Guest Articles

State Of Local Entertainment 2015 – AKMusicScene.com

Total Music & EntertainmentWhat is the state of local entertainment going into 2016? For those of you that may not know Tony Marinacci of Total Entertainment & Entertainment passed away on September 2, 2015. He was an important figure in the history of the Pennsylvania Rock Show. Tony was instrumental in teaching me how to run a sound board on his own for the live performances that took place in the early years of the show. Tony made suggestions on things such as what bands to play, what equipment to buy, & so much more. But more, much more than that, Tony was Bill’s friend. One of the very last thing’s that Tony asked me to do was to keep his website online for a few years after he passed away. I agreed without hesitation.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what this preface has to do with this post. Every year Tony would release a post on the news section of his website about the State of Local Entertainment. I want to pick of the reigns and continue it for him; however, I don’t feel that I am qualified to do it on my own. So I came up with a plan. I have asked a few people the same questions about the local scene. This article will allow you to read their thoughts. I have asked Brian Drusky (Drusky Entertainment), Chip DiMonick (Chip DiMonick Band, Londona, & Helping Hands Rock Reviews), John Klazon (Western Pennsylvania Local Music Scene), and Vinni Belfiore (Musicans Hotsheet), Michael Stover (MTS Management Group), and Doug Carnahan (After the Fall) to help me tackle this in this article. You can also listen to John Lane’s (the Hellfire Club) answers to the questions in this month’s the Pennsylvania Rock Show.

The State of Entertainment PARS342 by The Pennsylvania Rock Show on Mixcloud

Continue to Brian Drusky’s Responses

Studio or DIY? – AKMusicScene.com

Guest Author Gary Simmons: Sooner or later most bands want to record themselves. It might be a simple demo of cover songs to help book gigs or a full-length CD of originals, but eventually the day will come to put it down for posterity. The price of studio time hasn’t changed much in the 30+ years I’ve been recording bands, but the cost of recording equipment has dropped dramatically. In this guest blog post I’m going to weigh the pros and cons of doing-it-yourself (DIY) versus paying for studio time.

When I started recording in the 80s, a nice 8-track project studio would cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on your appetite for nice mics and analog outboard gear. Analog tape gave way to digital tape (DA-88, ADAT) which made expanding to 16 or 24 tracks more affordable, but it was the move to computer-based recording that really changed everything.

Today, you can buy a decent computer, a simple mixer, an 8-channel audio interface, some mics, and some recording software for a fraction of what the old project studios cost. For that matter, a digital mixer like the PreSonus Studio:Live 16:4 can double as your audio interface and let you record up to 16 tracks at once! It’s crazy how much capability you can buy for cheap these days.

For anything less than an EP/CD release I think most bands should consider the DIY route because it is simple, cheap and a great learning experience. All it takes is enough mics to record the whole band, a stereo PA mixer, and a stereo recording device. Basically, set up your PA but hook up a stereo recording device instead of the main speakers. I recommend recording to a computer to make it easy to edit the recording once you’re done. Even something as simple as a Zoom H1 ($99) will get the job done.

It can take a while to dial in a good mix, so be patient. You have to record a bit, listen to the recording, adjust the mix, and repeat until you are happy with it. Think of it as an extended sound check. That “adjust the mix” step sounds easy but it’s where you will learn a lot about setting signal levels, using EQ and adding effects. Once you think you have a good mix, record it several times and pick the best take.

The recording process should be fun but being able to hear everything you and the rest of the band are playing opens the door for critical self-examination. Everything is fair game under the bright light of the studio: timing, execution, tone, and how each part works with the other parts. You might be surprised (not in a good way) at what is actually being played when you can listen to the whole band instead of focusing on your own part. In the end, you will become a better musician, the band will be tighter, live shows will sound better, and you will be better prepared if/when the band goes into a commercial studio and the clock is running. It’s all good.

It’s easy to step things up to DIY multi-track recording using a computer (plus audio interface and software) or a portable multi-track recorder. Recording the band to multiple tracks lets you get the mix right after the recording and also lets you experiment with overdubbing extra tracks such as backing vocals, percussion, guitar leads/fills, etc. Recording the band “live” to eight tracks at once (Ex: kick, snare, stereo overheads, bass, two rhythm guitars, scratch lead vocal) and then overdubbing final lead and backing vocals, guitar leads, percussion, etc. can result in a recording that can rival a local studio recording with enough experience and a few well-chosen bits of gear.

