Performer Magazine: June/July 2022

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THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE

JUNE/JULY ‘22 FREE

How to Build a Modern Recording Desk Insurance Tips for Touring Artists The Best of NAMM ’22 Are NFTs Dead?

interviews Love You Later Travis Shallow Tom Anello

MIA ASANO “I’m aware social media is fleeting. I’m not banking my whole career on TikTok”


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COVER STORY

5. Dave Smith Obituary 6. Live Review: Boston Calling 2022

MIA ASANO

10. Healthy Touring Tips For Musicians 12. Insurance Essentials for Today’s Artists

DEPARTMENTS

14. The Myth of Fanbase Building

TABLE OF CONTENTS

4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

by Gus Rocha

24

18

16. Are NFT’s Dead? 38. TEC Award Winners 40. NAMM 2022 Wrap-Up and Photo Gallery

LOVE YOU LATER

by Gus Rocha

TOM ANELLO

by Ben Ricci

34

44. How to Build a Recording Desk

46. GEAR REVIEWS: Phenyx Pro Wireless and PRS SE Silver Sky

TRAVIS SHALLOW

by Ben Ricci

30

VOLUME 32, ISSUE 3 PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER

from the editor

Greetings from my post-NAMM hangover. So, yeah…NAMM happened. Kinda. Or at least something called NAMM happened this June. Was it what I expected? Somewhat. It was definitely a lot smaller and had a lot more cubicle farms on the trade show floor than I had anticipated. Crowds were much sparser, which certainly made wading through throngs of looky-loos and ’80s Sunset Strip washouts a lot easier. It also meant a lot of brands we wanted to meet with simply weren’t there – which was an expected bummer. It also meant…well, it just didn’t feel like NAMM. At least not to me, and not to a lot of people we asked off the record. There was very little excitement in the air, the buzz was gone – in short, it felt like a deflated version of NAMM that was just going through the motions. Look, I get it. Getting even a fraction of the industry to attend a giant gathering near LA while COVID is still going around was always going to be a tough sell. Do I think NAMM, as an organization, could have done more? Maybe, but I can also recognize the position they’ve been

put in, namely trying to retain relevance in the face of internet press releases, online dealer orders and the rise of virtual meetings. Holding an old-fashioned convention to hawk new gear, get dealer orders, and meet with customers, artist endorsers and new prospects is…a bit outdated? I’m not sure if that’s quite right, but the overwhelming feeling I got from a number of attendees was along the lines of “this was a meeting that could have been an email.” It’ll be interesting to see if the brands who did show up found value in it, or like their bigger counterparts who opted out this year, will they decide it’s just not worth the time and expense any longer? I think we’ll really get to see what the future of NAMM looks like next spring as companies truly evaluate how this one went. More of our thoughts can be found later in the issue, so keep flipping.

Benjamin Ricci

PS – without European club football on TV until August, my free time has open up greatly this summer. This Nations League nonense ain’t cutting it.

ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to editorial@performermag.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”

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Volume 32, Issue 3 850 Post Rd Suite 8385 Warwick, RI 02888 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci ben@performermag.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Matt Lambert, Jon Hillenbrand, Yuri Samoilov, Audrey Bergeron, Russell Klimas, JJ Constantine, Alien Earth Design, MK Studios Photo, A Brilliant Photo, Erika Arlee, Chris Devine CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Wunmi, Zen Sekizawa, Sophie Hur, Melissa Martin, Casee Marie ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com © 2022 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.


OBITUARY

Synthesizer Pioneer and Sequential Founder Dave Smith Passes at 72 Shortly before we boarded the plane for NAMM, we received the sad news that legendary synth pioneer and all-around good guy Dave Smith passed away at age 72. Below is the official news release from Sequential, the company he formed in the mid-70s, which is still going strong and leading the way in synth innovation to this day. “It is with great sadness that Sequential today shares the news that its founder, American synthesizer pioneer Dave Smith, has died. The company and his family take solace in the fact that Dave was on the road at the time of his passing, doing what he loved best, and in the company of family, friends, and artists. Focusrite CEO Tim Carroll commented: “Dave’s passing is a great loss to not only the

music community and music technology, but to the world itself. To say that he changed music is no exaggeration. Dave’s legacy is one of creative passion and a deep and lifelong love for music, music technology, and the musicians that continue to enrich our world by using his instruments. At 72 he was still actively designing his next generation of synths. At the same time, he had the foresight to mentor and build Sequential into a team that will continue his work and legacy without pause. Dave will be greatly missed, but his contributions to music will never be forgotten.”

For those wishing to send condolences to the Smith family and share thoughts and memories of Dave and his creations, Sequential invites the public to send comments to RememberingDave@sequential. com”

I think we speak for all involved in the world of synthesis in saying this is a huge blow to the industry, and Dave will be sorely missed by those who knew him and felt his inf luence.

Though Dave Smith and Sequential had been scheduled to appear at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention in Anaheim from June 3 to June 5, Sequential will now decline to participate out of respect for Dave Smith’s memory. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 5


MUSIC FESTIVAL

Alana Haim of Haim who played their 2nd time at Boston Calling and had a great reception on Friday on the main stage.

Joshua Harmon of the indie rock outfit The Backseat Lovers played a great set on the Red Stage Friday afternoon.

BOSTON CALLING 2022

S

ince 2013, the Boston Calling Music Festival has been a staple for festival goers at the unofficial start of summer (and for a few years also the unofficial start of fall). After a twoyear hiatus, BC was back and in full effect at the Harvard Athletic Complex alongside Soldiers Field Rd in Cambridge, MA. A few headliner changes added some minor hiccups to go along with a two-hour rain delay on Saturday, however the festival rebounded

6 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Matt Lambert

on the fly and overall, it was just as enjoyable as years past. A new “orange” stage that featured all local Boston artists was added, which was a huge hit with the mostly-Mass crowd, sponsored by Boston radio company Tivoli Audio. The food was affordable and abundant with many choices to appeal to the crowd (especially Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Tasty Burger.) It was especially great to see the growth of repeat artists over the years, most notably Haim’s set on Friday and Run the Jewels’ set on Saturday. Nine Inch Nails headlined Friday night and stepped in for Saturday night’s planned

headliners The Strokes who couldn’t perform due to illness. NIN played two unique sets only repeating four songs across the days, a perfect fit for playing two nights in a row. Sunday was an all-around beautiful day; Metallica fans traveled from all over to see their first show in Massachusetts in five years. The grounds were completely packed on Sunday (almost too packed!) but all-in-all another great outing for Boston Calling. We can’t to see (and hear) what next year has in store! Learn more at https://bostoncalling.com


MUSIC FESTIVAL El P, producer and rapper (and one half of Run the Jewels), played the Red Stage after the rain storm cleared on Saturday.

Michelle Zauner, front woman for Japanese Breakfast, with gong mallet in hand played an enchanting set at the Delta Blue Stage on Sunday afternoon.

Legendary Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen threw out a handful of guitar picks for the fans closest to the Red Stage Friday afternoon.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 7


MUSIC FESTIVAL

Berklee grads RIPE put on a tremendously fun set Sunday afternoon on the Delta Blue Stage.

Local act The Chelsea Curve brought their blend of retro mod-pop to the Tivoli Audio Orange Stage to open Boston Calling Friday afternoon.

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Luke Spiller, frontman for the British band The Struts, brings the glam to Harvard Athletic Complex.


MUSIC FESTIVAL Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails brought not one but two tremendous sets over the Boston Calling Music Festival weekend and only repeated four songs.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer played one of the best sets of Boston Calling, full of nostalgic hit songs spanning the band’s entire career.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 9


MUSIC BUSINESS

How to Maintain Nutrit N

utrition impacts performance, creativity, productivity and mental health. The belief that artists must suffer to create is outdated and can be quite harmful to many. While art can be an outlet for pain and a way to cope with one’s struggles, great work too can come from a state of health and happiness. Many artists find when they address their wellness it improves their longevity in the studio and helps focus their artistic vision, while enhancing mental clarity. Eating well and engaging in other healthy behaviors on the road–such as maintaining a sleep schedule and physical activity routine–can also support endurance and performance, boost immunity, lead to fewer canceled shows, and reduce burnout for touring musicians and crew.

When it comes to eating well on tour, sourcing healthy food can often feel like one more arduous task that artists, crew, and tour managers simply do not have time or finances for. However, there are plenty of healthy options available at all budgets, and offerings have 10 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

improved significantly over the years at fast casual or fast food restaurants, convenience stores, megastores like Target or Walmart, and even vending machines.

While it’s tempting to skip breakfast on the road when there are a lot of miles to cover to get to the next gig, or when facing a hectic load-in, having a quick piece of produce with a handful of nuts provides fiber and healthy fats, with a little protein as well, to quell hunger and provide some energy until there’s time for a proper meal. Apples, bananas and oranges all travel well and are cost-efficient options that can be added to a rider or picked up at any grocery store to stock the bus or van. Additionally, when purchased in bulk, raw nuts make a great snack and are a healthy option that fits within a tight budget. Walnuts will provide brain- and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while almonds and Brazil nuts will provide selenium–an important mineral for detoxification. When it comes to a healthy rider, there should always be fresh produce available,

with particular emphasis on produce that requires little to no preparation and/or can travel well. Pre-cut veggies make a healthy snack, particularly when paired with fiber-rich hummus instead of ranch dressing. Pre-made salads are another quick option that can be very cost-effective if purchased at a grocery store, such as Trader Joe’s, or a fast casual restaurant. When looking for a salad, focus on vegetables like leafy greens which are great for energy, digestion, immunity, mood and cognitive function. If the salad will serve as the entire meal, it should also include complex carbohydrates such as quinoa or sweet potato, a high-quality protein like beans, tofu, fresh wild caught seafood, hard boiled eggs or poultry (ideally pasture raised). The least healthy component of many salads is the dressing it comes with. Pre-made dressings are often filled with additives, sugar, and inflammatory fats. Opt instead for extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon or lime. A bottle of high-quality olive oil can be kept on the bus or in the van, or added to a rider, for an easy alternative to less nutritious dressings.


