. His work as a consultant has its origins in mid-2000s conversations with Bob Muller and Chris Muth of Dangerous Music, who once occupied an entire floor in the Flux building in whose honour the Dangerous Room is named. “I remember meeting them in the corridor one day and they said they were having trouble getting Pro Tools to sound as they wished,” he says. “Bob and Chris are amazing people and at the time they were developing a product that turned into the Dangerous 2-Bus summing device. They loaned me a box and I gave them my feedback – and also suggested the name. That was the start of a relationship that has continued on through many different products.” Since then Dupont has provided feedback and design input into an array of products from companies including Sonnox, Universal Audio and George
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Massenburg Labs. His involvement with studio microphone specialist Lauten Audio has also proven to have a lasting impact on his own recorded work. “About five years ago I had a conversation with them about microphones and what I would like from a new microphone design,” he says. “I observed that a lot of people were trying to imitate microphones from 1965 when there was a need to compensate for a great deal of signal loss. That’s not the situation now, so I wanted to see a mic that could be plugged straight into an Apollo converter, for example, and then sound good right away without having to apply a de-esser, compressor or EQ.” The result was the Lauten FC-387 Atlantis multipattern studio microphone with a trio of circuits and three different approaches to how the capsule reacts to the music. “It’s proven to be a really successful product and I use it myself every day.” A multi-instrumentalist whose original instrument was saxophone, Dupont has also amassed an extensive MI collection at Flux, with Fender, Korg, Roland and Yamaha among the most well-represented brands.
Fabulous: Fab Dupont
Favourite projects, future sounds Invited to select a few of his favourite projects over the last few years, Dupont laughs and admits “that is such a hard question!” Nonetheless he goes on to nominate the first David Crosby album that he worked on with regular collaborator Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League, 2016’s Lighthouse: “That is a great sounding record and the entire session was miraculously flowing and enjoyable. I also loved working on the [aforementioned 2019] Lola Zouaï album, which was a great modern
trap-pop record made with a new team. It was a ‘no ego’ situation and the music really soared as a result. And I am also super-excited by the forthcoming Michelle Willis record, which is a really wide open-sounding and highly cathartic album…” Having been in bands in his youth and once sought a recorded outlet for his own music, PSNEurope wonders if there might ever be a Fab Dupont solo album. “Definitely not,” he responds. “I am here to serve other people's music. Back when I had a band I would send in my own material and the people at the labels would be more interested in me trying to get other people’s music to sound like mine [production-wise]. It took me a while to realise that I was not major label material and possibly came from a place that was too exclusively music-oriented. I never cared what I wore or who I hung out with.” But as a consequence of this early change of course, Dupont has landed in a position that could hardly be bettered. “A lot of artists only get to make an album every two or three years,” he says. “They also have to tour a great deal, and the reality is that touring sucks unless you are the Rolling Stones. This way I get to work on new music every single day.” With a busy slate of projects for 2020, Dupont does not envisage any radical change of approach. “It was always my ambition to make music ranging from David Crosby to Lola Zouaï and everything in-between – and that is what I will continue to do,” he says. “There is a lot of exciting work that can take place between the different genres and sensibilities, and that is where I like to position myself.” n
Real change needs real action PSNEurope columnist, audio engineer and senior lecturer in Sound Production and Post Production at University of York, Mariana Lopez, talks the lack of diverse representation in the pro audio industry and tackling 'manels'...
ver since I was a teenager I have always felt aspects of inequality very deeply: societal expectations based on gender, and terminology that ingrained such expectations, have always bothered me. But it was when I entered the audio world as a student and then as a professional that I became sharply aware that real change requires real action and commitment. A few years ago, I found myself organising many professional audio events, and became frustrated at how virtually all the events I looked at had delegates consisting almost entirely of men – and, what’s more, almost always the same individuals. The issue is that they are not characteristic of the whole audio world, and so why should these figures be the sole representatives at industry events? I decided I could help make a difference, and made a commitment that I would invite more non-male speakers, get to know their work, and provide a platform for them to disseminate that work, as well as network with other members of the audio industry. Reader, it was amazing… By making a conscious effort to provide broader representation, I was opening myself up to an extraordinary variety of topics, viewpoints, and enlightening discussions. Because – and this is the key point – that’s what diversity of all kinds brings to professional and everyday spheres. It allow us to hear different stories, methods, approaches, and pathways into the professional world – it breaks down monocultures of practice, and opens up our minds. I have never looked back and have made some wonderful friends along the way. In the last few years, together with many other people, I have taken a keen interest in the presence of all-male panels at events. These all male panels are often referred to colloquially as ‘manels' – an amusing word to ridicule something that is indeed ridiculous. The way I mitigate the phenomena of ‘manels’ is twofold. As an organiser, I avoid creating them in the first place, and urge proposers to reconsider their panel choices when necessary, while helping them to reach a more balanced configuration. As an audio professional and an academic, I also pay attention to what is being offered in the field, and draw attention online to any manels I encounter. Why? Because event organisers should be asked to reflect on their choices. Ultimately, I take the view that if they had only innocently failed to consider the issue, then
'Embrace diversity': Mariana Lopez
they will acknowledge it and try harder next time. However, if they are disinterested or unsupportive of gender equality, I have found my observations often generate two possible outcomes: hurried justifications and/or angry responses that seek to blame me instead. Indeed, a few weeks ago it was brought to my attention that someone felt I was questioning prominent audio community members by calling out manels online. This prompted some reflection on my behalf: Why should we say ‘no’ to manels and call them out? The audio industries and the world at large are richly diverse, and professional panels should be representative of such diversity. An audience confronted with a panel of all male presenters are sent the message, overtly or otherwise, that expertise is pre-eminently ‘male’. Everyone else is reduced to an outsider that needs to break into those circles to be heard. As mentioned above, different backgrounds often yield different approaches, and diverse representation invites us to explore avenues that we might not have considered previously, making us better professionals in the process. Moreover, it invites us to acknowledge that there isn’t a ‘typical’ audio engineer. People defending manels often resort to the term ‘meritocracy’, arguing that people are in those panels because they deserve to be. And, yes, some of them do, but many are invited simply because they know the
organiser, and the latter lacked the imagination or drive to broaden their network. Another common criticism I’ve heard is ‘women don’t want to be added as a token.’ Increasing representation is not about having people merely to fill an abstract quota: it is about prompting organisers to think more critically about the field and who represents it. Calling out manels online is not unethical, and nor is it insulting to the speakers: it is a call for awareness. It is asking both organisers and participants to do their part in the creation of a more gender equal world. And, yes, panel participants also have an obligation to call things out, regarding their own panels and others. So, what can you do? If you are an organiser, think about diversity in your event, how are you going to promote it, how are you going to make your event welcoming for everyone. Are you trying to branch out and involve people outside your usual audio network? If you are a speaker being invited to a panel, take a minute to find out who else is participating. If it is indeed a manel, contact the organiser and question their choices. If you are someone that is constantly featured in manels, then you are just as responsible as those organising them. Let us all work together to embrace diversity, and play our part in making the audio industries all the richer and more welcoming for it. n
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Special K PSNEurope speaks to CEO, co-founder and president of K-array, Alessandro Tatini, on 30 years of pro audio innovation since launching the brand’s parent company, HP Sound Equipment, back in 1990, and K-array 15 years later...
-array, a leading Italian pro audio loudspeaker manufacturer, recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and subsequently, the 30th anniversary of its parent company, HP Sound Equipment. K-array was born out of HP Sound, which was founded in 1990 specifically for studio design and installation, as the company wanted to expand into live sound reinforcement. First practicing as a rental company, K-array found a gap in the market due to the weight and volume of traditional wooden PAs and sought to design an alternative system. Here, we chat to co-founder, CEO and president of K-array, Alessandro Tatini, about the brand’s 30 year journey and how the market has changed over that time... What has been the key to K-array’s success over the last 30 years? Since the establishment of K-array, our driving force is to meet the needs of the industry, developing solutions that didn’t exist before. Many of our products have been created completely from scratch and are extremely different to what is already on the market, making us very unique. How has the industry changed over the last 30 years? Over the past 30 years, I have noticed a more global reach in the pro audio industry. It has grown immensely and now it has become more and more immersed with IT with most customers and end-users requiring network connectivity from their devices for higher convenience and easy management. We are seeing more people in IT roles managing the system instead of system integrators who might have a higher knowledge regarding audio setup and tuning, and devices must reflect that change.
L-R: Massimo Ferrati, co-founder and CFO of K-array, and Alessandro Tatini
innovative technologies like Electronic Beam Steering, the ability to digitally adjust the dispersion of a line array to provide uniform coverage; Pure Array Technology, closely spaced, full-range sound sources for a long, narrow space to avoid reverberations; and Slim Array Technology, compact speaker boxes that save time and costs associated with transportation and setup and produce a hyper-cardioid dispersion pattern in the midlow range with better impulse response. We have also gone to great lengths to meet specific processes so that our products are certified.
What does the next decade hold for K-array? We will be looking to consolidate our products and expand into new segments and territories.
