Month: March 2015

The Small Local Music Venues: The Toilet Circuit – Part 2

It can be easy to except the fact that the live sector is doing well from the figures shown in the previous blog (The Live Music Sector Part – 1) but to how much of an extent is that true? When thinking of live music venues doing well, from the thought of the live music sector performing well, most may think of venues like; The 02 Arena, Hammersmith Apollo, Wembley Arena, De Montfort Hall or Rock City. What people forget is that the live music sector involves small venues such as local pubs and clubs too.

These small venues are shutting down. This is a bad sign for the live sound industry as these venues are the grassroots of the live music industry, where unknown bands make their name and gain a reputation to becoming popular and successful.

The ‘Toilet-Circuit’ is a network of small music venues in the UK where indie, rock and metal bands visit to gain support and make their name. Famous bands have come from playing at venues in the toilet circuit including: Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, Blur, Pulp, Radiohead, The Killers, Primal Scream and The Libertines.

 As Frank Turner the punk/folk singer-songwriter and ambassador for Independent Venue Week states,

“The toilet circuit is vital. It gave groups like Biffy Clyro and Arctic Monkeys space to develop, hone their craft and build audiences. Without these clubs the only people able to play the O2 Arena will be X Factor Christmas tours.”

 The Toilet Circuit venues have been hosting live music for decades but in recent years, many have been or are being forced to close down including venues such as; The Buffalo Bar in Islington, the 200 Club in Newport, The Freebutt in Brighton, the Kazimier Bar in Liverpool and Nation also situated in Liverpool.

“Soaring rents, residents seeking to enforce noise pollution orders, and developers converting neighbouring office blocks to apartments have combined to force struggling venues, which have traditionally spawned stars from Arctic Monkeys to Ed Sheeran, to close their doors.” – (The Independent[1])

Nation in Liverpool - one of the many toilet venues looking to be closed down.

Nation in Liverpool – one of the many toilet venues looking to be closed down.

It can be quite disheartening to find out old well-known music venues are no longer running because of some noise complaints because the government have decided to build a block of flats next to or above them.

As Alex Turner says “I’m not opposed to development but there’s an imbalance of justice. It only needs one or two residents moving in to make a noise complaint and a venue that’s been there for 25 years can get shut down.”

It begs the question of ‘What do people expect, when they decide to live next to a live music venue that has been playing loud music for years?’

Other closures have been for building of high street retail shops, such as with ‘The Duchess of York’ in Leeds. Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix described the closure of ‘The Duchess of York’ saying,

“The Duchess is now a Hugo Boss. What’s the point in that? Leeds lost its musical history with the Duchess. Musical history is regularly torn down – CBGB’s is probably the most famous one. And for what?”

What needs to be realised is that if the small venues start closing down then there will be less bands being seen, which would mean less exposure, which would mean less break through acts. Without small venues, there would be less chance of a start to the process of bands making it to venues like the 02 or Brixton Academy or playing at festivals like Glastonbury, which make up a large percentage of the live music revenue.

If the live music sector is to keep on growing then the government needs to realise that the small venues are the grassroots of the live music industry and without them the live music industry may soon decline.

Reference URL’s

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20599939

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/fears-for-musics-toilet-circuit-small-venues-that-nurtured-big-stars-are-increasingly-at-risk-of-closure-9893213.html

The UK Annual Economic Study: The Live Music Sector – Part 1

This is the first of two blog posts that will show how the live music sector performed in the year of 2013 and comparing it to 2012. The information that is used is from the UK Music, Measuring Music – September 2014 report.

The report for each year is published in the summer of the year after, so in this case, 2013 is the latest report on the UK Music Industry. “The music industry grew by 9 per cent from 2012 to 2013 outperforming the rest of the economy by a factor of five.”UK Music, Measuring Music, Sept 2014

UK MUSIC - Measuring Music September 2014

UK MUSIC – Measuring Music September 2014

As a whole, the music industry did well in 2013, with the industry producing £3.8 billion in GVA (Gross Value Added) as well as creating 111,000 jobs.

From the report, it shows that the live music sector was the second biggest contribution to the core music industry.

It made £789 million in GVA compared to the recorded music sector, which made £618 million, as well as the sector of music producers, recording studios and staff, which made £102 million.

The employment FTE (Full-time equivalent) of the Live Music sector was 21,600 in comparison to recorded music with 8,510 and music producers with 9,600.

On top of being the second biggest contribution to the core music industry, the live music sector showed a growth of 26% in office taking, compared to the year before.

This shows how important the live sector of the music industry is, with the increasing amounts of illegal downloading causing falling revenue to the recording industry.

“The pick-up in live music attendance last year might be regarded as a bellwether for general economic activity and consumer confidence. The corresponding growth in employment in the live music industry in 2013 had a significant effect on adding to the momentum behind the recovery.” – Jo Dipple UK Music CEO  

The full Measuring Music, September 2014 PDF is available from the link below. (http://www.ukmusic.org/assets/general/UK_MUSIC_Measuring_Music_September_2014.pdf)

The Blurred Line Between Influence and Copyright

(From left to right: Robin Thicke, Marvin Gaye, Pharrell Wiliams) (ISAAC BREKKEN/GETTY IMAGES; WIKIMEDIA COMMONS; JASON MERRITT/GETTY IMAGES)

(From left to right: Robin Thicke, Marvin Gaye and Pharrell Williams)
(ISAAC BREKKEN/GETTY IMAGES; WIKIMEDIA COMMONS; JASON MERRITT/GETTY IMAGES)

Pharrel Williams, Robin Thicke and rapper TI – real name, Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. – were taken to court on Friday 6th March over the copyright infringement by Marvin Gaye’s family for the resemblances of the Marvin Gaye song ‘Got To Give It Up’. It was revealed that Pharrel Williams and Robin Thicke made over £3 million each as well as TI making over £700,000, from an overall profit of just over £10 million, with the rest of the money going to the record companies (Interscope, UMG Distribution and Star Trak). (Hollywood Reporter [1]). Of course, the artist’s say that they didn’t steal the song with Thicke even stating, “The record would have happened with or without me. None of it was my idea … I was drunk … [and] I’d say 75% of it was already done when I walked in.” (Hollywood Reporter [2]). However, it was today revealed that the Gaye family had won the ‘Blurred Lines’ case. The Gaye family are to be given money from record and live sales as well as damages caused from the copying of the ‘Got To Give It Up’ song written by Marin Gaye.