MUSIC BUSINESS Photos by Jon Hillenbrand

ritional Health on Tour If salad isn’t your jam, look for plant-forward bowls like a burrito bowl using brown rice as a base, beans, plenty of veggies, and a healthy fat (like avocado). Chipotle is typically an easy option for a quick meal that isn’t fried, and many salad restaurants like Sweetgreen offer creative bowls as well. As with most fast food and fast casual restaurants, sodium (salt) content will be high, so being sure to drink plenty of water to counteract that is important. Air inside tour buses, airplanes, hotel rooms, and sometimes even Sprinter vans tends to be dry, which can exacerbate dehydration. Starting the day with at least 16 fl oz of water and staying hydrated into the evening is paramount to support energy, sleep, mood, cognition and digestion. Caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating, along with sweating during a performance, exercise, or simply from sun or heat exposure in the summer months. Prioritizing sleep, taking vitamins, and eating well can all support energy, instead of solely depending on caffeine. Because limiting alcohol is also a crucial

piece of the equation, it is paramount to keep non-alcoholic healthy beverages around for when water doesn’t sound appealing. Herbal tea or iced herbal teas, kombucha, cold pressed juices, and coconut water are all great rider additions. Coconut water in particular is great for hydration due to its electrolyte content (namely potassium). Bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, and leafy greens are other food-based sources of potassium. In addition to assisting electrolyte balance, potassium can be beneficial for supporting healthy blood pressure, which is particularly important when considering the quantities of the sodium people tend to consume when constantly eating out. Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of nutrition on the road is late night food options, or lack thereof… When faced with challenges of sourcing healthy late-night food it’s best to look for the least detrimental option rather than trying to find something perfectly healthy. Protein and carbs aid recovery after performance, making a grilled chicken sandwich or a tofu, rice and veggie

stir fry a good alternative to heavier foods like pizza or wings. Even a thin crust vegetarian pizza that’s light on cheese, topped with veggies and (ideally) on a whole grain crust makes a filling post-show meal that isn’t too heavy, particularly if paired with salad or a plant-based side. Acid reflux or sleep trouble can be lessened by building in at least two hours after eating to digest before going to bed. There are many challenges artists face on and off tour, causing nutrition to often take a backseat. However, prioritizing nutritious foods and other healthy habits can enhance productivity, performance, and creativity, while supporting digestion, sleep, cognition and mood. About the Author Emmaline Rasmussen, MS, RDN, E-RYT is the founder of Sound Nutrition, a company focused on providing nutritional and wellness guidance and counseling for musicians, particularly touring musicians. LEARN MORE at https://www.soundnutrition.co PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 11


MUSIC BUSINESS

Seven Essential Moves For Keeping Your Act On The Road Out On Tour? Get Insured! Michael Stewart 12 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


Here it is, then. Make a list of these seven “to-do’s” and get ’em done. You’ve got enough trouble dealing with your drummer (unless you’re the drummer – in which case you know exactly what I’m talking about). You don’t need to worry about gear fails. Clean Up Your Act I am convinced that my car drives better when it’s been cleaned. Stupid, right? Gotta be in my head. But that’s the point when it comes to keeping a fingerboard or a keyboard dust and dirt-free. We sweat on our gear, we hand it to questionable people (sometimes known as stagehands) at times, it sits out on stands, all the while accumulating the flotsam and jetsam of our musty, crusty world. Get a good quality cloth made for cleaning musical instruments. Do the research on sprays or creams or what have you. Use the stuff regularly. Keep your gear clean. Be Cool, Especially When It’s Hot If your gigs are exclusively in temperaturecontrolled recording studios, God bless. You likely don’t have to worry about the elements. Those playing the festivals or poorly ventilated clubs, know that the sound of their gear – that’s horns, acoustic keys, accordions, guitars and certainly drums - will change in heat or in the cold. You’ve still got to do the gig, but keep your stuff cased or, if possible, indoors as long as possible. And, when your set is over, move your stuff out of the weather as fast as you can. Moisture Matters Even if you’re playing a solid-body bass, or electric keyboard, or carry your own mics, get a hygrometer. They’re cheap. They show the temperature, but more importantly, they display humidity levels. Humidity matters mostly when storing or traveling with gear, but the good acoustic piano sellers will always

try to sell you a hygrometer to make sure your instrument isn’t sitting in a room that’s too dry or too humid. Most woodwind people know, and acoustic guitarists who invest in high end axes are aware as well: control the humidity and you’ll control how your instrument sounds, every time you take it out of the case. Stand Up! I’ve already recounted the chestnut about the $20 guitar stand, but the same goes for a high-quality mic. Go for the good stand. A proper peddle board, a top percussion table, a quality throne; these are not extras. These are not “accessories.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that if your stand goes down, so could your gig. Get the good stuff.

MUSIC BUSINESS

photo by Yuri Samoilov

E

nsuring success as a musician requires a whole host initiatives and precautions. You’ve got to protect your rights, make sure you’re working with honest and trustworthy people, and, oh yeah, create and/or perform music that lots of people want to hear. Right. Thanks, Captain Obvious. But sometimes, it’s not so obvious that a bunch of small moves can be important, too. A colleague of mine sells high quality (read: expensive) guitar stands, and says, “It’s crazy to hang a $4,000 guitar on a $20 stand!” and I thought, y’know? I’ve never thought about it that way. He’s right. It also makes no sense to put any guitar in a $30 canvas gig bag – padded or no.

Doubling Down When you leave your house for a gig, or a practice, or a recording or writing session, take two of everything: two amplifier cables, two sets of strings, an extra mic, extra pics, sticks, earplugs…double up on as much stuff as you can carry. The more spares you have, the less chance disaster will strike! (Kudos to me. It’s not easy coming up with a bowling metaphor in a music article, you know.) Just In Case You unbox your new DJ turntable, or your mic, and chances are there’s no case. Get one. Get a good one. If the manufacturer doesn’t make a specific case for your wireless unit, go to the after-market. Amazon has everything. For sure, someone has figured out how to provide you with a case for that theremin. Gear should sit securely in cases. Cases should close with good latches, and they should always have handles. Just In Case Also, know that no matter how well you protect your gear, tornados happen (Californians, that’s “fires,” New Orleans folk – “floods,” Floridians – “hurricanes” -- you get the idea). Stuff gets stolen, beer finds its way to pedalboards, trees fall on cars. The ultimate protection against all of that is instrument and equipment insurance. Think your homeowners or renters’ policy covers your gear? Think again. If you use it to make money, it’s likely that your existing policy does not cover your sax. The good news is that instrument and equipment insurance is extremely inexpensive. Check out musicproinsurance.com or call Laura at 1-800-MusicPro and tell her Michael Stewart sent you. She’ll even give you a nice lollypop for being smart :) PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 13


MUSIC BUSINESS

The Myth of Fanbase Build

T

here is a disturbing trend I am seeing on YouTube and TikTok where the majority of music marketing gurus are telling indie artists to “stop chasing streams” and focus on building a dedicated fanbase. They say that tripping the algorithm for Discover Weekly or playlist adds–and the resulting 14 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

streams–are worthless. Instead, you need to steadily build a fanbase, and you need to build your email list, find super fans who will spend $100 a year (whether to see you live or buy merch, etc.) on your project. I’m here to tell you -- it’s kind of bullshit, and here’s why.

First, let me be clear–you should absolutely have the infrastructure to build a fanbase. You should try to gather emails. You should engage online with people interested in your posts and work on building your following. If you’re doing ads, you absolutely should be trying to target an audience that would be open to your kind of music. We know all of that.


That’s it. And that’s OK. Stop being so precious with your music.

ding I’m giving you permission to chase every single stream or view. You should get them however, whenever, and from whomever you can. Why? Because I am going to let you in on a little industry secret: not everyone who listens to your music is, or ever will be, a fan. Read that again. You really need to understand this. As

yours. I see you have a new song and you have new merch on your website. I click, I see your merch, and it’s not for me, I listen to your song. It’s OK. Most of you are not touring nationally and will not be doing so for years. So, even if I wanted to, I can’t buy tickets to your show (unless you’re Livestreaming - see previous articles). But here’s what streaming and views gets you: booked. That’s right, showing those numbers to a promoter, booker, or other act will go a long way toward allowing you to tour. Oh, and some money.

I want you to really think about these questions: Do you even know how you define what a fan is? What do they do on a daily or weekly basis around you as an artist? Do you know who your fans are? What is special about what you’re doing which would make a casual listener a fan?

Merch is hit or miss. I probably won’t blow $35 on a shirt of unknown quality with your band logo -- some might, though. As far as a newsletter, no thank you I am all good there. But what I can do is watch your video, listen to a song. You know, give you streams and views which result in some income and more social proof.

I listen to 50-100 songs a day, every day, it’s what I do for work. But when I listen to music for fun, I might have time for 20 songs. Maybe. There’s a band I love, I listen to them every single day - maybe 2 or 3 songs. I play them at parties. Love everything they do. I’ve never seen them play live in 10 years. Never bought merch. Never signed up to an email list. I barely “like” their posts, much less comment. Am I a fan? Feels like I am.

Streams do not equal fans. Hell, even the metric of monthly listeners may not be fans. These are all aggregated numbers and you have very little insight into what these people like or who they are. Did they add one song to a playlist or do they listen to your whole EP every week? Who knows? Spotify won’t tell you. What about the people who listen to your song on YouTube, do they love your video artistry or are they not even watching and just listening? Who knows?

Then there are the early artists just starting with 1 or 2 singles. I love me some indie female pop. I have a few favorites I listen to for a few weeks or even months, and then other music takes its place. I bet you are the same way. If I find that track again, I may or may not listen to it. But in many cases, I didn’t like the next single, and our little fling is over. Just like that.

The point is, not every listener is a fan, but you can’t make a fan without repeated listening. The music comes first, and the most important song is not your last one, it’s your next one.