What has been your most innovative product to date? I think the products most exciting to me are different from those that are exciting to those who know our products well. The Lyzard is the smallest line array in the market and our flexible Anakonda always generates a K-face, but I really get excited about our Firenze line, the KH7 and KH8, given our live sound background and their cutting-edge technology. Every time I hear them, I am blown away.
How has your technology changed over the years? We have put years of research into creating our
How are you celebrating your anniversary? We have a calendar of events where we will celebrate with our K-family of friends, customers and distributors
leading up to exciting company updates and products announcements towards the end of the year. How is K-array embracing the growth of immersive audio technology? As part of the natural evolution of the industry, venues will always look to improve upon the customer experience and as manufacturers, it is our goal to proactively find ways to anticipate client needs. Immersive audio has emerged as the newest way to engage an audience and will continue to be viewed as the next big thing, but only for very specific and highlevel installations because the costs associated with it are on the higher end. How much of a focus is the theatre market? Theatres are a big focus for K-array. Any permanent theatre system must be discreet but simultaneously maintain flexibility to meet the different requirements for the many productions. The current market for column audio systems is so oversaturated with similar products that can only be differentiated by price, but K-array leverages the advantages of our technology and offers not just simple column speakers, but ones that incorporate Pure Array Technology and can be flown in long line arrays. n
PHOTO: Dom Sigalas
Katie Tavini meets James Routh Mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini talks all things audio with producer and engineer James Routh…
ey friends! I’d like to introduce you to a very special person in my life. James Routh is a producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist. He’s also the first person to ever give me a mastering job, when I didn’t even really know what mastering was. We didn’t even know each other, he was just desperately searching for someone to master an EP and I think I was probably the only person who was awake at the time. I told him I’d give it a go, but if he thought it was shit then not to use it, so James is completely right when he tells people he invented me as a mastering engineer! Fast forward nine whole years(!) and we’re still working together. It’s bonkers to have been working with someone for such a long time, and our work has progressed at a similar pace. So I feel like an introduction is needed, as he’s a major source of inspiration for me... Hey James! I feel really weird asking you these questions because we've known each other for so long, but can you tell us a little bit about how you got into producing?
I got into producing quite early on. I was 13 when I first went to Berlin Studios in Blackpool to make my first demos. I was completely blown away by the experience of being in a studio, it became a bit of an obsession. Over the next year I saved up all the money I could get with my band and went back twice more. My parents bought me a four-track Tascam tape recorder while I was at high school and I recorded everything I could with it. Most evenings I spent writing songs or making cover versions, using a couple of dodgy microphones and playing all the instruments myself. You also play in a couple of the bands you produce - Sonic Boom Six and Askari at the moment. Have you always played in bands? I formed a band before I learnt how to play an instrument. Around 12 years old I got a group of mates together and delegated them their musical roles. I think maybe I had a rap crew in primary school. Getting out and playing an instrument is what keeps me going, and I’ve always had a drive to do 'it', even before I knew what ‘it’ was. I've watched you do more and more production for the bands that you play in. How do you balance the production and performance responsibilities? I do love writing and playing, and the recording side has always been a part of it. I’ve always wanted to record what I
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performed, and then being able to add bits of music tech like samplers means the lines between producer, performer and music director are a little blurred now. Having different outlets and musical projects leave me feeling quite balanced, it never feels too much or like I’m juggling roles. I have learnt to give jobs to other people, so I get less bogged down with certain things. I’m a huge fan of someone else mixing my productions. One thing I love about your productions is that they have a really unique style, they seem to sound like the inside of your brain. Did your style just happen, or has it evolved? And who has influenced the way
you produce? Thank you very much! I think if I showed you some of the stuff I wrote and recorded as a teenager you would still hear similarities. I really appreciate aesthetics in music and I try to use what influences me as a creative pallet. Some of the music I write starts off as a brain worm (pre ear worm) and it goes round in my head til I’ve pretty much written it all, I just need to get it out. I love listening to music where you can close your eyes and imagine you are sat between the instruments. I try to make my music do that, too. I’ve always enjoyed what might be considered eccentric sounding music, Mike
Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, etc.), Frank Zappa and Prince to just name a few. Let's talk a little bit about where you work. You've been working out of a studio in Blackpool for a long time now, and you also have a home setup. Do you work on different projects from the different spaces, or do you do your tracking in the studio and take stuff home to mix it? I’ve been working from Berlin Studios in Blackpool (the one I went to as a kid) for a few years now, and more recently I’ve taken jobs with Rock Hard Studios, also in Blackpool. I try to be methodical in the way I work with people, which often means a lot of planning at my home studio first. I’ll take clients to a studio that best suits their needs and budget, if we need to go to one at all. I always say that if we’re doing anything louder than acoustic guitar and vocals, we should get a studio and work properly. A lot of my mixing/mastering jobs I’ll do at my home studio. I trust the sound and always find (with your help of course) that my work translates. Mental and physical health is a huge thing in music right now, do you have any tips on staying healthy when long hours and work stress might be getting a bit much? Long hours in the studio can be hard. I try to only take projects I know I will enjoy time flies when you are having fun. If I'm producing the kind of artists that need me to be really hands-on with the music, a 10-hour day can fly by. I also do like to do different things. I teach almost as much as I produce, and although it is all technically music, I find myself feeling a lot less emotionally burdened than I did when I was just trying to stay afloat producing. Being realistic with time is also good for my mental health. Seeing a whole album as its parts rather than a huge conquest works well for me. I also got a dog recently who often likes to be involved while I’m working. She also makes sure I get out for a couple of hours per day and that has been wonderful. Drink lots of water, too, and don’t get fast food delivered to the studio. Meal prep if it’s going to be a long session, and don’t eat too many biscuits (have some, of course). n
L-R; Helen Goddard, Malle Kaas, Hannah Brodrick and Maddie Vining
Discussing diversity in sound PSNEurope attended Shureâ€™s International Womenâ€™s Day panel on March 9, which explored the issues facing gender diversity in the pro audio industry and how to tackle them...
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On March 9, PSNEurope had the pleasure of attending Shure’s Celebrating Women in Audio panel at the brand’s newly opened Rose Shure Experience Centre based in Monument, London. The event was dedicated to the UK Women in AV (WAVE) founder, Abigail Brown, who made a huge contribution to the industry as a role model for women, but sadly passed away recently after battling cancer. With technology sitting at the heart of the office and its extremely well-equipped conference rooms, the panellists – made up of pro audio and AV industry figures – had the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on the issues surrounding gender diversity... Can you be what you can’t see? The first thought-provoking question posed to the panel was, can you be what you can’t see? This refers to the lack of female role models in the pro audio and AV industries, and ponders if this, in and of itself, inhibits women from entering careers in these fields. The panellists discussed the question in depth, and what appeared to be the common trend is that the industry being male-dominated is a deterrent to many women. However, there are men who are willing to encourage women into the industry and act as mentors. One point raised was that some women can have a tendency to shy away from the spotlight and to underestimate their abilities, so as a woman in the industry it’s key to be visible and show other females that it can be done. Role models that individuals can identify with are incredibly significant; being aware that not only are there supportive men in the industry, but there are also women, and communities like Women In Live Music, that bring these women together. Here's what the panellists had to say... Kevin McLoughlin, AVIXA Diversity & AV manager, Royal Society of Medicine: “The AV industry is obviously male-dominated, and if you’re a woman looking in from the outside and you see a room full of men, it may have an effect that you don’t want to be part of that group.” Helen Goddard, president of The Institute of Sound and Communication Engineers: “When I found myself in the industry – we’re more installed sound at ISCE and I’m an electro acoustician – I didn’t have anyone to look at. But what I did find was some interesting middle-aged men who were very willing to take 'the girl' into the fold. I found I was mentored really wonderfully and given every opportunity to show what I could do. “At the ISCE, 12 out of our 600 members are female, which is shocking. But then, on the other hand, I’m also like, ‘who are they?’ Because I know Honey, who joined about 12 years ago but beyond that, we don’t see these women turning out to events.” Hannah Brodrick, FOH engineer and co-founder of Women In Live Music: “When I went through education in sound, I had one female lecturer. And for me, that was my one female role model. And she wasn’t even in sound, she was an electronics engineer. So when I came into the industry, I was always aware of my gender. Sometimes you just want to blend in, and I had a real problem with self-doubt because, for a long time, I thought that women just weren’t as good as men at technical things as I didn’t know any women doing it. I just thought men must have something in their brain that made them better at these things, and women at other things. “It wasn’t until I found out about SoundGirls and Kerrie Keyes – founder of SoundGirls and monitoring engineer for Pearl Jam – that I found someone I could be, who was at the top of their game. When I found her, my confidence completely shot up. But it wasn’t until I saw someone else doing it that I thought I could. And that is one of the reasons we started Women In Live Music.” Malle Kaas, live engineer and CEO of Women in Live Music: “I grew up with two older brothers who were my role models, and also because I was the youngest I’d get their clothes, so I’d be wearing guys clothes. So when I entered the industry, I thought I was one of the guys. And that was super intimidating for my male colleagues because they thought I was hitting on them, but I just wanted to know what they knew.