So when is booking time at a commercial studio the right choice? If the band just needs a demo to get gigs and promote themselves online, perhaps the path of least resistance is to book a few hours of studio time, play live to multi-track, then do a quick mix. The band just has to focus on playing well and the engineer can handle all the technical stuff. Note that the band needs to be tight enough to knock out a keeper in a few takes per song and the studio must have enough space and gear to record the entire band live. This approach should cost under $200. You’ll get a good sounding demo, but the pressure is on the band to perform when the red light goes on.

If your band plans on putting out an EP/CD of original music you want it to sound good when played back to back with professional recordings of similar bands from record labels. That’s a lofty goal for local studios and even harder if you DIY. If the band’s pre-production multi-track recordings sound good enough to release, then go for it. There’s a lot to be said for having unlimited time to experiment with ideas, record that perfect take, or dial in a mix. But for the majority of bands, I think that DIY pre-production followed by a trip to the studio for the “real” recording is the way to go.

I have recorded a lot of bands over the years. My rule of thumb is that bands should budget for 10 hours of studio time per song for a local release. That includes multitrack recording, overdubs, and mixing. If a band is really tight and wants a mostly “live” recording, then knock that back a bit. If a band isn’t all that tight, or the songs aren’t finished, or they want a more produced result, then increase the number of hours.

Studio time can range from $15/hour for someone just getting started in a garage or spare room to $60/hour for a nice commercial facility. I think the best bang for the buck is in the $25 – $40/hour range. That will get you an experienced engineer in a home-based studio or a modest commercial facility.

Let’s do some math. Say you want to record a 5 song EP of originals that you’ll sell for $5 each at gigs (a buck a song). By my rule of thumb, that’s about 50 hours of studio time. No one is getting rich playing local bars, so let’s assume you choose a home-based studio for $25/hour to save some money. That EP is going to cost the band $1250 in recording time plus mastering costs plus CD duplication costs ($750+ for 500 CDs). You can easily spend $2000 for a simple EP in a jewel case with a small booklet.

The band will have to sell 400 of those 500 CDs to break even. That’s a LOT of CDs (been there, didn’t sell that). If you work at a nicer commercial facility ($40/hour) you’ll have to sell closer to 650 CDs to break even. Bottom Line: it’s hard to break even on a CD release unless you have a large following, so expect to lose money on it and chalk the expense up to promotion. A digital-only release eliminates the CD duplication costs, but they are harder to sell because you don’t get the impulse sales at bars, iTunes/whoever takes their bit of the sale (~30%), and you may not see your money for a long time.

Assuming the math hasn’t scared you away, I think there is a strong case for spending your money at a local studio for a CD release. As the hourly rate goes up you expect the quality of the gear and the facility to go up as well. A wide variety of high-quality microphones, boutique preamps and outboard gear, and accurate studio monitors in acoustically correct rooms are not cheap. It takes a serious investment (way over $10K) in a home studio to offer similar quality.

But (hopefully) the most important thing you get at a studio is an experienced recording engineer. They’ve recorded and mixed hundreds of songs in a wide variety of styles. They know their gear and software inside and out. They let the band concentrate on making music while they concentrate on making the technology disappear and providing a creative environment. In the best case, they become a creative partner, coaxing the best performances out the band, and ultimately, making the band’s vision (or better) come out of the speakers.

Since most local recordings are self-produced, the engineer often provides production advice. Don’t discount the value of an independent, objective set of ears in the control room. Finally, in my opinion, mixing and mastering are black arts. It seems so simple to adjust volume and pan to be able to hear everything at the appropriate level, but the reality is that it’s hard. Really hard. Sure, you can make a listenable mix without too much trouble but really good mixes take years of experience and that’s something you can’t buy at Guitar Center.

Finally there is a third option splits the difference. If you have a modest computer-based studio at home, consider recording basic tracks (drums, bass, and rhythm guitars) at a commercial studio that can supply the mics, isolation booths, headphones, etc. Then transfer the tracks to your home studio computer (running the same or compatible software) for overdubbing vocals, lead guitars, and other parts that might take a long time to get right. All you need is a few good mics and a nice mic preamp or channel strip. Then do the final editing and mixes back at the commercial studio where you can take advantage of the engineer’s experience and monitoring environment.