Here’s the problem with fanbase building: research tells us that perhaps as many as 40% of the email addresses you received are “burners,” meaning they are not the daily email they use. Of those, Mailchimp says the average open rate is 21.33%. And the Click Through Rate is in single digits. We know that less than 10% of your social followers see the majority of your content without promotion. We also know that ad targeting and audience development is a moving target on a daily basis and takes months to fine tune. Are all these valuable? Sure they are, but for what? Let’s look at why the gurus tell you to get a dedicated fanbase in the first place. “Get their emails so you can notify them of live dates and sell them upcoming merch. You can start a newsletter explaining your process and what music you are working on.” Ok, great. Let’s say you got my email and even though I receive 100 emails a day I click on

MUSIC BUSINESS

photo by Cristian Ungureanu

independent musicians we are so connected to people at a show or in our hometown who we meet and see and get to know. But in a streaming world, many–maybe most–don’t care who you are. They are not necessarily interested in following your “journey.” They’re not trying to help you make it. They just like a few songs. They may even LOVE some. Actually, they may not even LIKE you at all, but that one track of yours is perfect for their jogging playlist. Or one of your tracks fits this time in their life for a short while.

If you are so concerned about “activating a customer” instead of providing entertainment, you’ve got it all wrong. It feels corporate. It can feel desperate. “Sign up! Like! Subscribe! Follow! Join my Discord! Watch my Live! Buy! Buy! Buy!” Not everyone wants to be a fan. They have other artists who do interviews, are putting out massive releases, and a video each time. They grow and evolve. That means making better, or more interesting, music every time. At some point, you become a fan...or not. And that’s all OK. Make killer music. Set up the infrastructure to let the fans in closer. But for the love of Britney, don’t listen to these gurus; chase every stream and view you can, the fans will come in time. ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 15


MUSIC BUSINESS

Are Music NFTs Dead?

T

o a casual observer, all of the news stories about crypto and NFTs recently would lead you to think that the entire space is dead. The naysayers of crypto and blockchain are already doing their victory laps and tossing about their “I told you so’s”. The true believers are trying to convince everyone that this is just a natural bear market and “you’d be stupid not to get in while prices are cheaper!”

NASDAQ is down about 24% from 16000 in January to 12000. The DOW has fared better, only down about 10% from 36,500 in January to around 32,000. Economists are worried about inflation and there are stories of shortages everywhere. Yet, employment is up, and some sectors are fully recovered from the worst of the pandemic.

Crypto, the coins you use to buy and sell most major NFTs, is down across the board. Ethereum is down a full 33% from around $3800 = 1 ETH January to today where it is hovering around $1800 = 1 ETH. Same with Bitcoin, down from around $50,000 =1 BTC to today at around $23,000 = 1 BTC. Solana was supposed be the low-gas-fee crypto and chain to buy and sell, and it has been cannibalized from about $180 = 1 SOL to today around $40 = 1 SOL. And we dare not speak about the LUNA disaster.

That’s the money side, what about NFTs specifically? Well, we’re in a huge lull. The Wall Street Journal shared this data point: In September 2021, 225,000 NFTs sold every single day, and today that number is closer to 19,000. OpenSea, which is arguably the largest NFT marketplace, has seen daily app downloads plummet 94% from a spike that reached 180,000/ day in January to around 20,000 today. Sales volume on OpenSea totaled $2.64 billion in the past April, while unique traders on the platform fell by 23%. A competing marketplace, LooksRare, saw their users sell $2.32 billion in NFTs in April, a reduction of more than 80% from their height.

But the stock market isn’t much better. The

But keep this in mind, American business

So, let’s take a little dive.

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runs on hyper-growth, not value. So, today’s numbers are all in comparison to the numbers last year (or the first month of 2022) when NFTs and crypto were all the rage, when the SuperBowl and major TV shows were slamming star-studded crypto commercials down everyone’s throat. Of course, the market is going to go down. When you look at it that way, sure, you can massage the numbers so it looks bleak as hell. But is it? Look at that OpenSea number. If NFTs are dead, someone forgot to tell those 20,000 new people who are downloading the app each day. That’s still a monster number. Even though the majority of Music NFTs are on OpenSea, what about the music-specific NFT platforms? For all of the openness of the “blockchain” and Web3, it’s hard to get data on specific platforms. But we can discern whether or not the musicians/artists are still trying, and we can see whether or not they are selling through and if fans are interacting. Royal.io (https://royal.io) which focuses on partial ownership shares by NFTs, has sold


MUSIC BUSINESS through the last three drops: NAS, Diplo, and Big Boi. And the Chainsmokers are about to do a new drop. Vault.fan (https://vault.fan), which focuses on “keys” to Vaults as NFTs, has at least 12 new offerings, certainly not sold out, but there is some action there. Sound.xyz (https://sound.xyz) has 12 offerings on their “latest” page with most of the artists having raised over 2 ETH each, which is close to $5,000 USD. On Audius.co (https:// audius.co) which is also a streaming ecosystem, we can look at the trending plays to estimate action. The #1 track right now has over 10k streams in the last 5 days, the rest of the TOP 10 chart rounds at about 5k pays per track. The Audius coin, AUDIO, is down about 50% from about $.86 = 1 AUDIO to $.46 = 1 AUDIO. But the trading volume in the last 24 hours was up 31% at $23,340. What all of these numbers do not show is the number of Music NFT projects being developed right now which are not live yet. I personally am involved in two of them and know at least another ten big ones coming soon. After the Ape JPEGS

and the VeeFriends madness, many developers tried to jump in and make a quick buck by selling crappy art, or in the music space, old tracks or crappy videos. Everyone realized what the truth was all along: NFTs do not magically sell, you still have to build community (fans) and value BEFORE you launch. This means most new launches will take a longer time to go to market as they build their Discord communities and roadmaps, as well as stuff more utility to please a buying public. So, are Music NFTs dead? No. It’s going to be harder for independent musicians to get traction in a down market. You’re going to have to hold the hands of your fans and convince them why they should go through the hassle of wallets and converting fiat to coins. You’re going to have to be an advocate and really assuage the concerns of your fans, because they see all these stories about being ripped off or scammed (we call those rug pulls). You’re going to have to provide a lot more utility and value, meaning more exclusive items, more physical items or experiences to convince your fans this is worth their time.

Last word of advice. Do you have time to dedicate to this? It’s a very big undertaking, and it may all be worth it in the next few years as platforms shift and more consumers get digital wallets. But you also might be wasting time which you could be spending on making better music and growing as an artist, just to chase this shiny new object. I’m all for Music NFTs as a means to serve and delight the fans you have and gain some new ones, as long as you are already serving them. Are you already releasing new music, creating new merch options, offering physical like vinyl, regularly? Are you already providing entertaining content on TikTok, IG, or YouTube? If you are already doing these things, then you are in a good position to focus on Music NFTs. It’s an exciting time. But, do not let this Music NFT madness derail you from what matters most, the actual music. ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 17


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LOVE YOU LATER

On Being Non-Country in Nashville, Navigating TikTok and Creating a Visual Sound Gus Rocha

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Audrey Bergeron


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ver the last decade, few places in the country have grown as fast or as much as Nashville. Following a remarkable population boom in such a short period, the Tennessee state capital has become a magnet for aspirational Gen-Zers and Millennials, many of whom have flocked in droves to the burgeoning Southern mecca with the hopes of striking it big in the region’s long-established music industry. Among this sizable and far-flung influx of creatives is 23-year-old Lexi Aviles. A native of Orange County, California, Aviles has spent the last five and half years sedulously cutting her teeth in the Music City’s tight-knit but flourishing indie-pop community. A studious pupil of ’90s electro-pop, Aviles has developed a distinctively open-minded approach that carefully seeks to fuse the many musical currents that flow through Nashville’s fast diversifying music scene. For this purpose, she has adopted the stage moniker of Love You Later, an aesthetically heterogeneous and retro-forward project she’s been steadily evolving since the release of her first single, “Lost in Los Angeles,” back in 2017. Thanks to a deft vocal command, along with a meticulously curated sound that favors lush yet approachable arrangements, Aviles has rightfully earned the attention of both colleagues and critics across the music industry. In the last few years, she has enjoyed opening stints for notable pop acts like Dayglow and OneRepublic. And in the last few months, her latest single, “Keepintouch,” released in March of this year, gained considerable traction among users of the popular social media app TikTok. As a result, Love You Later’s increasing popularity has been mirrored by a steady uptick in monthly listeners on Spotify and followers across all major social media platforms. I caught up with Aviles and discussed her musical origins, her opinions on where she sees the music industry in the age of social media, and her evolving creative process. How long have you been playing music? Lexi: I’ve been involved in music pretty much since I could walk and talk. As a kid, I used to be in musicals and was also in choirs and talent shows before eventually also going to a songwriting camp. I literally used to make up songs in the back of my mom’s car in my car seat. But I guess I started taking music seriously when I started going to these songwriting camps when I was about 12 or 13. That’s when I figured out that it’s really fulfilling to create my own songs and tell stories about my own life. Love You Later came a bit later in 2017, and that’s when I knew that this

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SPOTLIGHT was it, that this was what I wanted. Do you come from a musical family or background? Lexi: My family is musical but they never took it seriously. My dad was in bands growing up and my mom did singing competitions but it was always pretty recreational. Who were some of your musical influences growing up? Lexi: Fleetwood Mac, for sure. Definitely female country artists like Shania Twain and Dolly Parton. I used to also listen to a lot of

Journey, Queen, and David Bowie when I was growing up too. Those are some of the artists that actually inspired Love You Later. When was it that you decided to pursue music as a career and how did that come about? Lexi: Probably around the time when I started writing my own songs is when I realized that this was what I wanted to do. What’s interesting about your sound is that it’s a richly layered brand of indie pop, but you’re based in Nashville which is traditionally associated with country

music. What has your experience been in the Nashville scene as an indie-pop artist? Has the scene there influenced your sound at all? Lexi: In a lot of ways it’s a challenge because there’s not a huge community, but it’s also really great because it’s small and close-knit. Everyone’s really supportive of each other and it’s cool because the scene is also really diverse, genre-wise. There are a lot of different sub-genres and lots of different people in those groups, and everyone always comes together because, in a way, we’re sort of like this small fishpond in this big pool of mostly country, Americana, and bluegrass. I can say, though, that it’s growing PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 21