At the same time, I was aware I was a woman. It was my dream to be the one behind the console since I was a young girl, but I felt so small next to the guys, so I never got behind the console. I actually dropped out of the industry for about 12 years, but then Kerrie Keyes called me up and asked me if I wanted to be part of her organisation.” Maddie Vining, senior AV technician at Royal Society of Medicine: “I never thought I’d get into AV. I thought I’d be a famous musician, and it was the female musicians I always looked up to. If you don’t see females doing things, you think, ‘maybe I’m not good enough to do it’. Men often step in trying to show you how to do things, and it’s about telling them, ‘It’s ok, I can do it, I don’t need a man to help me'”. How can we encourage more women into the industry? Another significant question was what can we do to change this, to encourage women into the industry and at a younger age? It seems that the education system is improving, with more girls being encouraged into STEM subjects, but it is a slow process. So it’s incredibly important for female audio professionals to be turning up to career days and schools to show young women that there are women in the industry. HG: “I think it goes back to the basic education system. What we are seeing now is a shift to encouraging girls towards the engineering subjects. Certainly when I was in school, I was encouraged away from doing sciences, and I was pushed to the creative side. The biggest joke for me is my Physics teacher wouldn’t allow me to take the most basic Physics qualification, and I’m an electro acoustician. I work with Physics everyday. I go to schools and careers days, as it’s not going to happen without that extra input from those of us that are doing it. We still need to show the younger female students that it’s possible for them to do it. “There’s a female trait, for example, when applying for a job, and a woman will go ‘Oh, I can’t do that’, and their male counterpart will say, ‘I can’t do that, but I’ll say I can!’ So as women we have to be more confident in our abilities to learn on the job, to be our own advocates and not to sit back.” HB: “Visibility is so important. If when I was at uni, I had a female live sound engineer come and do a talk, that would’ve saved me so many years of self-doubt. There are a lot of women entering the industry, but I think a big reason you don’t see so many of them is because they do drop out after a certain period of time. It just takes one bad gig – I’ve even considered it. Women are entering the industry, but we need to keep them here.” MK: “A big part of our job in WILM is to make the women visible in the industry, but it’s also to make the industry visible to the women. Generally, women have a tendency to shy away, and that’s also why we invented the WILM Awards. The idea came because we saw the TPi Awards and saw only three women were nominated out of 50. We need to get some names up there.” KM: “We had an AV tech vacancy at the Royal Society of Medicine, and we had an application from a woman come in and I went to the agency and said I wanted to interview her. The agency came back and said: ‘She’s decided she doesn’t think she’s good enough for it’'. So I said, "I’ll be the judge of whether she’s good enough for it” and she came in, I gave her the job and she was brilliant. It was almost a self sabotage before she got her foot in the door. That is a tiny example of where you can take positive action to make a difference.” Ultimately, it’s not only down to the women in the industry to encourage the future generation of women in audio, but also the men; both Goddard and Kaas credited men in the industry for supporting them in their careers. There are also many women in audio, or aspiring to be – the panel was packed out with women eager to learn more about audio and to hear what their female role models had to say – so it’s important, as Brodrick emphasised, to keep them here by making them feel supported and welcome. n
FROM MAIDA VALE TO EAST LONDON: BBC RECORDING STUDIOS PREPARE FOR BIG MOVE The broadcaster is preparing to say goodbye to its long-standing Maida Vale recording facilities and move into purpose-built studios by 2022-23. Kevin Hilton finds out more about the relocation and the plans for its new studios so far...
hese are tricky times for the BBC. The UK public broadcaster came under fire from all political parties during last year's General Election for supposed bias and has now announced job cuts in its news division. There is also to be a review of how the organisation is funded, with proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee. Amid this uncertainty, however, the BBC has at last given more details on the future for its in-house music recording operations and what technology will go into new purpose-built studios in two to three years time. Since the 1930s the BBC has used the studio centre at Maida Vale in west London for the majority of its recording sessions of both classical and orchestral music, rock and pop. While the broadcaster continues to promote sessions today as coming from the "historic Maida Vale Studios", it is now moving ahead with plans for facilities within a new cultural development in east London. Dedicated music studios will be installed in a BBC building that will be part of the Stratford Waterfront development. Construction work has already started on the site, which is on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the 2012 Summer Games were held. The aim is to establish a creative hub presenting different facets of culture; alongside the BBC will be the Victoria & Albert (V&A) museum, Sadler's Wells, London College of Fashion and other arts institutions. The Stratford facility will replace the Maida Vale studios, which were built into the distinctive low-level building on Delaware Road that originally opened in 1909 as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club. The BBC took over the premises in 1933 and converted it into studios, initially for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Further studio spaces were built later for recording rock, punk, post-punk and indie music. It was here that the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Cream recorded versions of their latest releases. The Maida Vale Studios currently house seven specialist studios (although one has been decommissioned for some time). The largest of these is MV1, which, at 750mÂ˛, is among the biggest studio spaces in the UK. It is used for performances by the BBC
Symphony Orchestra and has a Studer D950 digital console in the control room. MV4 is revered as the place where the Peel Sessions were recorded between 1967 and 2004. This period encapsulates not only modern music history but also the changing tastes and influence of the late DJ John Peel. The building also housed the Radiophonic Workshop from 1958 to 1998 (although the last recording by that pioneering unit was made in 1997). Over the last 15 years the future of the Maida Vale studio centre has been put in doubt. In 2007 rumours circulated that the BBC had decided the studios were "wholly unsuitable for the 21st century" and would be sold to a property developer. Two years later, during celebrations to mark the Maida Vale complex's 75th anniversary, the BBC's position was that it would remain as part of its portfolio "for the foreseeable future". This stay of execution was largely because the BBC could not find a viable alternative, even though the premises were regarded as run-down. Maida Vale's fate was finally decided in 2018 when the BBC director-general, Tony Hall, announced to staff that the studios would ultimately be closed and the music recording operation moved to Stratford. "I understand how much our musical heritage at Maida Vale means to us, to artists and to audiences," Lord Hall wrote to staff. "We haven't taken this decision lightly. But we're determined to ensure that live music remains at the heart of the BBC and moving to this new development gives us the opportunity to do just that." That new development is the East Bank of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the name consciously echoing the central London arts and culture district on the South Bank of the River Thames. As well as the BBC centre there will be Sadler's Wells East, a branch of the renowned dance company that will have a 550-seat theatre; the University of Arts London's College of Fashion will move on to a new campus at the site; V&A East will have two premises, including a museum at the Waterfront, plus a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution; and University College London (UCL) will create a new campus, UCL East, offering multi-disciplinary
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A mock-up of the new purposebuilt recording studios
research, teaching and innovation in robotics, smart cities, culture and conservation. There is also the aim to introduce more community interaction by running music sessions in local schools and collaborating with performance groups in the area. The BBC intends to use the studios for live broadcasts on its music-based radio stations: Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, Radio 2, Radio 3 and 6 Music, as well as promoting emerging artists through the BBC Introducing initiative. The BBC building, described as narrow and tall, will house three studios. A basic outline of what facilities and technology will be going into it was given by Paul Morgan, the BBC's head of technology, during Radio TechCon towards the end of last year. The largest of the rooms, Studio 1, is planned to be 15 to 16 metres high and will be the new home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the BBC Singers. Morgan said when finished it would be the biggest classical studio in the world. Two smaller rooms, Studios 2 and 3, will be in the basement. Morgan commented that Studio 2 is envisioned as a general purpose space for singers, chamber music, jazz, rock and pop, while Studio 3 will be on a mezzanine and similar to Maida Vale 4, the old Peel Sessions studio. Each studio will have a 72-fader mixing console; Morgan said there was still a debate going on as to whether these would be analogue or digital. "We want to make everything as flexible as possible," he said. "There will be a building-wide audio over IP network and a smallscale TV set-up." The building will also accommodate an orchestra room, rehearsal area and on-air capability. The only other technology that has been decided on at this stage is the MĂźller-BBM active tunable acoustic system. This will be used to change the character and sound of the rooms, which is done using a lot of microphones (eight to 36) and loudspeakers, with what Morgan described as "a big chunk of DSP". Based in Munich, MĂźller-BBM specialises in Active Noise Control (ANC) and Active Sound Design (ASD) and works in both industrial/commercial environments, including on railways, as well as in artistic and recording situations. Right now this proposed facility is, in Paul Morgan's words, just a big hole in the ground. The aim is for the BBC to move into its new facilities by 2022 or 2023. Commenting on the project, Lord Hall said: "We're hugely excited about the prospect of joining the new Stratford Waterfront development. The future home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, BBC Singers and our rock and pop recording facilities is one of the most exciting cultural developments in London. With so many world class arts organisations on one site there will be great opportunities for partnerships and new projects and weâ€™re looking forward to getting involved." n
CULTURAL DEMOCRACY Last month, Pamela McCormick, founder of urban music talent incubator, Urban Development, was honoured with the Special Recognition prize at the 2020 MPG Awards. She tells Daniel Gumble about the strides the organisation has made over the past two decades and how urban culture has taken on the mainstream…
o put the work of Pamela McCormick and Urban Development into perspective, one has to understand the backdrop to which the organisation was launched. Five years ago, the UK urban music scene was in a very different place to where it finds itself today. Fans of grime and UK hip hop will correctly tell you that for more than 20 years, this corner of the industry has been producing some of the nation’s most innovative, vibrant and exciting music. The DIY spirit embodied by so many artists to have emerged this side of the millennium was spearheaded largely by the grime artists and producers of the late ‘90s, while genre figureheads, including the likes of Kano, Skepta and Wiley, to name but a few, have been consistently producing pioneering records that have paved the way for so much that has come to follow. However, in the eyes of the mainstream, urban music – especially grime – appeared to be something of an ill fit. Of course, the established order had been punctuated with moments of breakthrough success from the genre, with artists like Dizzee Rascal and Craig David delivering huge commercial hits, but for the most part it was considered very much an underground movement. In 2016, things started to change, when Skepta’s Konnichiwa beat the likes of David Bowie, Radiohead and The 1975 to scoop the 2016 Mercury Prize. It felt like – and, indeed, was – a landmark moment. In February 2017, Stormzy topped the UK Albums chart with his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, before delivering one of the most celebrated Glastonbury headline sets in the festival’s history in 2019. Later that year he also hit the No.1 one spot on the UK Albums Chart with his second album Heavy Is The Head. 2019 also saw London grime artist Dave win the Mercury Prize for his album Psychodrama, which also reached No.1 in the charts, and earlier this year he gave a standout performance at the 2020 BRIT Awards – described as one of the most iconic in the event’s history – before winning Mastercard Album of the Year.