I guess I have argued both sides of the coin which isn’t surprising since I’ve paid for studio time, recorded my band’s recent CD in my home studio, and have spent countless hours recording demos and CDs for other bands live, in my home studio, and in my commercial studio (now closed). Hopefully this post has provided a useful perspective on your recording options. Rock on!

Rock For Life: Saving Lives Through The Love of Music – AKMusicScene.com

Give the devil an inch and he’ll be the ruler and evil will always prevail when good men fail to act. And one of the prime examples of evil is the failing Medical Coverage System for needy individuals who suffer from a life threatening disease. With that being said, the fact is good men in today’s age of selfishness are far, few and in between especially among the less fortunate. But I’d have to say Matt Ferrante and Steve Craven are good men who have surrounded themselves with others of the same stature as their own to form a wonderful organization called, Rock For Life.

Matt Ferrante (far left) and Steve Craven (far right) along with Abby Bowser one of the many people Rock For Life has helped over the organization’s fifteen year existence.

 

Rock For Life is a concept of Craven’s and Ferrante’s that started fifteen years ago and began as an all-ages all day event featuring several music acts in hopes of raising money to help an unfortunate man with cancer. Since the organizations conception not only has the event moved to a two day festival with camping, food and other vendors at the Iselin Ballfield in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, which the Rock For Life Organization has since purchased. But it has expanded into several other shows at Iselin including Gigaroo and Roctoberfest as well as shows they put on throughout Western Pennsylvania at other venues.

John “American Hilljack” Lane performing with Jagged-Fell at Iselin Ballfield on the Rock For Life stage for Gigaroo 2012.

A flyer Rocktober XI 2014.

A flyer for 2014’s Rock For Life 15

 

It is the mission of Rock for Life to provide financial support to needy individuals residing in Western PA who are suffering from life threatening diseases. Rock for Life sponsors music festivals and other music-related and general fundraising events to raise the monies necessary to support its purpose.

Recipient(s) of support will be determined annually, utilizing selection criteria guidelines as adopted by the Directors. Financial support may be provided to a needy individual or a non-profit organization that supports the mission of Rock for Life.

Fred Ulmer owner of F.U. Entertainment (far left), Steve Craven (top center) and Matt Ferrante (far right).

With the addition of F.U. Entertainment owned by Fred Ulmer and support from the Pa Rock Show owned and broadcast by Bill Domiano. Rock For Life has grown from an organization that was only known in Western Pennsylvania to a well respected nation wide recognizable charity. For more information on Rock For Life or how to donate your time or money, go to www.rockforlifeconcert.com .


John Lane is an Akron‐based singer/songwriter. He is currently going to school to become a broadcaster and can be heard on his own online radio shows on “The Hilljack House” Tuesdays 6 – 8pm on The North Coast Underground (northcoastunderground.com)  He is the singer for the Hellfire Club.  Connect with him on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/john.lane.5682), Twitter (@AmHilljack)