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“I never want to be known as a Tik Tok artist. It’s not who I am, it’s not what Love You Later is, and it’s definitely not what I started out as.” rapidly. There are lots of people moving here from L.A. and from New York. It’s a really great spot, and honestly, I just love the community. By and large, your catalog seems to consist of mostly singles. What drives this decision? Do you see albums as less important than they once were in the age of streaming? Lexi: I would love to actually do a full album at some point in the near future. I’ve been independent for a long time, and I feel like that’d be a great feat to accomplish. It’s actually been a goal of mine for a while, it just hasn’t felt right yet. I also do like how each single is its own thing and feels like its own thing, especially because I’m such a visual person. When I write a song, I can always see what the music video or the art for it will look like. So, it’s fun for me to just have these songs be their own things entirely. How would you characterize the evolution of your sound over the last five years? Lexi: When I first started Love You Later it was more of an ’80s-inspired project. And in a way, I’m kind of still inspired by that era. But now it’s sort of molded into something that grabs inspiration from music from the ’90s and 2000s as well. I think I’m also at the point where I’m figuring out what the staple or the secret ingredient in the sound is. And I think that part

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of that sound identity has a lot to do with my melodic choices, and also, with what I choose to sing about. I think when you put those two things together that’s when you get what makes Love You Later so unique. What are some of your current musical influences? Lexi: I love bands like Frou Frou and Imogen Heap. She inspires a lot of my melodies and I feel like if I knew her, we’d definitely be soul sisters. I also like Natalie Imbruglia, Muna. I love Caroline Polachek, Hippo Campus, and The Japanese House. I have a lot. Your newest single, “Keepintouch,” is quite the earworm. How did it come about? Lexi: Last summer, many of my friends were leaving town while other friends were becoming distant because they were in relationships or just leading busy lives. So, it felt like there was a lot that was changing with the people that I loved. My boyfriend was leaving on tour too, for about three months. So, I felt like I was just alone, by myself, which is sort of this weird theme in my life: my friends seem to always be moving away. And I get it, it’s part of being in your 20s and figuring things out and realizing that this is the time in your life to move as much as you want. So, I was alone and frustrated, but also weirdly having all this time to think. And after a while,

I realized that I was selfishly blaming them for why I didn’t feel in touch with myself or content being alone. The song explains the process of me realizing that it’s ok to learn to be alone. Where did you record it and how was that process in comparison to your earlier work? Lexi: The process has pretty much been the same for all of my stuff. The majority of the song is usually recorded while I’m writing it. I’ve never worked out of a big studio. I usually just go over to the producer’s studio. In this case, Kyle Dreaden produced this song. We got together for two sessions and had the song done except for the vocals. I then recorded some of the vocals and sent them over and had three of my friends play on it, and yeah, that’s just kind of how it’s always been. I guess in a way I would say that the project has grown and matured a bit, but not enough that I’d say it’s lost its heart, which is good since I prefer being in a house rather than in a big studio. The video for the song is quite colorful and visually striking -- how did the concept come about? Lexi: I feel like I really wanted and needed the video to be colorful. I wanted to explore the feeling of there being a lot of space and encapsulate all of the emotions associated with that. So, with the


The song has received a decent amount of attention on social media, particularly on TikTok. What are your thoughts on the relationship between social media and artists in this current algorithm-based musical landscape? Do you see it as a positive thing?

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help of Chase Denton, the director, we came up with a concept that captured what I felt needed to be there from the beginning which is that sense of space and longing.

Lexi: I honestly go back and forth all the time. I mean, that’s what I like about TikTok: my music can reach people who would otherwise never hear it or for whom it would take a longer time to reach them. In that sense, it’s a great platform. I think that as artists we can’t really hate it. But it’s also a love-hate relationship, I mean, there are so many artists who’ve been working since long before TikTok ever existed. And I go through these phases, like now for instance, when I don’t use it for long periods of time, but then I realize that maybe I should use it because it does help. So, I don’t know. I know that I never want to be known as a TikTok artist. It’s not who I am, it’s not what Love You Later is, and it’s definitely not what I started out as. What are your plans for the rest of the year as the touring/festival season kicks off? Lexi: I will probably play some shows in and around Nashville, but as far as touring, that’s not really up to me at the moment. It would be really cool to hop on a tour, but we’ll see. Besides playing shows, I’m always constantly writing. So even if I’m not sure what’s next, I know I’ll definitely be writing a lot. Any artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future? Lexi: Muna is a big one. Same with The Japanese House. Any advice to musicians out there?

any

up-and-coming

Lexi: Without it sounding too cheesy, I’d say to just stay true to yourself and remember where you came from. No matter how successful you get, people and fans will always connect with someone who’s confident in who they are.

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JJ Constantine (@jjconstantinephoto)

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MIA ASANO Making Violin Cool (Again)

Gus Rocha

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o say that the internet singlehandedly transformed the music industry would be a gross understatement. All it takes is a quick read on the lawsuits filed against pioneering audio-streaming service Napster around the turn of the millennium to start getting a picture of the existential threat posed to long-established record labels by the new technology’s tendency to liberalize and democratize the process of music distribution. Yet this erosion of the record labels’ undisputed hegemony over the industry has only increased over the past two decades. As the internet has evolved and streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music have become mainstays in an increasingly more complex and competitive landscape, flagging record sales have become yet another pronounced symptom of an industry dealing with a severe and long-term condition. To complicate things further, the last decade has witnessed the rise of social media platforms with the power to launch musical careers literally overnight, operating in a cultural milieu that’s totally independent of the rigidly hierarchical world of traditional distribution systems. As of the time I’m writing this, there’s not a dearth of young artists, musicians, or performers who have found their calling and begun to build their careers on social media. One such artist is twentythree-year-old violinist and TikTok sensation Mia Asano. Born and raised in the Denver area, Asano started playing the violin at age five. A classically trained performer, as a teenager, she developed an interest in fusing her instrument’s lulling and dulcet qualities with the approachable and relatable sensibilities found in rock and pop music. To this end, she enrolled at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston to pursue a dual major in Performance and Professional Music. It was during her junior year at Berklee that Asano posted a video on TikTok in which she’s seen performing a cover of rapper SAINt JHN’s 2018 hit “Roses” on her electric violin. The video, which was meant simply as a way of sharing her practice routine with her friends, quickly went viral, registering over two million views and garnering over 100,000 followers on the platform in less than a day. For Asano, this came as an incredible revelation and an unlikely opportunity.

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In the year and a half since her first viral video, Asano has meticulously cultivated a large following across different social media platforms. Currently, she has over one million followers on TikTok and over 350,000 followers on Instagram. This momentum has allowed her to release her first single, “Lunar,” in October of last year on


SPOTLIGHT Alien Earth Design and MK Studios Photo (@mk_studios_photo, @alienearthdesign) Spotify and has opened up countless doors for artistic collaborations that span the gamut of musical genres. I caught up with Asano and discussed her newfound place in the social media spotlight and her thoughts on the role social media currently plays in the music industry. We also touched on advice for artists trying to break the algorithm and what the future holds for her blossoming career. How old were you when you first started playing music? Mia: I started playing the violin when I was five. My parents gave me the choice of playing the violin, piano, or guitar. I chose violin and studied classically through the Suzuki method, where you have ten books and each song gets harder and harder so that by the end you learn how to play the instrument. I did that for about ten years and then in the sixth grade, I discovered that electric violins existed, and from that point on it was game over. That was the moment when I realized

Russell Klimas (@lightnlense) that this was what I wanted to do. Do you come from a musical family or background? Mia: My dad is a pianist and his mom was also quite an accomplished pianist. She was the piano professor at the University of Puget Sound, so I would fall asleep every night listening to my dad play Gershwin on the piano. That said, he’s actually a videographer and my mom is a psychologist, so I’m one of the first in the family to pursue [music] professionally. Growing up, what were some of the artists or bands that heavily influenced you? Mia: I was a little unconventional growing up in terms of what I listened to. I loved a lot of James Taylor, John Denver, and The Beatles. But then, what really inspired me was discovering the violin in all these different genres of music that weren’t classical and realizing that there were all these pop violinists like Vanessa-Mae, David Garrett, 2Cellos, Lindsey Stirling, or a bunch of

rock violinists like Mark Wood, Tracy Silverman, or Christian Howes who’s a jazz violinist. Seeing all these amazing violinists play in genres outside of classical music was really inspiring. After high school, you toured the West Coast with the Viking-Rock band Nordic Daughter. How was that experience? Mia: I met Nordic Daughter through the fashion community. They were actually looking for a violinist and some friends in the fashion scene just put us in touch. So, I started playing with them and it was really fun. We’d dress up like Vikings and play all of this original music that was theirs that was sort of like singer-songwritertype of stuff, but we brought more of a Celtic-rock feel to it with the violin and the electric guitar. It was honestly perfect for me because I love that kind of music. We did three weeks on the West Coast and it was some of the craziest memories of my life; it was an absolute blast. When did you decide to apply to Berklee and what drove the decision to formally PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 27


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pursue a career in music? Mia: As a violinist, there are only a few music colleges that have programs for alternative styles of string playing. Although I love classical music and it’s a big part of my life and my training, I’ve always known that I didn’t want to go and play in an orchestra. I wanted to play rock shows. I wanted to tour as an electric violinist. So, I knew that I needed to go to a school that would support all of my interests. I could have just gone to L.A. and decided to pursue a career there, but I eventually thought about it and decided to try to be the best violinist I could be before I went out and chased any professional dreams. And it was at Berklee, while you were a junior that your first video went viral. Tell me about that. What was the video and how quickly did it go viral? Mia: When I got to Berklee I was very humbled. I had to break down everything I thought I knew about myself and rebuild my ego because everyone there is so talented. I dealt with a lot of self-doubt and impostor syndrome, and it took me a couple of years of hard work to overcome

the center of so much exposure on social media? Mia: It’s been weird. I try really hard to keep my business and personal lives separate on the internet. It’s really overwhelming just having millions of people watching you, but also, critiquing you and telling you all that they hate or love about you. One thing I had to learn to deal with was all the haters and trolls. That’s something that used to bother me, but fortunately, doesn’t bother me anymore. In a way though, I still don’t think that I’ve been able to register the whole experience. When you’re dealing with numbers, it’s easy to get desensitized. It’s when you go and read comments from fans that it becomes personal. Another thing is that I’m aware social media is fleeting. I’m not banking my whole career on Tik Tok. What do you see as social media’s current and potential role in the music industry? Mia: I think that we’re at this very unique turning point for music where you’re seeing artists, myself included, whose careers are being made overnight on social media. I think the

‘‘I’m aware social media is fleeting. I’m not banking my whole career on TikTok’’ that. I said ‘yes’ to a lot of playing opportunities and just started getting better because I was in a lot of uncomfortable situations. And then the pandemic happened, and unfortunately, all those festering feelings of self-doubt came rushing back. So, I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t played music that made me happy in a long time. I started secretly posting videos on TikTok not thinking anyone was going to really watch. I started doing all these trends on electric violin, and I posted me doing this song called “Roses” by SAINt JHN. And I remember later that day I was at TJ Max with a friend and I check the video and I see it has 36,000 views. By the end of that night, it had hit two million views. When I woke up the next morning, I looked and I had 100,000 followers. I just started crying, I just couldn’t believe it. It literally happened overnight all within a week of posting every day. That video currently has 10.4 million views on TikTok and 3 million views on Instagram. What was it like to all of a sudden be at 28 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

power of TikTok is that you have people starting trends and then you have people join in and add their own voices. So, what you get are these really interesting and strong music communities. For example, I just went on tour last April with my friend Melinda who’s really popular on TikTok and YouTube. We actually met through Tik Tok, and she brought a bunch of fellow TikTok musicians on the tour, all of these people that I’ve only known through the internet that were brought together in this very real way. So, you have people building careers, collaborating with each other remotely, and then also forming bands. My friend Ally, for instance, who plays bagpipes, she and I have started a band and have been working on an EP together. I wouldn’t know any of these people, if not for the internet. One last important difference is that artists no longer are so dependent on the record labels as they used to be because now they can just garner their own following from social media.