But it’s not all been about Skepta, Stormy and Dave. The likes of Novelist, Ghetts, Giggs, Jme, AJ Tracey, Lady Leshurr, Little Simz, Wretch 32 and many others have all produced records of note in recent years, while trade bodies and record labels are investing more time and money into developing urban talent than ever before. One of the earliest supporters of urban music in the UK was Urban Development, an organisation designed to help people from some of the most deprived areas of London pursue their dreams of a career in music by connecting them with industry people and companies who could develop their talent and push them to the next level. Founded in Stratford, East London in 1996, it has transformed from a tiny group of people passionate about assisting artists, producers and potential entrepreneurs in the greatest need of assistance into a hugely influential hub, counting some of the biggest institutions from the UK music biz as its supporters. The importance of Urban Development to those immersed in the urban music world has been evident from day one, but its inspirational work is now starting to be recognised, like the genre itself, by the wider industry, with founder Pamela McCormick receiving the 2020 Special Recognition award at the 2020 MPG Awards. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with her to find out how the organisation has helped push the genre forward and how it is supporting the artists and producers of tomorrow... How did you feel when you found out you’d won the MPG Special Recognition award? It was amazing. It feels as if the organisation’s work is being supported by the wider music industry; like we are part of an ecosystem that is increasingly recognising the need to provide talent development for a diverse group of young people. We’ve come a long way. How has Urban Development evolved? In the early days we were mainly supported by the
'We've come a long way': Pamela McCormick
funding system. It was under New Labour and the projects we were running were based around hip hop, so it felt like a niche, and quite political, project. But over those 20-plus years the music industry has shifted massively; our funding partners have shifted and the range of people who support us has shifted. We have myriad music industry partners now, including a longstanding relationship with Universal. We also work with Bucks Music, Believe, the BRITs, UK Music, the BPI. That began to happen about five years ago and it started happening through the growth of a particular project called Industry Takeover, which was putting young people in a room with role models, industry executives – especially young executives that young people could see themselves in. It brought our world much closer to the industry's desire to engage with diverse young people. Also, we run a pilot project where we deliver some satellite projects outside of London in Bristol, Derby
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different political environment compared to the New Labour era. They were heady days for supporting diverse culture. There hasn’t necessarily been a regression of that, but there have been difficult economic times and music and education cuts make me worry about whether young people are accessing the music education they are entitled to within statutory education. So I would argue the need for an Urban Development type of organisation that is delivering outreach projects to young people is still really vital. Music has become quite democratic, but we would argue that there still needs to be a skills base, financial access and an infrastructure to create sustainable careers. Even though it’s now easier to become an artist, it is still really important, if you want to sustain your career, to have the right team around you. The music industry has come a long way – the diversity stats published by UK Music every year indicate that [the industry] is taking very seriously the need to diversify. But more can always be done to support talent at grassroots level because the industry is a little bit risk averse, it expects artists to come with readymade fan bases, etc. How do you feel seeing the grime boom take on the mainstream? It feels as if it’s sustainable. If you look at the history of music of black origin it would often be cyclical; there would be phases of success, but this feels like a game-changing moment. The independence that has democratised music making has meant that artists have engaged directly with their audiences, and as a consequence of that people have learned impressive skills. And urban culture is everywhere, it’s penetrated all forms of mainstream culture.
and Manchester, and we're hopefully on a trajectory where we can start achieving national profile. Overall, I’d say the main shift is recognising that we are genuinely creating opportunities for diverse, working class young people from a poor area of London and providing them with pathways into the music industry. What prompted you to launch UD? I was brought up in Belfast in the ‘70s and it was a pretty bad place to grow up. I looked around at the troubles playing out in the poorer estates and communities and saw that there was a real synergy between the violence on the streets and the lack of opportunities and aspirations. I guess I carried that with me. I had a sense that education, and intervention, can change everything. I worked in London for a collective of hip hop musicians and was thinking about cultural democracy, and it was clear that this music deserved to be recognised as a form of culture. There is no hierarchy
between that form of culture, which is generated by young people at grassroots level, and the ‘high art’ of opera and classical music. That felt really important to me. When working with those artists we began to deliver education projects; the artists wanted to create projects they wished they’d had. We were working in East London and the sense that talent is everywhere but opportunity isn’t was evident. We were working in Stratford way before it became the place it is now, pre-Olympics. It was early 2000s and was an incredibly deprived area. The two things came together for me then – taking seriously the need to find high-potential young people, offering them opportunities and raising ambition, and putting them in a room with the right people to help them find those opportunities and embed the skills they need for a career in music. Is UD needed more now than ever before? It’s quite a complicated picture. We’re living in a very
What is UD currently doing for producers? We run a programme called the Urban Artists School, which offers a Level 4 course, the first year of a Degree, and an incubator programme that is intended to attract self-releasing artists and producers. What are the key challenges and opportunities you face? It’s really about sustainability. We are a bit dependent on project funding, so it’s about getting to a place where we create that long-term footing that will allow the work to carry on and grow from a level playing field. Opportunities wise, because we’ve been in Stratford from the beginning – we had the Olympics come and go – it was a matter of understanding what that meant for us. Stratford is changing and the regeneration initiative and gentrification has posed the risk that we might be squeezed out, and therefore the young people with whom we work might be squeezed out from that area. We’ve stood our ground, secured the site and raised the money for the building. It’s been an opportunity, but it's been challenging along the way. n
Past, present & Future Daniel Gumble catches up with prolific songwriter and producer Eliza Shaddad to find out about the making of Sept ~ Dec, the follow-up EP to her brilliant debut album Future, and what’s coming up on the horizon…
t’s been a little over a year since PSNEurope last chatted to London-based artist and producer Eliza Shaddad. At the time she had just released Future, a sparkling debut record frothing with dreamy hooks and early ‘90s guitar-powered indie pop. A steady stream of single releases and cover versions followed in its wake, the most recent being the three-track EP Sept ~ Dec, released in January this year. The sound builds on the tone that was established with Future – ‘Same As You’ and ‘Girls’ reveal a gentler, sparser sound than anything we’ve heard from her previously, while opening track ‘One Last Embrace’ showcases Shaddad at her heaviest, fuelled by overdriven guitars and placing her love of grunge at its very core. Not entirely content with busying herself in the studio, Shaddad also embarked on a European tour with Keane that saw her perform to sold out arenas night after night. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble somehow managed to catch her on a rare day off to discuss what has been a breakneck start to 2020... So, you’ve been busy since we last spoke? It’s been the most ridiculous start to the year! I had some nice plans for an easy start to the year and the first thing that happened was that Keane asked me if I wanted to join them on tour around Europe. It was an unmissable opportunity. I’ve spent the past few weeks living on a tour bus – which was my first time and was really fun – and I played to some of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played to, which was incredible. How did that feel? It was brilliant. I did it solo and it was just complete freedom to play whatever I wanted, however I wanted, in any order, and just project it to the rafters. It was insane. Some nights I was playing to crowds of around 6,000, so they were much bigger shows than I’m used to playing. Were you not intending to release an EP at the start of the year? No, it was planned, but it was supposed to have loads of space around it for planning and promoting, so it all got rolled into one. Whenever I had a free day in the calendar we ended up recording a new song. But it’s always good to be busy.