Western PA Local Music Scene – Local Spotlight – AKMusicScene.com

Interview with John Klazon from Western Pennsylvania Local Music Scene

John Klazon of Western Pennsylvania Local Music Scene

John Klazon of Western Pennsylvania Local Music Scene

1. How did you originally get involved in the local music scene?
A: I’ve always liked bars and bar bands. I married someone that absolutely did not. 15 years of wedded bliss lead to a divorce and my freedom. I re-discovered my love of both once I regained my freedom in 2008 and never looked back.
2. What was the best concert you have ever been to that involved big name bands?
A: 1986. Tarrant County Convention Center Ft. Worth, Texas. Ozzy and Metallica. Ultimate Sin and Master Of Puppets. I was fortunate enough to not only get great tickets but see Cliff Burton play.
3. What was the best local concert you have been to?
A: Tie. The Mayan Apocalypse Show at the Leechburg Moose in 2012 with Skell and Gigaroo 2014.
4. What past local band that is no longer together would you like to see get back together?
A: Dragline
5. How did Western Pennsylvania Local Music Scene come about?
A: After a few years going to shows, meeting the bands and seeing how Facebook was being used I thought I may be able to do my part spreading the word. I actually kicked around the idea for over a year. One night as I was on my way to a show, I stopped in a bar for a cold one on a karaoke night and the place was packed. After my beer, I went to the show and saw a really great local band playing to a half-full house. That did it. I then created the group over the course of one sleepless night and began inviting people to join. I re-posted what I was receiving in my news feed regarding shows, bands, etc. I then set out to discover just what was here in Western PA. In two years the group has grown to 3,800 members. Participation is the key. Bands need to get their shows, music, videos and Facebook pages in the group. Everyone should try to post pictures and videos of the bands they go to see as well. Shows the band they are reaching people with their music. Everything posted in the group is Public, so fans should feel free to re-post anything posted to their Timelines or ‘networks’, if you will. Spread the word.
6. What do you see as the singularly most important thing about our local scene?
A: Participation. Hands down. Without participation, it would be a shadow of what it is now.
7. You are a local band t-shirt connoisseur. Which band gets the honor of being your first? Which shirt is your absolute favorite? Which band’s t-shirt is your most recent purchase?
A: My first band T-shirt (not event, mind you) was Big House Pete. On the back was a Paul Petersen greeting to all terrorists. Some of you may remember that shirt. I still have it. My most recent purchase was a Dave Iglar shirt that I bought at the Town Tavern in W. Leechburg. My favorite shirt? You’re not putting me on the spot that easy.
8. What was the first local cd that you ever obtained? What is the most recent cd that you have purchased? Are there any cds in particular that you recommend for fans of the scene?
A: First local music CD was Hybrid. For whatever reason my ex-wife decided to open the cell door and let me out for a night. I wandered into Vandergrift and they were playing at the Gazebo in Kennedy Park. I can’t remember who was handing them out. Took it home and listened. Liked what I heard. Can’t seem to locate it, though. My last purchase was Silk9’s “Exit The Pain” EP. My last acquisition was Slant 6’s “No Regrets” (Thank you, Matt Ferrante). Wow, recommendations? Really, it depends on what you are looking for. That’s what I like about the “Scene” here in Western PA is that whatever your tastes, you’re bound to find something you like in original local music.
9. What is your favorite venue to attend a show at?
A: Hands down, Iselin Ballfield for an outdoor venue. I’ve attended 6 years of the Rock For Life shows at the Ballfield without missing a single show. Each year it gets better. I bought a camper specifically for the Ballfield. I even had a very minor part in building the new stage. Indoor, if I am looking for that dive bar atmosphere and some great local music in a more “intimate” atmosphere, the Sidebar in Kittanning. In Pittsburgh, I like the Altar Bar for a larger indoor venue. Like music, there are so many great venues in this area. Hard to give the nod to any particular indoor venue.

Beardly Customs – Local Spotlight – AKMusicScene.com

Interview of Rick Link from Beardly Customs

Rick Link of Beardly Customs

Rick Link of Beardly Customs

1. How did originally get involved in the local music scene? I answered an ad in the Rock N Roll Reported back in 2000 for a band looking for a bassist. That band was Chronic Groove, which eventually evolved into Camp Element.

2. What was the best concert you have ever been to that involved big name bands? Primus when they toured for the Green Naugahyde album. It was just them, no openers.

3. What was the best local concert you have been to? Halloween 2013 at Mr Smalls. The Ruckus Brothers played Michael Jackson’s Thriller in full. Amazing show.

4. What past local band that is no longer together would you like to see get back together? Brave the Fire. Some of the best dudes ever to exist and they were such an awesome band. Vulture is a close second.

5. What do you see as the singularly most important thing about our local scene? I would say the networking. With facebook, twitter, etc it makes hooking up with bands and venues so much easier than back in the day.

6. What was the first local cd that you ever obtained? What is the most recent cd that you have purchased? Are there any cds in particular that you recommend for fans of the scene? Oh man….. I have no idea what my first one was. I would recommend anything from Old Lords, Solarburn, Victims of Contagion, Vulture, etc.

7. What is your favorite venue to attend or play a show at? At the moment, Altar Bar. Great venue, great stage, great PA system.