For example, I have a single out right now and didn’t really do any promotion for it, I just posted about it on Instagram and have gotten over sixtythousand plays. We’re at a time where you can make something go mega-viral just by dropping a TikTok about it. In a way, it’s artists taking things into their own hands and doing the DIY thing. Do you think it’s benefited you that you’re a solo artist? Mia: I’d say that there are pros and cons to being a solo artist over being in a group. One of the best things about playing music is getting to play with other people. When I play live in the Mia Asano band, I have a full rock band and string section, etc. Now, my TikTok filming schedule is so intense that if my brand was built on having other people with me, then you’d have to make sure to get all those people together when filming the videos, which adds a level of complication in terms of scheduling. That said, you might have the added benefit of getting to play off each other or having each member promote the band individually. So, there are both pros and cons. Do you think social media places a ceiling on artistic growth? Mia: I spend a lot of time thinking about this. What I do is I take requests for covers, and so, a lot of my most popular videos have been covers. And a lot of artists have been finding that if they do that they’re getting boxed into a niche. I think what keeps my videos cohesive is that it’s always me playing the violin, no matter what the genre or song is. It’s always me. So even if it’s a cover, people can still get a genuine interest in me as a musician. I get a lot of people asking me if I have stuff on Spotify, so I’d say that there is genuine interest. That said, I think that it’s a really fine line. It can be tricky. Though to be fair, even if I wasn’t doing social media, I’d also still be playing weddings and events so I could pay my bills. And in those contexts, I wouldn’t be getting hired to play original material. I think some artists may have an aversion to it and may just want to bank everything on their original stuff. I think that as an artist you have to be able to do both because you have to be able to sustain yourself in order to pursue your original music. Ultimately, it’s a matter of artistic integrity and people will have different opinions on it. From your experience, what is the best social media platform to use as an artist if you want to build both a following and a community? Mia: Without a doubt, the best app to build a following is TikTok. As far as building a


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community, it gets a bit trickier. With TikTok, you could have a million followers but that doesn’t mean that a million people are going to see your video. In fact, it doesn’t even show your video to your followers a lot of the time. I think that Instagram has been the most effective platform when building a community. TikTok is a great place to meet people initially, but then I’ll follow them on Instagram since you can actually message them and actually have them see your stuff. Though, that’s also something that’s changing at the moment. And if you want to build a community a step further, then you can join a subscription platform like Patreon or Discord where you can actually have more frequent one-on-one experiences with people. I don’t think that there’s any social media platform that’s perfect, but I do think that it’s also easier to maintain your relationship with people on a site like Instagram once you’ve made that connection.

Follow on Instagram and TikTok: @miaasanomusic

What does the rest of the year have in store for you? Mia: I just graduated college so my big focus is releasing original music. I currently have a single out and have a remix for it coming out at the end of the summer. I’m also writing a bunch of new music with some producer friends of mine and collabing on a bunch of stuff with a bunch of artists. I have a ton of stuff in the works. I have the bagpipe and electric violin duo with my friend Ally. I have my senior recital/debut Mia Asano show happening in Boston on August 4th and 12th, which will be my first live show since the pandemic. Ideally, I’m going to take that as an opportunity to go on tour, too. Any advice for young artists trying to grow their online brand or just simply taking the plunge into the music industry? Mia: I think that hard work will always pay off. I’ve always found that even if I wasn’t the best musician in the room, simply by being the most prepared, working the hardest, and showing up on time, I’d always end up being the best person in the ensemble. It’s an important skill that I’m grateful that I’ve learned since there are very few situations in life where you’re just naturally going to be the best at something. You have to prepare and work hard. As far as social media advice, take a look at your life and your goals and ask yourself if having a million followers and having to post every single day is something that would make you happy. Be real about it. If you’re the kind of person that hates social media, then there’s no shame in not doing it. There’s no reason to put any pressure on yourself to do something that, ultimately, won’t bring you happiness.

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TRAVIS SHALLOW Erika Arlee

Benjamin Ricci

Building a Real-World Connection Through Digital Barriers

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“Whatever it took, whatever you had, you were gonna make some noise with it.”

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ravis Shallow has been building a budding community of listeners with his down-home, relatable livestreams these past few years. The Southern singer, songwriter, and guitarist sat down with us to chat about his upbringing, his approach to the business, and how livestreaming helped boost his career. So, let’s take it back to the beginning. I know that you’re originally from North Carolina. Could you maybe give us a little bit of insight into your background and where music entered the picture for you? I grew up in Greenville, NC about two hours north of where I am now, which is Wilmington, Wilmington been home base for me since 2000. But growing up, I started with some Suzuki violin type stuff, a couple piano lessons here and there. Nothing stuck; the violin felt more like a chore. So, like I said…nothing stuck, but I would say that that’s where the ear training stuff that I learned became very valuable later on in life. So that was kind of the initial thing, but once I moved to Wilmington it was kind of a mess. I think just being a musician in general, that’s a superpower all to itself, not with just the music side, but the promoting side. All the business things

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that no musician signed up to do. There’s a definite value to learning patience, especially when we gotta deal with the business angle all the time. Going back to your roots, were you primarily acoustic at the beginning or were you mixing electric in at that point, as well? Acoustic, mainly. My folks had a used Ovation guitar, which I still have. I actually I just bought another house and we’ve been in the process of moving – so, I’m digging out old closets and old gear and moving stuff over and I found this old guitar and I took it out of the case and started to try to play it. And I’m like how did I ever play this? You know, the action’s an inch off the board. [laughs] It just shows you how into it you were back then. It was kind of inspiring to take it out of case because you just wanted to learn at all costs. Whatever it took, whatever you had, you were gonna make some noise with it. It’s crazy looking back for me again. I think it’s wonderful that you can go into a guitar shop now and get a $200 Squier off the rack and it’s 10 times better than what we started out on. Right? My brother had an electric guitar, a cherry red Les Paul that was like forbidden to even look at. You know what I mean? We’ve got a fouryear age gap, which is, you know now doesn’t seem like anything, but when you’re 14 that’s a massive

gap. When you’re the younger brother, all you really want to do is just, you know, hang out with your older brother or you’re into whatever they’re doing. So, he turned me on to a lot of great music -- I wouldn’t say actively turned me on to it, but I was always listening from afar. And then when they would leave, you sneak into the room. Find the records, crack open that cherry red Les Paul case…but even back then I loved the power of the electric guitar but was always more gravitating towards the acoustic guitar. Now looking back, I think it was because songwriters were kind of the beacon for me. I was never really drawn to, you know, flashy lead guitar players. I loved all that music, don’t get me wrong. All that Led Zeppelin stuff, but it was the songs that [spoke to me]. And that makes sense. I mean, you come from part of the country where songwriting is king. You said that you moved in 2002. Was that for musical reasons or you were just kind of getting out of the house? Just getting out of the hometown. Greenville was a college town where East Carolina University is, but it’s like it’s landlocked. We’re about two hours from the coast there and it just kind of ran its course for me. My brother was already in in Wilmington and since I didn’t really get into a college, I just packed up my car and moved straight down. I started taking some music classes at the


Were you thinking at that time, “I just need to get out of the house” or were you thinking that you were going to go into music full-time being that you weren’t going to go to college? My plan was this: I’m leaving Greenville, I’m gonna move where my older brother is. And he was basically living in little shack on Wrightsville Beach, which is kind of the beach attached to Wilmington. And I’m gonna figure this music thing out. The goal was to just perform for a living. And looking back, it was almost delusional to think that that that was the game plan. But within that delusion is kind of just what ended up happening. You know, there was really no Plan B. I had just kind of networked enough to get that first gig, and you know, back then you still kind of had to have a demo and you’d drop off a demo to [a club]. But I mean, I don’t even think I had an e-mail address back then. A lot of the business used to be done over the phone, which I don’t think a lot of people remember, you know? There was a place on the beach called the Palm Room and it was a great beach bar, great live bands at night. The guy that was supposed to play that night didn’t show up. I was in the bar there and I lived two streets away, and they said, “Look, if you want to play tonight, the guy didn’t show up.” I went back and got the guitar. I think I was, you know, 18 or 19. Got the guitar, came back and played the whole night and then all of our friends were there and that was the first gig. The first one. And every gig I’ve gotten since then all came from that one. I kind of bypassed having to have that demo in hand. [laughs] It sounds like it was almost meant to be. Were you starting to write at that point, doing original stuff? Yeah, I was already writing, but I would guess those first few gigs were probably 80% covers, for sure. I kind of saw the writing on the wall, there’s a ceiling here of some of these, like kind of beach bar gigs, bar band type stuff, and there’s two routes you can go. You can either do the cover band thing and throw in an original here and there. And just kind of do that circuit around the Carolinas, or even the southeast. I know a lot of guys that do that. But there’s a ceiling, you know, so you try to be dedicated to doing your own music and trying to find the right venues that nurture original music and try to piece it together. But those first few years of doing it full time, I