Take us back to when work finished on Future. Two of the songs on Sept ~ Dec were written while I was writing Future and one was written while we were promoting it. To me they didn’t feel as though they fitted on Future because they were about the same person and that record was pretty much devoted to one situation, so I held them back but still wanted to work on them. When Future came out I started looking at how I was going to approach the next songs, and I was interested in keeping them closer to me; not having to go somewhere else to do it, only having a finite amount of time and lots of stress and pressure to get it done. I wanted to do it how I wanted to do it. I spent a little time working out if I wanted to do it live in a studio in London, but in the end I just started working on them at home. The song ‘Same As You’ was written in this really cool place called Old Jet in Suffolk, an old airfield that has loads of old planes and bunkers. It has a flight simulation building where I rented a room to write and record. It was really cool and inspiring and that’s where that song came from. So, at the beginning of last year after the album, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to record and was trying a lot of stuff at home. I decided I wanted to do it all away from London and went to Cornwall, where I worked with a producer (Ben Jackson) in a little bungalow in a tiny village about 20 metres from the ocean. We set everything up and just worked, with lots of space and time to experiment. We worked on quite a lot of songs and chose three for the EP. It was quite a natural, slow process. Because the songs were related to the past I wanted to tail end the album with them by way of this EP, before starting something completely new. Tell me about how your relationship worked with your co-producer? It worked a lot like how it’s worked before with me and Chris Bond, who co-produced Future. I have pretty clear demos, often so clear that we end up using stems from the demos in the final versions. But it varies from song to song. ‘Same As You’ was a mixture of stuff I’d recorded at home and stuff we recorded in the studio and was very much a case of everyone hopping on to different instruments. It was very collaborative. We are always starting from a base, which is very much centred around the sound and scope of the song. ‘Same As You’ was a teenage sounding, quite simple garage rock slow jam.
Going in alone: Eliza Shaddad Photo: Flore Diamant
That wasn’t going to change once we got into the studio. ‘One Last Embrace’ was heavy, straightforward and simple from the very beginning, it’s got so few stems to it. Then ‘Girls’ is the one that Ben had the most input on as a producer, because it was very much a dirge-like, dark rock epic to begin with. There was a problem with the drums that I programmed so we started programming different ones and it just changed. The result ended up quite different, but something that I really loved. It’s been an interesting time of trying to be more open to working with other people and taking their ideas to heart without losing what it is that I want to convey and feel when I make and listen to music. Why these three out of the songs you were working on? There were two other songs that were contenders to make the EP that were very different. It was more the themes and lyrical content that made me feel like these three fitted together, as much as they are quite different musically. They just felt like they were coming from the same perspective.
lines, but it won’t define the whole album. You said that on tour you’ve been going out and performing solo. Has that given you any inclination to strip things back and produce a truly ‘solo’ record? I would be really interested in doing something like that. It was out of necessity that the tour was done that way, but I love playing solo, and making a record like that could work really well. I’m definitely interested in pursuing that at some point. And what’s next? Straight into demos for the next album and a UK tour. I can't say the release date for the new album, but you will hear new music this year. n
Eliza Shaddad Photo: Jodie Canwell
What do you look for in a producer? And would you like to reach a point where you are producing on your own? Part of being away from a traditional studio was definitely about working towards being able to do it myself – a simpler set-up that’s affordable and that I can find my way around, basically. That’s definitely the end game, I’d love to be doing it myself. Logistically that is what I’m working towards, having a studio space of my own. I have a bedroom set-up, but that’s not the sound I’m going for. The crux of what I’m trying to do is to get a big studio sound from a much smaller set-up. I don’t have the skills to do that yet, so that’s where Ben came in. I’m working on demos at the moment and I’m getting much closer to a position where it needs a good mix but doesn’t need a producer to look over it and change it completely. I’m getting there. Is the harder edge of ‘One Last Embrace’ something we can expect to be explored further with the next album? It very much depends. I don’t think it’s going to be an album of One Last Embraces. I write so differently from one day to the next, so there might be some more music along those
ISE 2020: IN REVIEW PSNEurope speaks to key pro audio exhibitors about their experiences of this yearâ€™s show, including the added challenges of Coronavirus and Storm Ciara...
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ISE 2020 wrapped up its 15-year residency at the RAI Amsterdam with this year’s show, before it heads to Barcelona and a much larger venue – Fira Gran Via – for the 2021 edition. Despite the many challenges the event faced this year, what with the coronavirus outbreak and Storm Ciara making it difficult for some to attend, ISE 2020 stood firm in the face of adversity to deliver a successful show. While attendance was understandably down against the previous year, the figures were still impressive with a total of 52,128 visitors attending the show. With the dust settled, we spoke to leading pro audio exhibitors about the difficulties faced, the considerable effort made by everyone involved to make sure it still went on and expectations for ISE’s new home... Mike Newman, head of sales and marketing, Void Acoustics What was your overall impression of this year’s show? The show was well organised and everything ran fairly smoothly despite the stormy weather and the coronavirus problems, which were bound to have a significant impact. Indeed, it felt as though footfall overall was reduced, but nonetheless the traffic in our demo room and on our stand was of excellent quality. Has the pro audio hall changed/developed? In terms of 2021, the audio hall appears to have been significantly improved as the process of moving venues has allowed the organisers to clean up the halls and have all of audio in a single hall, not something they have ever been able to do in Amsterdam. I am sure this will make for a much more cohesive experience for attendees. What are your expectations for next year’s show? We have very high hopes for the show next year with the move to Barcelona. Whilst the proximity of the 2021 show in relation to the NAMM show will prove challenging, the improved facilities and size of the venue in Barcelona can only have a positive impact on the show. Gioia Molinari, director of marketing, RCF What was your overall impression of ISE 2020? The show was good considering all the related issues and despite the fact
there were fewer customers than the previous year. As far as we are concerned, we managed to get to the show and we had the opportunity to speak to customers and press. For sure, the situation created by coronavirus and Storm Ciara created some damage and the situation has got steadily worse day-by-day since then. Let’s just say that 2020 has started uphill, and the industry is starting to suffer heavily from the coronavirus outbreak. Has the pro audio hall changed at all? In the past years, there has been an increase in the number of audio companies attending ISE, asking for additional space. This has generated more attendees and created an opportunity to meet and greet customers and consultants. However, I still believe that ISE is much more AV-oriented; the audio still represents a smaller attraction then the video. What are your expectations for next year’s show? ISE in Spain will be very interesting; the additional space, and the possibilities of having bigger booths and perhaps demo rooms will certainly make the show even more attractive. The location in February is much more appealing than Amsterdam and the convention centre is much more agreeable. I'm not sure about the attendance – reaching Barcelona is a bit more tricky and Netherlands and German customers are less inclined to fly to Spain because it means spending more days out of the office/away from the business. Another question mark is the possibility of a demo outside; that will be a strong incentive from the audio manufacturer's point of view. It is indeed a new show, so the first edition might suffer a bit. Matt Czyzewski, president, Renkus-Heinz How did you find this year’s show? ISE 2020 was busy and productive. For RenkusHeinz, it was slightly better than last year because we were showing some products that are now shipping and we had a good gathering with our distributors. How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus concerns and Storm Ciara? The overall attendance was certainly down, and that was evident as you walked through the show floor. Specifically, the threat of COVID-19 kept a few of our key customers in Asia from attending. This meant we were unable to meet with them to discuss business for 2020 and to just generally catch up with how things are going in a faceto-face meeting, which is always better than email or on
conference calls. The Ciara storm meant several of our customers and some of our staff had difficulty getting to Amsterdam. However, they were able to eventually make it and we just shuffled our schedules as necessary. What was clear is many travel plans were affected by the storm, but people were determined to get to Amsterdam to attend the show and found ways to make it. It made many of us think of it as in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles because of the stories of alternative travel arrangements. What are your expectations for next year’s show? We all expect ISE 2021 to be just as important of a show and we will see how attendance is compared to Amsterdam. I heard a number of European customers saying they will certainly be attending, but may bring less people since flying is the best option for going to Barcelona, whereas taking a train or car is possible for many in Europe. Meyer Sound, SVP of sales and marketing, John McMahon What was your overall impression of this year’s show? Meyer Sound enjoyed a successful ISE 2020 with two new product launches. We hosted our annual dealer and distributor meeting on the day before the show opened and had strong attendance. How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus concerns and Storm Ciara? While a few of our customers had travel disruptions due to the storm and we had some reduced attendance from Asia due to the Coronavirus, our global team was able to make the trip out to Amsterdam in force and the show proved to be a success for Meyer Sound. The overall show attendance may have been a little down on what many would have expected under normal circumstances, but we had a full room for every demo and strong attendance at our booth and Sonic Lounge in Hall 1. What are your expectations for next year’s show? We will see how the new location of Barcelona changes the show. As a founding member of ISE, we have always enjoyed our premium location in Hall 1. At the new venue, there have been some initial challenges related to the audio demo rooms, but the pro audio manufacturers have come together to work with ISE management to address these concerns. As such, we are hopeful of a positive outcome ahead of the show in 2021.