8. What is Beardly Customs? Beardly Customs is my custom bass, guitar, and now butcher block company. I build one of a kind, handmade instruments based on my client’s wants.

9. How did Beardly Customs get started? I always modified my instruments because i wanted specifics. So i decided to try and build exactly what i wanted. It was a success and i have been doing it for 4 years now.

10. What is your process for creating a new guitar or bass? I need specifics from a client. Once we nail down the details, i proceed to order all the supplies and parts. Once those arrive i get to the building process.

11. How does one go about ordering from you? You can contact me at beardlycustoms@gmail.com, message me on facebook, or message me on instagram.

12. Is there anything specific that you’d like to tell us about your band Camp Element? We are putting the finishing touches on our first full length cd. Our CD release show will be December 27 at Altar Bar.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/beardlycustoms
E-mail: beardlycustoms@gmail.com
Website: www.facebook.com/beardlycustoms
Phone: 724.263.5081
instagram: @beardlycustoms

Chip DiMonick: The Pros & Cons of Opening for National Acts – AKMusicScene.com

chippressAs musicians, I think we all dream of those moments when we get to “share the stage” with our musical heroes.  For some musicians, that dream never materializes.  For others, it is a possibility and, eventually, a reality.

Today, when national acts tour the “club circuit” consisting of venues usually with a capacity that doesn’t exceed 700, local bands are often recruited to open the show.  Bands and fans alike would like to think that the selection of bands is done in a way that ensures that the local bands with the most merit and that fit best with the headliner are the ones selected.  But, often, an opening band is selected where the promoter’s familiarity with the band intersect with that band’s willingness to guarantee that it will pre‐sell a minimum number of advance tickets.

So, a band being asked to be on the same bill as its favorite national act doesn’t come without strings
attached.  This post is designed to share the pros (which most bands can think of on their own) and the
cons (which many bands don’t realize until later) of opening for national acts.  It is not intended to
persuade a band to choose or refuse the opportunity to open for a national act.  That is a personal
decision.  It is intended to give a band many of the factors to consider so that it can make the best
decision possible.

So, without further ado, here are some of the pros and cons of opening for national acts…

THE PROS

  • A band can get the satisfaction of sharing the stage with its heroes.  Most musicians play music
    primarily for satisfaction (and not necessarily money), so this is a legitimate reason to pursue
    opening slots.
  • A band will usually play for more people than it would if headlining its own bar show.  As such,
    opening slots offer exposure to more and different people.
  • A band will probably sell more merch when opening for a national act compared to headlining
    its own bar show.  I know that, for my band, we always sell some merch when opening for
    national acts, even the smallest ones.  However, there are many nights when we walk out of an
    all‐local bar show without selling one item.
  • A band can make some decent money opening for a national act if it exceeds its ticket quota.
    Most promoters will offer local bands $1‐3 per ticket sold if they meet their quota (usually 30‐50
    tickets).  In some instances, my band has made several hundred dollars for a 30‐minute set
    under this type of arrangement when we were successful at hustling those tickets.

THE CONS

  • I talked about the chance of making money with opening slots.  Well, you can also lose money.
    If the band fails to meet its ticket quota, it often has to make up the difference in money by
    paying out of its own pocket.  Therefore, a band has to be careful not to overestimate how
    many tickets it can legitimately sell.
  • While musicians dream of hanging with their idols in a dressing room, sharing war stories and
    making lifelong friends, many times, the headlining band is out of the club having dinner anddoesn’t interact with the openers or see their performance.  Many musicians find this very
    disappointing.
  • The pressure of ticket quotas can cause tension between band members.  Not all musicians are
    great business people.  So, the band members who hustle and sell their share of tickets can
    quickly get very ticked off when other band members sell significantly less or even none at all.
  • Sound and stage situations for local opening bands are less than ideal, at best.  Locals usually
    have to set up in front of the national act’s equipment, leaving very little room for a true
    performance.  Additionally, quick changeovers are required and, as a result, by the time the
    sound tech gets good levels for the band, their 20‐30 minute set is just about over.  All of these
    things make it hard for a band to showcase itself at its best.  And the fact that a suboptimal
    performance happens for a big crowd can hurt the reputation of a band who is trying to make a
    good first impression.