kind of dabbled back and forth between those two roads until I finally just said, look, I’m just gonna write my own music, make records, and that’s it. I hear this from a lot of people who have similar stories -- they run the cover band circuit for a while and it’s just like, “I’ve got my own voice.” I’ve got to do this now before it, you know, bursts out of me something. [laughs] You know, I just never really got off playing other people’s music for people. If I’m going to see live music, I want to see what that person has to offer. How have things been treating you since the pandemic started? Once the pandemic hit in in March of 2020, yeah, I kind of saw the writing on the wall and I set up this live stream [situation] and was doing pretty good with that for a while. I’m still doing a version of it. I’ve always had some version of a home studio, and in the last five or six years I’ve really upgraded the [space], which was good because the rug got pulled and all tours were cancelled. All shows were canceled. It’s funny ‘cause I’m sure you remember like every single person that knows how to play the guitar was live streaming on the Internet. But there were some really talented friends of mine, great songwriter friends of mine that were live streaming that I know personally, that sound amazing live but sounded awful on the live stream. Just ‘cause they maybe didn’t have technical side of it figured out, you know, the phone, the bandwidth and this and that -- so kind of early on I said OK, I see the value in the live stream and for my own mental health I need some structure – to do something. I said maybe I could take the studio microphones and this little nicer camera that me and my girl had bought together…that was just getting dusty on the shelf. Maybe I could take that and make something that looks and sounds more like a [real] show, yeah? I slowly started building an online community because I mean I was active on social media but not really, but pretty quickly the audience started to grow week by week, kind of as more and more people started tuning in. And then I started blasting out to the Internet on all the platforms at once and I was doing it twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6:00 PM Eastern. Man, I just really built a community around it and I’d keep it pretty loose -- as in, I’m just going to sit down and play songs that are on my mind and on my heart, and that that was the benchmark.

There was nothing more to it, it grew very organically. Where are you at now in your personal career? Are you doing strictly solo recordings or you doing a band line up? So right now is mainly solo stuff, you know? The last record I put out was a full band record that was under the band name Travis Shallow and the Deep End and that was a record called the Great Divide which we recorded in in Durham, NC. Those guys are still…I wouldn’t say ‘on call’ but… they’re at the ready. They’re great session guys, and they’re great old friends as well. Very talented.

SPOTLIGHT

Community College here, yeah, but you know how it was. They’re very entry level stuff.

But I just got kind of burnt out on the full band thing and all the travel, so I stripped it back down to a lot of solo stuff and then a lot of duo stuff. So, the things I’m working on now, I’ve got a single that’s coming out and we’re gearing up for a busy summer and it’s just like…things are all over the place, but basically what I wanted to do while I did all this live stream [stuff ] during the pandemic was to multitrack every [show]. That’s smart. I didn’t really know exactly why, but I’m just big on documenting [everything]. Well, after 165 episodes there were some moments throughout that are just great highlight performances from these past episodes. I mixed and mastered them myself, and kind of just as a thank you to people that have tuned in, I’m gonna do a digital release called “Live From Shallow Chateau Volume One.” But I’m still doing the live stream every Wednesday. And I started to get out live again. Basically, I did a run through South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee in seated listening rooms. That was [last] September when I did the first one. These were all indoor shows, and I don’t think people were quite ready to sit side-by-side indoors, even in September of last year. I mean, that was still Delta… but I’m glad I did it ‘cause it was a good litmus test to go back and just be in front of people. But there were half filled rooms -- there was no way around it. People just weren’t quite ready. But then I said OK, until I get the full green light I’m glad I did these runs, but let me just go back, focus on this live album and some studio recordings and then gear up for a busy summer. Which is where I’m at now…

Follow on Instagram: @travisshallow PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 33


SPOTLIGHT 34 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


Anello

SPOTLIGHT

Tom

Boston Guitarist Shares Strategy for Being a Digital-First Musician Benjamin Ricci

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e recently w o r k e d with the a m a z i n g ly talented Tom Anello (aka Tom in Boston) on some video projects with our partners Elixir Strings, and figured it was time for our readers to get to know the man behind the Instagram and Twitch channels. Join us as we talk social media, gear and what it means to be an artist in a postpandemic landscape. How did music and the guitar, in particular, enter your life? I’ve always been into jazz to some extent. My parents always had it going on the radio, but I didn’t really start playing guitar until I was 12. Before that, in middle school, we had classes where everyone played the baritone ukulele, which is basically the top four strings of the guitar. So, the skills translate [laughs]. My brother bought me my first guitar when I was like 12. I was just playing fingerstyle; I’ve always been playing with my fingers. I think I learned to play he solo from a Heart song or something – and a couple years later I discovered Andy McKee, who at the time had the most viewed video on YouTube.

He’s this world-class fingerstyle guitarist who brought the genre way up. At the time it was crazy, I had never seen anything like this. “You could do an entire song and cover all the parts, and you don’t need friends for it?!” I was so into it. Anything where you don’t need friends? That sounds great! Yeah, it was perfect [laughs]. I became obsessed with that style and exploring what all those guys were doing, Don Ross and Antoine Dufour…they all exploded when YouTube was still the Wild West of the internet, and anything could make it. That was my guiding light for guitar at the time. Most of the stuff I’ve seen from you is obviously this acoustic, fingerstyle wizardry. Was there ever a point where you’re thinking, “I want to go electric, throw on some overdrive and really shred”? It’s funny, there was when I was younger. But I have an obsessive personality -- I put my mind to one thing and stick to it, and if I go in another direction it becomes a distraction. It’s not a healthy outlook; I’m not a versatile guitarist [laughs].

courtesy of the artist

I went to Berklee to expand my horizons. I explored jazz, I explored rock a little bit. At some point at Berklee, though, I sold the one electric I did have and was back to this basic obsession with acoustic. Right now, literally two weeks ago, I picked up an electric guitar and decided it’s time to do something else, time to explore a new genre and get into prog rock or my thin jazz roots from music school. Suffice to say, the last 17 years of guitar playing has been this pursuit of fingerstyle and what Michael Hedges laid down for the world in the ’80s. He looked at his instrument as a conveyance for his musical ideas. He’s the foundation for the modern genre. It’s great that you bring him up. Because I think it’s great for people watching you to know where the roots of your playing come from, so they can explore those, too. Yeah, when I was growing up like I said, it was jazz, too. Some fusion, but a big name in the house was Dave Brubeck. The man who explained jazz to the masses, I guess [laughs]. That exploded into other jazz piano players [for me] like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, I just loved the colors that you can get with piano. I don’t actually listen to a lot of jazz guitar – I have a lot of respect for guys like Barney Kessel and PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 35


SPOTLIGHT

Joe Pass, but it doesn’t speak to me the same way as piano, even though I don’t play piano. It’s interesting, as an outsider looking in, I hear things in your guitar playing that seem very piano-like, as if you were approaching the fretboard like a keyboard. I appreciate that – one of the things that strikes me the most about acoustic guitar is that you can get almost piano-like warmth and sound if you play it the right way. Maybe it is a little subconscious – in a lot of my playing I’m trying to get away from very “guitar” things… [Ed. note -- at this point in the Zoom conversation, we take a virtual tour through his playing space and detour into a 10-minute chat about carbon fibre guitars and some other geeky stuff. The main point being how stable they are in different temps and humidity levels. Here’s what you missed – carbon fibre is good, fanned frets aren’t that hard to get used to, and baritones rule. Continuing on…] Let’s talk about your video work – obviously now a lot of guitar players are getting their first notice on YouTube, Insta and TikTok. That started up for me probably 2016/2017 intermittently, and I was not spending a lot of time with guitar [at the time]. I was exploring social media, seeing what other guitarists were doing. At the time, I didn’t have any great aspirations for my own playing, it was just something I did. I started creating little videos here and there on my iPhone, posting them to Instagram. And eventually, it become somewhat routine for me and important for me to document what I was doing – and then it turned into higher-production video content for Instagram, which was my bread and butter for a few years. Then COVID hit and I started posting a lot and that’s when I had an explosion online. They started getting picked up by Instagram’s allknowing algorithm, and things started really picking up in 2019/2020. That’s when I decided that I was going to be a digital musician; I could make all this content from home, and I could record this music and discovered I could access a fanbase and get new fans without worrying about playing out and trying to get people [to come to a show] on a Monday night who don’t give a shit [laughs]. Do you do any live playing out in Boston? I’m entirely online; everything I do is from this room right here. I don’t think I’m ready to undertake the struggle of finding meaningful gigs in Boston. It is a weird music scene here; it’s also

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I tend to find Boston very clique-y, and unfortunately my cynical viewpoint on it now is that it comes across as a very unsupportive scene if you aren’t pals with the “right people.” That’s what I’ve heard from others who play around. Honestly, it seems kind of shitty [laughs], and that there’s not a lot of support in general. I just don’t want any part of it. It’s also hard to get paid. It’s funny – I came to Boston in 2010 and spent four years in music school just trying to keep up with the other guitarists who were there at the time. Then 2014 comes and we graduate, and they all head for Nashville [laughs]. I don’t think I have any close friends from that time who stuck around, they all went to LA or Nashville.

“In a lot of my playing I’m trying to get away from very “guitar” things…”

SPOTLIGHT

very competitive. It’s already filled with supreme talent – how do you set yourself apart from them?

Did you have any inclination to do that? Almost, although I didn’t think I was cut out for it [at the time]. In fact, now I don’t think I’m cut out for it now given that I’ve pigeonholed myself so [laughs]. I was caught between styles, uncertain of my own playing. It wasn’t until I aged a bit and stopped caring about what other people were doing that I started writing things that felt good [to me] and started putting it out there. So where are you at now and what future projects are on the horizon? In the last couple years, it became less of a hobby and more of a full-time gig. I’m still allonline, doing social media because it kept me there. But what I started doing last August was streaming music on Twitch. It turned into an unimaginable success for me – people were enjoying it and a month in Twitch asked if I wanted to play on their front page. And I said absolutely I’d love to do that! At its height, there were like 13,000 concurrent viewers – it was insane. They left me on the front page, on a lesser basis, for five months and it just grew my account. Twitch has become a three-times per week thing for me. I just became a Twitch partner and just recorded a new album coming out this summer. In can definitively say it’s my best sounding record yet – my previous releases have all been done at home, but this one sounds just so awesome.