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ISE bids farewell to the Amsterdam RAI before its big move to Barcelona next year
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Howard Jones, PR director, Genelec How did you find ISE 2020? It was another very well executed ISE, much as we’ve come to expect. We were aware that a few of our Nordic customers had decided to cancel their attendance in advance due to concerns over coronavirus, but as it turns out the vast majority of our business meetings went ahead as planned. There’s no doubt that, on day one particularly, you could feel the lower levels of traffic in the aisles, but we were quite surprised to see the final attendance figures – it felt busier than the numbers indicated. For us, a lot of valuable activity takes place off the ISE show floor, and so we were still able to deliver Smart IP presentations at both the AudioForum and AV User Group events ahead of the show, and provide Smart IP product training sessions for business partners during the show, but away from the booth. All of these were very well attended and extremely worthwhile. How was your show experience impacted by the storm and coronavirus? I think day one of the show was the perfect storm (excuse the pun) of extreme weather and health concerns – so that day in particular felt less busy than it might have been, as many flights (including my own) had been delayed or cancelled. Everyone had an interesting travel story to tell, once they finally arrived at the RAI. But other than the slightly awkward ritual of fist-bumping or elbow-tapping to minimise physical contact, the show pretty much rolled on without any major differences from last year. I think the real business impact of the virus is yet to play out, so we’ll monitor the situation closely this year. Has the pro audio hall changed since it launched? Well yes, I guess the trend towards brands providing one-stop shops for AV is increasing, so more and more manufacturers are looking to try and provide turnkey solutions. The rise of IP and PoE also continues, and that to us is where our AV future lies. We’re a specialist manufacturer, so we’ll continue to focus on designing great sounding loudspeakers, but our single cable Smart IP solution will enable our products to thrive in the brave new networked world of Dante and open IP standards like AES67 and ST2110-30. The possibilities are endless, so these are exciting times for installed audio. What are your expectations for next year’s show? I think ISE is so well-established and so well run that the move to Barcelona will ultimately be a success. As an industry we tend not to like change, and I know people
will question the transport links to Barcelona and how this will impact mainland Europeans who might travel to the show by road. But personally I’m ready to move to a location that can comfortably hold the numbers that ISE draws, and maybe feel some sun on my face next February – not the stinging rain. Amsterdam’s been great, but it’s time to move on. David Kirk, marketing manager, Allen & Heath What was your overall impression of ISE 2020? It was a very strong show for Allen & Heath. I heard rumours of quiet aisles in some halls, but if there was a drop in visitors it certainly wasn’t apparent from our vantage point in Hall 7. One noticeable difference this year was the increased traffic on the final day. Even in the last hours when you’d expect to see exhibitors packing up, we were still having fruitful conversations with integrators and consultants. How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus and the storm? Aside from the all-pervading whiff of hand gel and the social awkwardness of not knowing whether to shake hands, bump fists or tap elbows, it was pretty much business as usual. Storm Ciara did delay some visitors, and it made for some exciting flying, but judging by the footfall on the Allen & Heath booth, I’m not sure that many people changed their plans altogether. Has the pro audio hall developed? Audio has gone from the margins to the mainstream over the last few years, and that’s a trend I hope to see continued in 2021. What do you expect from ISE 2021? ISE is becoming more and more important for Allen & Heath as we deepen our installation product range, so we’ll be back with a bigger showcase than ever in 2021.
Dave Smith, senior business manager, Audiologic What was your overall impression of this year’s show? ISE has become a crucial fixture in the pro audio show calendar, not just
for the opportunity to engage with both existing and new customers, but to learn more and experience new technologies and products at launch. It is, of course, very difficult to compare with last year, but we did note a significant downturn in overall visitor numbers and some of our key customers were unable to attend. How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus and Storm Ciara? The show saw a sharp drop in attendance, however, it was important for us to remain positive and to seize the opportunity after months of planning and a considerable investment in a new stand design. What are your expectations for next year’s show? We are looking forward to moving to a new venue in a city that hosts more conferences and exhibitions than any other. The extra floorspace and state-of-the-art facilities will ensure the show can continue to develop and expand to the next level. Plus of course, it is a fantastic city and the warmer climate makes it a great place to perhaps extend our stay over the weekend. Has the pro audio hall developed? The most impactful development for us was our inclusion in it. This year was our first year exhibiting in Hall 7, the pro audio hall. There were a few empty stands due to last minute pull outs. Some companies have also moved away from the hall in search of a bigger stand. But overall, the hall still had a clear focus on audio, which we appreciate. Martin Audio, managing director, Dom Harter How did you find this year’s show? While it wasn’t the event that people were expecting, it was ultimately successful despite the challenges that were thrown at the organiser. In the end, we saw people from all over the world and were able to have conversations about real business. Our popular demo room was full for every session and the Best of Show Award was a wonderful way to end our time here. How was the show impacted by the storm and coronavirus? The disruption caused by both Storm Ciara and coronavirus meant that there was a very different feeling on the show floor. But with full credit given to the show organiser, those who did manage to make it to Amsterdam were determined to make the best of it and do the business they came for. While the numbers were
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undoubtedly down on the previous year, the quality of meetings on the Martin Audio stand was as high as ever. The advantage of the reduced numbers was the increased quality of conversation that could be had on the booth. Alcons Audio, Tom Back, managing director What was your overall impression of ISE 2020? Despite the lower number of visitors, we had a packed demo room on all of the days. The other very important part of our presence (on home-turf) is meetings with dealers and distributors. Every hour on the hour, we have meetings planned weeks in advance. This used to be the role of Prolight+Sound show for Alcons Audio, but we noticed more and more clients and potentials started to go to ISE instead. So, we changed our emphasis on the dealer business meetings from PL+S to ISE. Hence, we also reduced our stand space at PL+S significantly. This final year in Amsterdam, we also organised the launch of our LR24 touring system with a boat trip with dinner through the canals to the demo location. This was also a nice addition to the attendees. How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus concerns and Storm Ciara? Needless to say, it was influenced by both. Due to the wind, we had quite a few late-arrivals by plane and even a distributor that swapped the plane for his car and drove 1,300km to Amsterdam. Due to that, they could only stay a limited time so as not to miss their local meetings. We were surprised by a number of distributors not being joined by clients, even from territories/countries where there was no coronavirus. Our Chinese colleagues weren’t there, but we had had our Korean distributor over, who was delayed due to interrogations as he had visited a supermarket in Seoul right before a visitor was diagnosed with coronavirus. So we had our wide collection hand sanitisers and disinfectant on our tables, next to the drinks, sweets and coffee. In hindsight, I guess we can say we were lucky that ISE wasn't cancelled. What are your expectations for next year’s show? That will be a different beast altogether for us: No longer on home-turf! Of course, we visited the FIR already and it looks really good. I think we all are convinced of the facilities, but we need to see how many 'local visitors' the show can attract. The storm showed this year there are quite a few day visitors from nearby countries with high economic growth. Will all these people take a longer flight with hotel requirements to visit Barcelona? Not all, but the
show has already proven itself to be more than a show, but a business platform, so the distance (in miles and cost) may filter out the not-so-serious tire-kickers. And with the lack of any similar show in the world, I’m quite sure it will remain in its top position, despite a possible lower number of visitors. Mike Blackman (ISE MD) and his team are very well aware of this and they always deliver. Has the pro audio hall developed? With our wider product portfolio in sound systems, covering both professional as well as residential audio, and our long history of participation in ISE, we have always had a strong foothold in Hall 6. As Technology Partner, we also had different Alcons sound systems throughout the show floors, with good visibility. In the earlier days, all audio manufacturers (then by far not as many as this year’s edition) were scattered throughout the RAI complex. The concentration of the pro audio exhibitors in one hall is of course ideal for clients to visit the show and saves considerable time (many visitors complaining the show has become too big to just walk in and sniff around; you need to have a specific target plan in order to get your list ticked). This concentration has been an important factor in the lay-out of next year’s show, with all separate samesized halls (instead of all the interconnected small and large halls at the RAI).
Hans Vereecken, EMEA sales manager, Bose Professional: What was your overall impression of ISE 2020? This year’s show was in line with last years’ experience. ISE continues to be a very solid platform for us to communicate our message to new and existing customers. How was it impacted by coronavirus concerns and Storm Ciara? We did notice that the overall number of people was less and more apparent in certain halls, but from a booth traffic perspective, we were not impacted by either the coronavirus or weather challenges. This year’s show was very exciting for us as we launched our Bose Work initiative – which included several new products and solutions – and the news was very well received as evident by how busy our booth was. What are your expectations for next year’s show? I expect next year’s show to be even bigger than previous shows. It’s exciting, we’ll be in a new location and in a significantly larger venue. This will give more
opportunities for having meetings and demonstrations on site which the RAI has been unable to offer, instead we hosted off-site events. Has the pro audio hall developed? The pro audio hall has evolved over the last 15 years with manufacturers incorporating technologies to make lighter, smaller and more efficient solutions that do more than previously thought possible. For example, it’s technology like AV over IP and a single-cable connectivity that provide more reliable, easier and faster connection opportunities within the workplace, as well as new business opportunities for system integrators. We’ve moved from developing technology and designing systems only for a space where work is done, to developing technology that empowers people to get work done – regardless of where their workplace is.