Again, there are pros and cons to opening for a national act.  There is no one‐size‐fits‐all right
decision.  However, sometimes just knowing – and not being suckerpunched by – the disadvantages
can help a band properly adjust its expectations.

The top piece of advice I have to offer is just to be careful not to accept too much financial risk with
a ticket quota.  There is always a chance you’ll have to take money out of your pocket to play.  A
quota of 30 tickets at $10 each is easier to swallow than a quota of 50 tickets at $25 each.
If you can accept that risk, most of the other cons are easily outweighed by the pros.  But it can be a
big risk, so your decision has to be the one that is right for your situation and no one else’s.
Good luck!


Chip DiMonick is a Pittsburgh‐based songwriter, musical artist, and sometimes blogger.  He is the
singer and guitarist for Chip DiMonick and the guitarist for Londona.  Connect with him on Facebook
(http://www.facebook.com/chipdimonick), Twitter (@chipdimonick), and/or Instagram
(@chipdimonick).

Need a website for your band on a budget? – AKMusicScene.com

There are always paths to your goal. Ultimately I suggest finding someone who does design websites (being one of those people), but you can get a website for your band for completely free if you follow these tips. If this is above your head, feel free to contact us. Not sure if your band needs a website? Well here are 104 reasons why you do!

hellfireclubthumbWebsite for your band: How To

  1. Webhosting: There are many free webhosts available, finding one that works for your needs could be difficult. I have recently found Gigarank, which is a host for post webhosting service. They require you to make 10 quality posts in their forums before they give you a free hosting for your website. They also run contests from time to time to do things like double your webhosting limits and give you a free domain for a year. I currently have one of my websites hosted there. They also have Cheap Webhosting options if you determine you need higher limits. Some paid hosting companies that I’d suggest: Webhost Python, SiteGround, WebhostingHub, Bluehost, & Dreamhost
  2. Domain: A domain name is your www.yourband.com address. There are many free options here such as dot.tk & point.ml; however, this is the one place that I think you should spend money because most people are so used to the “normal” top level domains like .com, .net, .org that it will be hard for them to remember domains like .cc, .tk, .ml, etc. I personally use Godaddy and have used Dotster in the past. You can get a domain for about $10/year depending on the type that you choose. I have recently had a client also use Gigarank to register their domain.
  3. Design & Management: This is probably the scariest part for the non-designer. I suggest using WordPress as the content management/design for your band website. There are many big name bands that have done the same. Motley Crue, Dope, & The Rolling Stones, to name a few. Here’s a list of some more
  4. WordPress Plugins: Here’s a list of plugins that I think are essential when creating a band website using WordPress.
    1. Nextgen Gallery – The most popular gallery plugin for WordPress and one of the most popular plugins of all time with over 9 million downloads.
    2. GigPress – GigPress is a live performance listing and management plugin built for musicians and performers.
    3. TubePress – Displays gorgeous YouTube and Vimeo galleries in your posts, pages, and/or sidebar. Upgrade toTubePress Pro for more features!
    4. Page Links To – Allows you to point WordPress pages or posts to a URL of your choosing. Good for setting up navigational links to non-WP sections of your site or to off-site resources
    5. Ultimate Social Media Icons and Share Plugin – The FREE plugin allows you to add social media & share icons to your blog (esp. Facebook, Twitter, Email, RSS, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Share-button). It offers a wide range of design options and other features.
    6. Wordfence Security – Wordfence Security – Anti-virus, Firewall and High Speed Cache
    7. Fullwidth Audio Player (not free) – Add a fixed audio player to any page on your wordpress site. Create your playlists and add them into the player or anywhere in your wordpress site.
      • If you’re going to use Fullwidth Audio Player, then I also suggesting using Ajaxify WordPress which will allow your music to play non-stop while someone is browsing your site.
    8. Jetpack by WordPress – Your WordPress, Streamlined
  5. WordPress Themes: This is how your website will look. There are literally a million choices out there and many places to find them. If you’re looking for free, I suggest googling “Free WordPress Themes” or visiting the Theme area on WordPress.org. If you don’t mind paying for a theme here are a few sites to take a look at:
    1. Foxhound Band Themes
    2. Theme Forest
    3. Band Themer
    4. Or you might find a list like this one during your google search: 50+ Best WordPress Music and Bands Themes 2014