Follow on Instagram: @tom.in.boston

The biggest thing this year is the album release – that one’s called “Words Won’t” and it will be available streaming on all streaming services. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 37


NAMM 2022

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inners in 21 technical and seven creative excellence categories were announced at the 37th Annual NAMM TEC AWARDS this month from the global NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. Presented annually by NAMM, the event recognizes the exemplary achievements and innovations behind the sound of recordings, live performances, films, television, video games and multi-media. Comedian, actor and musician Fred Armisen returned as host for the evening event. For only the second time in TEC history, three companies won two awards each in Outstanding Technical Achievement. They were Genelec (Loudspeaker Manager – GLM V4.0 in Production Essentials and FM Design in Studio Design Project); PreSonus (Sphere in Audio Education Technology and ATOM SQ in DJ Production Technology); and Universal Audio (UAFX Golden Reverberator in Musical Instrument Amplification and Effects and LUNA Recording System v1.1.8 in Workstation Technology). The Outstanding Creative Achievement category winners for 2021 projects reflected a year filled with a slew of top-ranking entertainment. Disney+ took home top honors

in Film Sound Production and Television Sound production for its animated movie, “Soul” and the second season of “The Mandalorian,” respectively. In the category of Record Production - Single or Track, “Lost Cause” from Billie Eilish (Darkroom/Interscope) took the top spot, while “McCartney III” (Capitol) won for Record Production – Album. In Interactive Entertainment Sound Production, Ubisoft was honored for its work on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Pioneer and bassist extraordinaire Carol Kaye was honored with this year’s Les Paul Innovation Award, one of the night’s most anticipated honors from The Les Paul Foundation. The Foundation’s Executive Director Michael Braunstein introduced the award and noted Kaye’s impact on the musical landscape, “Carol, like Les [Paul], built a legacy that will continue to encourage all people to create incredible sounds.” Several artists took to the stage in tribute to Kaye in a musical celebration worthy of her long and revered career. The Les Paul Innovation Award has been presented annually to remarkably-distinguished individuals from the music industry, such as Jackson Browne, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Peter Frampton and 2020’s recipient, Joni Mitchell.

A notable moment in the evening came from Sequential, the winner of the category of Musical Instrument Hardware for its Prophet 5. At the acceptance speech, David Gibbons of Sequential/Oberheim shared, “Life is a series of wins and losses. And the world of MI spent a huge loss this week. Dave Smith, founder of Sequential, creator of the Prophet 5, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday. He was more than just the founder, he was an innovator, a mentor, and friend. His passing broke our hearts. And in so many ways, his life’s work broke the mold for synthesizer design. The Prophet 5 is a recreation of a 40-year synth design. And many people say the appeal comes from how alive it sounds. Did you ever think that perhaps, inventors breed some of their own lifeforce into their best designs? If that’s the case, then Dave’s spirit lives on in his remarkable body of work.” Congratulations to the 37th Annual TEC Award recipients: Audio Apps & Hardware/Peripherals for Smartphones & Tablets Shure - Wireless Workbench 6.14.1 Audio Education Technology PreSonus Audio - Electronics Sphere

WINNERS ANNOUNCED AT TH TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE & CR 38 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


NAMM 2022 Computer Audio Hardware Rupert Neve Designs - MBC: Dual Path A-D Converter & Limiter

Musical Instrument Software EastWest Sounds - Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition

DJ Production Technology (Hardware/ Software) PreSonus Audio Electronics - ATOM SQ

Production Essentials Genelec - Loudspeaker Manager - GLM V4.0

Headphone/Earpiece Technology Austrian Audio - Hi-X65 Professional OpenBack Over-Ear Headphones

Signal Processing Hardware Rupert Neve Designs - 5254 Dual Diode Bridge Compressor

Large Format Console Technology Neve - 8424

Signal Processing Software (Dynamics/EQ/ Utilities) iZotope - RX 8

Microphone Preamplifiers Audient - iD4 MKII

Signal Processing Software (Effects) FabFilter - Timeless 3

Microphones – Recording TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik - TF11 FET

Small Format Console Technology Solid State Logic - UF8 Advanced DAW Controller

Microphones - Sound Reinforcement sE Electronics - V7 VE Musical Instrument Amplification & Effects Universal Audio - UAFX Golden Reverberator Musical Instrument Hardware Sequential - Prophet-5

Sound Reinforcement Loudspeakers Meyer Sound - ULTRA-X20 Compact Wide Coverage Loudspeaker Studio Monitors EVE Audio - SC4070 Wireless Technology Sennheiser - Evolution Wireless Digital

Workstation Technology/Recording Devices Universal Audio - LUNA Recording System v1.1.8 Film/Sound Production Soul, Disney+ Interactive Entertainment Sound Production Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft Remote Production - Recording or Broadcast The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, CBS Record Production – Album McCartney III, Paul McCartney, Capitol Record Production - Single or Track Lost Cause, Billie Eilish, Darkroom/Interscope Television Sound Production The Mandalorian, Season 2 – Disney+ Studio Design Project Genelec Immersive Experience Center, Natick, MA FM Design For more information, visit www.tecawards.org

THE 37TH ANNUAL CREATIVITY (TEC) AWARDS PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 39


NAMM 2022

NAMM 2022 Wrap Up Report Benjamin Ricci 40 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Chris Devine


NAMM 2022

A

s you no doubt inferred from this month’s letter from the editor (flip to the front of the mag in case you missed it), this year’s triumphant return of NAMM was…well…a bit underwhelming. A NAMM without Fender, Gibson, PRS, Zildjian, Peavey, Sennhesier, the list goes on….just doesn’t feel like NAMM. And I can see why the bigger companies stayed away. At some point, your marketing team must be looking at the money they got back in the budget by not traveling to NAMM for the past few years, and saying to themselves, “Do we really need the expense of a big booth, putting up our people and artist endorsers in hotels, missing work for a week and comping dozens if not hundreds of employee meals?” Off the record, a lot was said by both attendees and exhibitors that they didn’t feel NAMM made enough of an effort to keep the big anchor companies in the show – but by the same token,

Third Man Records have expanded their hardware line with collaborations with Teenage Engineering, CopperSound and MXR

what more could they really have done? It’s not like you can beg Fender to join the party when, in reality, they just simply may no longer NEED the tradeshow to help their brand or sales. In the era of email, they can shoot out a press release to announce a new model and have 15 YouTubers drop videos on the new model the same day. Dealers can place orders remotely online or by phone – so what does the tradeshow really do for them, and where’s the ROI? Why not hold their own event, at their own facility, like PRS, and avoid the travel while still catering to dealers and fans? Those are some of the questions NAMM will need to address over the next nine months if they wish to remain a relevant part of the industry. Because if this year’s convention was any indicator, it may not be for much longer. OK, enough doom and gloom. We did actually see a bunch of cool stuff, despite the slimmeddown show. So, let’s at least celebrate that, huh? Here’s a rundown from our senior correspondent Chris Devine on some of his favorite items from the NAMM floor.

Stoa Systems has a really clean and refined pedalboard system happening

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NAMM 2022

Aristides Guitars pushes the limits with their new multi-color foil finish

No amp, no problem BluGuitar does it all!

Isn’t a small RAT pedal technically a mouse?

Walrus Audio always loads up their boards, and has plenty of power to run them all (see our upcoming pedal issue for more…)

Day-Glo tiger stripes? Yes, please, ESP!

Blackstar’s new St. James amps are super lightweight and fully tube-driven; the 6L6 version is a total shred machine.

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Manhattan Prestige basses have figured out how to make a loaded professional level J-bass under $1000


NAMM 2022 Congrats to Reverend on celebrating their 25th Anniversary

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HOME STUDIO

How to Build a Recording Desk

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ajor industry changes are a challenge. TDM, HD, Power PCs, Intel, M1—I’ve been burned and rendered, in real time, obsolete. Like many, I waited to see what would be compatible and what blew up. When the Mac Studio rolled out in March, I wondered if I should invest in a Mac Studio plus a lesser MacBook for my other work, or ‘max’ out my budget on the MacBook Pro M1 Max. I was nervous about Pro Tools, a Thunderbolt chassis, and Monterey playing nice together, but I took the plunge on April 1: April Fool’s Day. The second Thunderbolt chassis worked. Pro tips: disable kernel security and turn off Filevault, then install the Pro Tools driver from the standalone installer. Verify the chassis and PCI card are identified in the system profiler. If so, turn on the I/O, shut down, disconnect the chassis power cord for five seconds, reboot, then launch Pro Tools. A hundred 2022.2 plugin installers later and I was modern! Somewhat. I’m on borrowed time with the Omni I/O. It All Centers Around The Desk Being newly modern, I wanted a cleaner, sleek setup for modern devices within the environment of a historic building. Knowing I didn’t want to sprawl into the room, could calibrate my monitors for, and needed the video monitor to

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Lesley Fogle clear the listening monitors without crowding, I started with the listening triangle to figure out approximate monitor spacing and desk depth: 28 - 37 inches in depth and 55 - 83 inches in width, depending on if going with a rack-mount desk or a sidecar. I didn’t like the idea of blocking rack units with the laptop screen, so leaned toward desks with space between the racks. Expansion options like surround were a bit paralyzing, but I needed to get past the chaos. A wall-mounted monitor would allow for rearranging speak sets in Phase II. I started a Peeve List of things I didn’t like: • Clutter - mismatched stuff, cable mess • Crowded desk space - stacking a keyboard on a control surface • Bulky or wobbly monitor stands • Leg opening space - banging knees on the keyboard tray or shin on the middle piece • Cheap materials: pressed wood (veneer is a thin second) • Out of style with the room Weighed the pros and cons of what was available and narrowed it down to a few pleasing options. The Output Platform and the Steel and Pine desks worked and would look best in my space, but they were not coming anytime soon. To avoid 12 weeks of chaos, I located an old, damaged

library table for $50 on FB Marketplace. It had character. Reinforcing the legs and base was easy enough and, with holes already in the top, I didn’t feel bad about drilling through it to create monitor stands. Monitor Stand Materials • (4) 1-in Black Iron Floor Flange Fitting • (2) 6-in x 1-in Black Steel Nipple Fittings • (8) #10 x 1-1/4-in Wood Screws (flange to wood monitor base) • (8) #10- 24 x 1-1/2-in Slotted-Drive Machine Screws (flange to desk) • 1/4-in x 0.500-in Neoprene Standard Fender Washers I can always stain these later. With a desk surface picked, my Plot Guide took shape. I moved the rack gear to a stand and found a Watchmaker’s Cabinet that fit on top for storing clutter. I had to customize it a little so adaptors would fit in the top drawer. Gave the middle drawer a false bottom for bigger items to fit and mostly so I could say “false bottom” several times that day (and in this article). Controllers I retired the Control24. And I enjoyed using it again after seeing Neyrinck’s V-Control at an AES convention and knowing it could be brought back from the dead. But now I want space, custom shortcuts, and expressive/immersive controls.