Régis Cazin, CEO APG and Active Audio How was your show experience impacted by coronavirus concerns and Storm Ciara? We were originally concerned about the fact that the show would be quiet, with a lot of people cancelling their visit. In the end, we had a very busy stand, with numbers that were very close to other years. It’s hard to say for the rest of the show floor, but we were been busy pretty much all the time, like previous years. It may just mean that in the past we haven’t been able to see everyone, but overall we had a very good show. What are your expectations for next year’s show? It is with some sadness that we are leaving Amsterdam. The city was reasonably sized and when going out in the evening we would always bump into fellow industry professionals. The public transport systems were also very convenient. It was also very easy to get to Amsterdam from pretty much anywhere in the world, which was bringing a whole mix of distributors and clients. Barcelona will be a new adventure, and I hope ISE will not lose its big family soul. Has the pro audio hall changed? As exhibitors, we weren’t located in the pro audio hall but in Hall 3. I had a short walk on Hall 7 and I didn’t see any major evolution compared to last year. I believe it’s important for all pro audio manufacturers to be gathered in the same place, and this trend of having a pro audio dedicated hall is a good thing, making things go in the right direction. I hope it will be the case next year. n
BEST FROM THE WEB Find out what you might’ve missed from the website this month here...
WITH industry news, insights and interviews posted to the website daily, it might be hard to keep up with the pace of the pro audio market. Here, we've rounded up a list of some of PSNEurope's top online stories from the past month to help you stay up to date. To the industry’s surprise, Funktion-One co-founder John Newsham retired from the company after co-founding it in 1992. However, he doesn’t appear to be quitting the pro audio world completely, as he’s still planning to engineer for Steve
Hillage as part of the band’s upcoming autumn tour. As awards season took hold, PSNEurope found out more about the audio post production of Oscar-winning Best Picture Parasite, which took place at Live Tone Studios. In line with this, after Dave’s Psychodrama won Mastercard Album of the Year at the BRITS 2020, we revisited a piece by his producer Fraser T Smith, in which he explored his working relationship with the grime artist. You can find all of these articles and much more at psneurope.com...
Inside the sound of Oscarwinning Parasite with Live Tone Studios
John Newsham (right)
Funktion-One co-founder John Newsham retires Funktion-One co-founder John Newsham officially announced his retirement from working at the company. Newsham began his pro audio career with the Steve Hillage band in 1976, and in 1977 began collaborating with Tony Andrews, his fellow cofounder of Funktion-One. First, they co-founded Turbosound in 1978, then went on to co-found Funktion-One in 1992. While his primary focus over the course of his career has been on loudspeaker manufacture, he also worked as Underworld’s FOH engineer for over two decades. In his retirement, Newsham will be embarking on a motorcycle tour of the Himalayas later this year. His pro audio career is not halting here, as he will, once again, be FOH engineering on the Steve Hillage band's autumn tour this year. It seems his career is making the ultimate full circle. PSNEurope wishes Newsham the best of luck in his next endeavours and recognises the massive contribution he has made to the pro audio industry over the years! Read on at psneurope.com...
South Korean film facility Live Tone Studios is responsible for the sound of Parasite, the dark satire directed by Bong Joon-ho that made history by becoming the first foreign language film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. The film also won in three other categories. Audio post production was carried out at the studios using one of its two large format AMS Neve DFC 3D film consoles. A 48-channel Neve Genesys console was used to record and monitor Additional Dialogue Replacement (ADR). Ralph Tae-Young Choi, CEO, sound supervisor and re-recording mixer at Live Tone Studios, said: “The sound of Parasite was so detailed and emotional that it needed the console automation to operate very efficiently and simply. This is where the Neve DFC 3D really came into its own. I mix all of my movie sound with an AMS Neve DFC 3D console because it has a much more powerful audio engine and better audio quality than other consoles or DAWs. For a mixer to be intuitive and efficient, you need the console to be reliable and the AMS Neve DFC 3D excels at that.”
Inside BRIT Award-winning Dave album Psychodrama with Fraser T Smith With UK grime star Dave winning Mastercard Album of the Year for his debut Psychodrama at this year’s BRIT Awards, his acclaimed producer Fraser T Smith gave PSNEurope an exclusive look inside the making of the modern-day masterpiece. Dave added this landmark award to his win of the 2019 Mercury Prize for the record. Here, in a piece penned exclusively for PSNEurope, Smith – who has produced records for the likes of Stormzy, Sam Smith, Kano, Adele, and Craig David – reflects on the production process of one 2019’s defining records… "I’ve known Dave since he was 17. I was in the middle of working on Stormzy’s Gang Signs and Prayer album and my friends Jack Foster and Benny Scarrs who manage Dave introduced us. We immediately hit it off and put in a studio session. We wrote ‘Picture Me’ during that session and the relationship developed into us working together on Dave’s first and second EPs 6 Paths, and Game Over." Read the exclusive piece in full at psneurope.com...
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Studio engineer and producer Lauren Deakin Davies
Technotrix becomes L-Acoustics Certified Provider
International Women’s Day: Meet this year’s pioneering women in audio
Leeds Playhouse first regional theatre to install d&b Soundscape
Technotrix has become an L-Acoustics Certified Provider for the rental market. The company also expanded its inventory with its first L-Acoustics purchase, the “K Standard” Kara package. This consists of 24 Kara enclosures paired with eight KS28 and eight SB18 subs. Four coaxial X8 enclosures serve both monitoring and short-throw PA applications, and a new P1 audio processor brings processing and AVB compatibility to the full rig. Two LA-RAK II – each loaded with three LA12X amplified controllers – plus three standalone LA12X supply power. “I first mixed on Kara as a freelancer working on a corporate gig at the Field Museum of Natural History years ago and was impressed with its output and fidelity for such a small enclosure,” recalled Technotrix audio manager Brent Bernhardt.
Since last year’s International Women’s Day, PSNEurope has met with and spoken to a diverse and devoted group of female audio professionals, and we shone a light on them collectively for International Women’s Day 2020. With only five per cent of engineers and two per cent of producers being women, it’s important to recognise the work that is being done by the female audio engineers out there. Many women in the industry have described being intimidated by being the only woman in the room, or even just feeling that something is missing when they are unable to work with a fellow female. After speaking with multiple female audio professionals, the common trend appears to be that STEM subjects haven’t always been underlined as pathways for young women in school, and subsequently, girls have often gravitated towards the more creative subjects. While this isn’t an issue on the surface, it does reflect a more deeply-ingrained societal problem, the misguided perception that women should stay away from the ‘techy stuff ’. That being said, PSNEurope has had the pleasure of interviewing a plethora of women in audio that prove that not to be the case. For IWD, we compiled a series of interviews we’ve conducted over the past year with women in audio, as well as female-oriented initiatives. Discover this year’s pioneering women in audio at psneurope.com.
Leeds Playhouse is the first theatre outside of London to install d&b Soundscape, an immersive sound technology that has been used by the likes of Björk. Autograph Sales & Installations facilitated the install when the Playhouse undertook a largescale £15.8 million redevelopment that specified d&b audio systems for the two main theatres – the main 750seat Quarry Theatre, and the smaller 420-seat Courtyard Theatre. Autograph assisted in the design of the systems, then supplied, tested, and commissioned both. Autograph’s Adam Broom worked closely with the house technical team led by the head of sound, Martin Pickersgill, his deputy Tom Cuthbertson, and technician Rob Landels, who handled the physical installation. Previously, the setup in the Quarry Theatre was a small d&b system that was due for an upgrade in size. “The d&b C-Series system did an amazing job covering plays and never skipped a beat,” said Cuthbertson. “But for larger musicals, we would need to hire in larger rigs, now it’s a different story.” Cuthbertson explained that the sound system design is divided into five principal zones: the main array over and around the forestage comprises seven d&b Y10P units and four Vi-SUB subwoofers. Five 10S-Ds make up the first row of delays, located on Bridge 1, while 10 8S units on Bridge 2 comprise the second row of delay speakers.
SOUND BITES THIS MONTH we chat with James Gebhard, one of Wigwam’s recently appointed hire managers, and illustrate the benefits of the charity of disabled musicians, Drake Music. We’ve also curated a run down of some educational online pro audio resources due to the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on events...
60 SECONDS WITH…
JAMES GEBHARD Wigwam hire manager
How did you get into the industry? For myself, it was quite a strange introduction. Whilst at university, I used to go and watch a lot of small touring bands in one of the toilet venues when one day the landlord had a massive argument with the sound guy and kicked him out. I was just being a typical student propping up the bar and he turned to me and said, ‘You like bands, want to be our new sound engineer?’ As with most things in my life, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so with zero experience I jumped right in and made sure everything was red, as that way it sounded better...
as well. There is also the technical side. Although tech doesn’t fall under my job role, having a huge knowledge base means I can help liaise with our digital department and also understand client engineers' needs and demands, as well as throwing other real world options out there that they might not have thought of. As I said at the beginning, it’s all about communication and sharing knowledge as all we want to do is make the best sound and events for everyone and that all starts by just talking.