HOME STUDIO I’ll sell it just as soon as I get around to playing with running it from the iPad. I like using custom soft keys and being wireless with the EUCONcontrolled iPad, but I need time to transition from physical faders, so I’m temporarily using a Faderport8. It found me. I looked for a simple unit with long, expressive faders and a shuttle wheel, like an Avid Dock and S1 smashed into one ergonomic unit without buttons in between grouped more closely faders that can be controlled with one hand. The Sparrow MIDI controller I liked is unfortunately not compatible with Pro Tools :( Monogram Creative Console modules are a sign of the customizable future. Their peripheral modules (faders, knows, wheel) snap together magnetically and allow the user to assign parameters (expression, volume, pan, effects). Unfortunately, PT doesn’t allow control over track-level volume and pan controls. I do like the Custom Shortcut features in Pro Tools 2022.4 and may be able to rethink the wheel. Laptop Stand Peeve List Touch the desk so light or a keyboard lip can sneak through Hubs up top at the laptop base - dangling cords if raised Hubs on the side arm - cords break or clutter if lowered

Hubs connected by old ports - one 40gbps T-bolt 4 USB-C port should accommodate all old low-power peripherals I gave up finding a stand with ports that cover all of these bases. The Maotoam Aluminum Laptop Stand was nice but not available. Companies like Case X are really thinking, combining storage and ports in a portable protective case. I ended up getting a really nice regular stand, with swivel action, that feels more expensive than it cost. Cable Management With an overview of what went where, I hid cables as much as possible. The power-hungry pieces go to a heavy-duty strip that plugs into the rack’s power conditioner. There’s a charging strip affixed to the desk for charging and things like the LED light strip. The first one was garbage and promptly returned, while the second Sengled set is UL-certified and controllable by my phone. I dig the slow color change setting and the bright white lights came in handy for cable management. Repurposing While tearing things apart, I took a problematic cherry side desk, removed the tray and legs, cut the top down, flipped and reattached the top with four support slats. Now it’s a small, sturdy keyboard stand.

Aesthetics I’d splurged on an Indow Windows acoustic insert to let some light into the room. I did the math and found that an insert would be less than more Vitamin D supplements and loss of time due to falling into tweak-based time warps from having no primordial sense of where the sun is in the sky. It’s wonderful to be in natural light. A couple times a day, the light is so brilliant that it blinds Zoom meetings. I’d found a buckled glass window for $50 but it took this manic studio makeover to repair, re-lead, and re-frame it. Now I just have to hang it in the studio to filter the low light a little. What else? Filigree on the mic case and under the mantle. A case of white acoustic panels to hang on the ceiling in between my Rockwool-stuffed canvas ceiling clouds. Bass traps, raise some DIY reflector panels, install that keyboard tray, and it’s a wrap. I can work and create for a bit without watching the clock for evening tweak time. I’ll be good-togo until the pressure of Atmos hits me in the pocketbook or the M4 is abandoned for the O1, and it’s time to tear it all down and rebuild again. Oh well… Follow the rest of the journey at https://lafogle.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 45


GEAR REVIEWS

PHENYX PRO PTU-5000 4-Channel Wireless Mic System

I

n the past, running multiple wireless microphones usually meant hodge-podging several independent systems together and hoping there was no cross talk, or buying a configuration that was only available for the high-end stadium acts. Phenyx has figured out how to get a 4-mic wireless system together under $200. So, how did they do? The brains of the operation is the simple one-space receiver unit. On the front panel displays for the signal and audio strength for all four devices are well lit, and each channel has an independently adjustable volume control. The rear panel has four XLR outputs and a single 1/4” output that has a mix of all the mics for running into a separate system. Antennas are also located on the rear panel. Our package included four cardioid capsule equipped microphones, each running off of two AA batteries (included). Four color-coded anti rolling collars can designate whose mic is whose and keeps them from rolling on to the floor. A small, well-lit display on the handle displays channel designation signal strength and frequency. The microphone has a decent quality to it mechanically, and certainly doesn’t feel ultra-cheap. The system can also work with other Pheynx transmitters, such as belt packs. Range maxes out at a range of 260 feet according to the manual, and we had no issues with the range of the system during our test. This should fit well in stages/performance areas of a reasonable size. In an outdoor setting, it might be better to have the receiver on stage, and run

46 JUNE/JULY 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

the cables to the FOH mixer, just to ensure signal strength. Hooking everything up was a snap, and overall audio fidelity is good -- there was no issue on crosstalk or any signal disruptions. The microphones were quite robust, and the battery life seemed to be very reasonable with about 7-8 hours of juice, meaning if you or your roadie forgets to replace them once, you should still be all set. Ideally, this is a great setup for conferences and conventions with multiple speakers. A hiphop group with four performers could easily make this work for a nice and hassle-free setup. With a pair of belt packs, these would work wonders for instruments, as well. The only concern is the placement of the antennas; this is a pretty shallow rack unit, depth wise. If it’s mounted in a deep rack unit, the antennas might not be able to be extended enough to be in line of sight of the transmitters and could in theory cause issues. We had ours sitting on top of a table with no issues, but that defeats the purpose of being a rack mount unit. It’s a nice and simple all-in-one rig for the budding wireless groups out there; even the batteries were included. For performers who want to go wireless without a lot of fuss, this could be their first system, and it’s certainly not a bad entry point. Chris Devine

PROS

simple, easy, good sound, well priced. CONS

if it’s installed in deep rack, antennas might not be able to be extended fully. STREET PRICE

$199


I

n March 2018 PRS announced the Silver Sky, a collaboration with John Mayer, refining the S-type guitar on their own terms. It was no surprise that an SE version would be on the way, bringing that same vibe and feel at an affordable price, while maintaining the quality PRS is known for. Overall construction, fit and finish are top notch. The guitar arrived with excellent fretwork and came out of the gig bag with no need for adjustments. The body is made of poplar, and our test guitar had an Evergreen finish, which is a nice modern departure from traditional colors that S-style guitars usually come in. The maple neck with its 8.5” radius has a nice C shaped profile, a rosewood fingerboard sporting 22 frets along the 25.5” scale length and is adorned with the PRS small birds fret markers. The headstock’s design is a mirror-like shape in comparison to other PRS guitars, and the non-locking vintage style tuners have classy gray satin buttons. At the other end, the neck joint is super ergonomic, with a rounded heel area that is a simple yet effective refinement on the traditional design. There’s no problem with the heel getting in the way of upper fret fun. The three 635JMS single coils are voiced the same, meaning where they sit under the strings define their EQ response. They’re not overly hot but have plenty of volume. The neck pickup is warm and buttery while maintaining definition for chord work and soloing. Bridge pickups on S-types can tend to get harsh and shrill. Thankfully here, there is plenty of cut and clarity with gobs of fullness. The big surprise though is the middle pickup. which often gets overlooked in S-type guitars. Guitarists traditionally may not get enough quack out of positions 2 and 4 on the five-way selector, and in many cases find it to be “meh” on its own. THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH THE SE SILVER SKY!

GEAR REVIEWS

PRS SE Silver Sky This pickup on its own shines with a perfect balance of clarity and fullness, especially with clean tones. With a five-way selector, each position just changed the tone, not the character of the instrument. Start at the neck, and working upwards, the tone just gets brighter but maintains its presence and focus. As for controls, a master volume knob runs the show, along with a tone control for the neck and middle pickups, while the bottom tone control is dedicated to the bridge pickup. This is a setup that players have been doing on their own for years, and to have it done right out of the box is perfect. Playing-wise, this is pure joy; it’s super comfortable. This isn’t the kind of instrument that fights the player in any way, with excellent feel and response across the board. Grab the neck and dig in, because the more that gets thrown at it, the more it gives back to the player. Running the Silver Sky into a variety of amps, plug-ins, and amp sims allowed the guitar’s character come through with no issues; a perfect S-style, refined and redefined for modern players. Chris Devine

PROS

well-made, modern S-type, excellent pickups, excellent value to the player CONS

none. STREET PRICE

$849

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2022 47


CLASS OF ’21

MIXTAPE LINEUP

For more information visit: www.performermag.com

Artist 1.

Instagram

Aaron Kellim

Sponsor

Product

@aaronkellim

Cloudlifter CL1 + CL-z

2. Sub-Radio

@subradioband

Evolution Wireless Digital

3.

@s.o.u.l.a.s.p.h.e.r.e

Scarlett 18i8

4. TRISHES

@trishesmusic

Circuit Rhythm

5.

@fortunes_folly

CLASSIC 5 Monitors

6. Foxanne

@foxannemusic

Bobcat V90 Guitar

7.

Hawks Do Not Share

@hawksdonotshare

DrumBrute Impact + Microfreak

8.

Jon Manness

@jonmanness

Nautilus Workstation

@akfierce

UE LIVE In-Ears

S.O.U.L.A.S.P.H.E.R.E

Fortune’s Folly

SEE REVERSE FOR TRACKLIST -- PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY NOT FOR RESALE

9. Abigail Fierce

Special Thanks to Our Premier Sponsors

AVAILABLE NOW ON CASSETTE! CLASS OF 2021

CLASS OF 2021 MIXTAPE

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Elixir Strings. Performance-ready with long-lasting tone. GORE, Together, improving life, ELIXIR, NANOWEB, POLYWEB, OPTIWEB, GREAT TONE • LONG LIFE, “e” icon, and designs are trademarks of W. L. Gore & Associates. ©2009-2021 W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.