What is your background? Again, I have a mix of backgrounds. I've been predominantly touring as a FOH engineer for over 20 years. I started off working in a small 300 capacity venue. From there, I did work for the student union and helped on larger gigs as part of their crew when more national acts would come through and they would bring in E.S.S. Luckily for me, Phil and RJ from E.S.S took me under their wing and from there I got heavily involved in being a staple part of their crew before I expanded more into actual band touring. But all the skills I learnt in those early years have served me very well. I pretty much stopped touring back in 2013 when I married my wife Kellie as I didn’t want to be away from home as much. I then went on to follow my other passions of working as a professional photographer for a few high fashion magazines and also finished my CPL(H). But with all things, I slowly got lured back into touring again a couple of years later, although this time I was very conscious of only taking on a limited amount of work each year as family is a huge thing for me.
What does your role at Wigwam entail? As a hire manager, my main roles involve liaising with new and existing clients, meeting briefs, making sure we have the right crew for the right jobs and keeping the canteen stocked with some homemade cakes and sausages.
What made you want to switch the course of your career? Getting married to the most amazing and supportive woman a guy could ever dream of meeting. How are you translating your skills as a touring engineer to your role at Wigwam? It’s all about communication and understanding what a client needs, wants and expects. We all have friends in the industry that vary from small club bands to stadiums and we all know that in every instance, no one wants to be taken for granted or not looked after. Hopefully, I can bring that true knowledge of what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence to this side
What are the biggest opportunities within your role at Wigwam? As cheesy as it sounds, it’s having the opportunity to be part of such a massive and friendly Solotech community. Working alongside so many people I highly respect and having the ability to bounce ideas off each other is amazing. Favourite gear? My Xbox… Audio wise, I’m involved with OX4 Sound Recording Studio in Oxford, so I have to say there is nothing quite like geeking out using some classic outboard. As much as I love the digital world in audio, there is something about the classic analogue feel that makes it exactly that, classic. One of the first things I did when I started at Wigwam was reorganise all their old outboard, as I would love to see some of it getting back out there. As I said, I love where digital audio has taken us, but I do feel people quickly forget the simple things, like sticking an actual SSL-G bus on your master or a Smarrt C2, or Chandler and hearing the difference compared to the plugin. How has working with Wigwam been so far? Funnily enough this is the question I get asked the most by friends, family and colleagues and they all get the same answer. I truly couldn’t be happier. Even in the height of my crazy touring career, I never felt as at home and fitted in as much as I do here.
P53 APRIL 2020
EVENTS Sennheiser Pro Talk Series Sennheiser's Pro Talk Series is available via the brand's website, and includes interviews with pro audio industry veterans providing advice for aspiring engineers, producers and audio enthusiasts. In 2018, the Pro Talk Series won a TEC Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement in the Audio Education Technology category. Season One and Two are available, and Season Three is coming soon. Some of the featured pro audio professionals include Brandon Blackwell, a FOH/monitor engineer, Al Schmitt, a producer and recording/engineer, Leslie Ann Jones, director of music recording and scoring at Skywalker Sound, Morten Lindberg, a recording engineer and music producer, and many more. sennheiser.com/protalkseries Rookes #popnotpop YouTube Series Singer-songwriter and producer Rookes has launched a new YouTube series called #popnotpop that explores her volatile and complex relationship with pop music.
With most events being cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, this month we're focusing on online resources... As well as this, the YouTube series chronicles the creation of Rookes’ debut album, allowing viewers a glimpse into the creative and technical process of making a record. Rookes explained: “As well as seeing me reveal my secrets as a pop artist who doesn’t in fact always love pop music, you’ll be able to watch me make a pop record in real-time. The reality is that I write the pop music that I want to hear but can’t find and there’s a reason for that: the pop music market is flooded with the same old stuff. I’m excessively bored with it. “I read an interview yesterday that Grimes did for Rolling Stone, where she spoke about how polarised things had become and how now was not the time for nuance, but I disagree. I want to bring nuance back, along with paradox, if you please. I write music because I don’t like pop music – both can be true. I could have just got on with quietly making my LP, but I decided to do this instead.” Find the series on YouTube on the Rookes Music page. Each new song created and its accompanying YouTube videos will be posted to psneurope.com
CHARITY CORNER DRAKE MUSIC: A CHARITY FOR DISABLED MUSICIANS DISABLED people face many barriers to making music due to a lack of high quality and accessible musical instruments and insufficient learning and performance opportunities. Drake Music addresses this by putting Disabled people centre stage. They work with Disabled musicians to co-create assistive music technology and are currently training the first wave of Disabled music leaders to inspire the next generation of Disabled
creatives. Ultimately, they provide high-quality learning opportunities for Disabled music-makers from beginners to professionals. You can support the charity by donating at: justgiving.com/dmp/donate or through Easy Fundraising when shopping on Amazon - smile. amazon.co.uk - and selecting Drake Music.
Above: Artist/producer Rookes
PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Gaskin
P54 APRIL 2020
Guild in the line of duty Phil Ward talks to record producer and MPG figurehead Tony Platt…
eggae sessions include Bob Marley & The Wailers. Rock sessions include AC/DC. Blues? Buddy Guy… The list of credits goes on like this, continuing way beyond into jazz, folk, Celtic, German industrial and whatever dark night of the soul is represented by Stabbing Westward. It’s a steelplated library of authentic documents, and Platt is the consistent sonic author. Not bad for a tea-boy from Trident Studios, back in the day of Bowie, Bolan and Brooklyn boy Tony Visconti. It all began with an inspirational school trip to BBC Radio One, coupled with an enthusiasm for music first and electronics second, leading to a frenzy of letter-writing and, happily, offers from both Trident and De Lane Lea the week before an apprenticeship in air-traffic control might have deprived Angus Young, and everyone else, of Tony Platt forever. Such are the margins of fate. A move to Island Studios, later Sarm West in Notting Hill, augured the classic journeyman progress to tapeop, assistant engineer, engineer and producer as the '70s ground out its way towards Thatcher, by which time Platt was on the A-list. Today production work is combined with something much harder: writing the introductory speech for the Music Producers Guild Awards – plus being part of a diverse assembly engaged in all the essential work of keeping the Guild relevant. Meanwhile Platt’s new mix room is now open for business, based around Pro Tools and PMC monitoring and featuring a Rupert Neve Designs summing mixer.... Congrats on another successful MPG Awards… It’s a bit like producing an album: if something’s going
to go wrong, it will do. But on the night, it all comes together. We’ve got a great team that go the extra mile.
knew we needed to protect our industry a bit more, and at the end of it I was one of the few who got involved.
The greater diversity seems to be working. It is, and I’m especially pleased with the new SelfProducing Artist category. It was said that a selfproducing artist could never win Producer of the Year, because the criteria were different, but then FKA Twigs won both Single and Album of the Year and I thought, hang on – that’s for real. There should be a category for people like her. The whole process of production is this wonderful, delicate balance between technology, business and creativity. I’ve always felt this to be the most absorbing part of the challenge: you have stop yourself tipping too far one way or another. Being too obsessed with any one of those areas will make the others suffer; neglecting any one of them will have the same effect. That applies whether you’re producing yourself or someone else. Self-producing artists still need to surround themselves with a really good team of people, and FKA Twigs does that extraordinarily well.
Protect it from what? Loss of royalties; uncredited work; payment issues; bad advice. Sometimes protection from the industry itself – the attitude that we don’t need anyone else. And Government: politicians like to attend glitzy events, and then we let them go away and deliver nothing. As time passes, the Guild gains more significance.
Why did you get involved with the MPG? Originally, I didn’t engage with its first incarnation – nor the APRS – because I viewed it as a bit like an old, white men’s drinking club. I didn’t think engineers and producers needed a union! But issues came up as technology expanded, and I found myself at a meeting organised by Peter Filleul and Muff Winwood at CBS in Great Marlborough Street. Loads of non-members turned up, and suddenly there seemed a new spirit. We
We hear a lot about modernising the music industry; what does this mean to you? I feel the manufacturers and distributors are falling into two very clear categories: those who get the fact that the music industry that used to exist, doesn’t exist anymore; and those hanging on and wanting it to be like it always was. The latter tend not to want to sponsor the Awards, because they almost index-link promotional budget to potential sales. But sales are much more lifestyle-orientated nowadays, with a huge market of either aspirational or wealthy, high-end hobbyist users. Us professionals can check out and select gear much more directly. Just near where I live is a guy with an amazing SSL studio in his garage, and the Aston Martin has to be parked outside. The point is that the gear wanted by people who have made a successful living, with plenty of disposable income, has to be genuine. They like to feel that all the professionals, who are actually doing it for real, are using the same gear as they are. The connection is important. n
The art of the matter - Precision, quality, sophistication: Talking all things audio with d&b audiotechnik CEO Amnon Harman.