What this case shows is the blurred line between copying a song and getting inspiration form a song.

As artists are aware, it can be sometimes difficult to create a song from scratch. Sometimes you need some influence from music, this can be from listening to your favourite bands or going out and listening to different genres you have never heard. Sometimes a guitar riff or drumbeat can come to mind, when you are doing something irrelevant to music altogether. The song ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles was thought up by Sir Paul McCartney from a dream he’s had one morning. Sir Paul McCartney was interviewed on XFM and told the radio station that “It came to me in a dream…I just woke up one morning and it was in my head.” (Gigwise [3]). Another example of a court case was from Coldplay’s song ‘Viva La Vida’ which had allegedly copied “substantial original portions” from the song ‘If I Could Fly’ by Joe Satriani. Unlike the ‘Blurred lines’ case, Coldplay swore that they had never heard the song ‘If I Could Fly’. The court dismissed the case, with both parties having to reach an out of court financial settlement on their own terms. These examples of Sir Paul McCartney and Coldplay show that there doesn’t have to be a direct influence from music that’s already been made.

Nevertheless, it could still be argued that although Coldplay hadn’t even heard the song ‘If I could Fly’ and that Sir Paul McCartney had one morning dreamt about the song ‘Yesterday’, they both had influences from music but they hadn’t realised. A dream is made up of situations that happen in the day or what you’ve been thinking of recently. It is plausible to think that Sir Paul McCartney had heard music that day but didn’t consciously think about it, with the brain creating a song over night, that in a conscious state (the next morning) he’d put together to make sense. This could be the case with Coldplay as even though the band stated they hadn’t heard the song ‘If I could Fly’, they may have heard it unconsciously and thought they had created a new song but instead were influenced by a song similar to ‘If I Could Fly’. Although not completely similar, these two scenarios had different outcomes with one being taken to court and the other not. What this goes to show is that especially nowadays it’s a lot easier to be alleged of copyright infringement even when you think you created the song from scratch or with the ‘Blurred Lines’ case with an influence from music from the past.

A reason for creating songs that sound very similar to other songs is that other songs are easily accessible in studios. In a post written by the L.A. Times it says about how “Where once an artist could be inspired only by music he or she had already heard and processed, immediate access to millions of musical ideas is now a search engine away.” (LA times [4]). This happens all the time in todays world with the access to the Internet on most electronic devices such as; phones, computers and televisions. Nonetheless, there isn’t a court case made about ‘artistic theft’ everyday because these songs are so common and only a small portion makes it to the big time. “For every visionary are a hundred thieves, and the only difference is one celebrates his theft while the others claim ignorance.” (LA times [4])

This case with ‘Blurred Lines’ was really made for money purposes and not artistic theft. The reason it was made public was to boost sales.

“Even before the trial, the controversy over the similarities between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” appears to have boosted sales of the Gaye song. The biggest week of digital sales on record for “Got to Give It Up” — during which it sold 6,300 copies — occurred in the second half of August 2013 — the same month that Thicke preemptively filed suit against the Gaye family.” (The Wrap[5])

(Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines VS Marvin Gaye – Got to Give it Up)

Reference URLs

1. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/blurred-lines-trial-reveals-how-778884 

2. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-admits-drug-abuse-732783

3. http://www.gigwise.com/news/47473/paul-mccartney-favourite-beatles-song-came-to-me-in-a-dream

4. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-blurred-lines-notebook-pharrell-williams-robin-thicke-marvin-gaye-20150306-column.html#page=1

5. http://www.thewrap.com/blurred-lines-lawsuit-nearly-doubles-sales-of-disputed-marvin-gaye-song/

The Big Christmas Gig at Upper Brown Street

This was the second event that I was, in part, doing the sound engineering for. With this event, there were ten people from my course who were doing the sound engineering, as well as setting up of equipment and organising what was going on behind stage.

For this event, my colleagues and I had to set up a gig for performing musicians from Leicester College at Upper Brown Street in Leicester. There were going to be a total of ten bands playing in the space of two and a half hours, so each of my colleagues including I were assigned a band to do the live sound engineering for.

Band List 1

The running order of bands on the night.

(The running order of bands on the night.)

The stage had been set up the day before for all the different instruments and musicians. This included a drum kit, electric guitars, bass guitars, a drum machine, a keyboard and a violin as well as vocals.

(The channel list and microphone list of what was used for the gig.)

(The channel list and microphone list of what was used for the gig.)

The Drums

The miking of the drums was set up the same way that we had practiced in the weeks before (See the blog: ‘Setting up the Drum Kit at Upper Brown Street’). The drum kit was placed on top of small stage at the back of the main stage in the centre. This was done to so that cables could be placed underneath to prevent any tripping over of cables on stage as well as neatness. (see channel list for what drum microphones were used).

Drum Kit Set Up

The drum kit set up with microphones

(The drum kit set up with microphones and monitor)

The Guitars

There were two guitar amps set up on either side of the stage. They were placed on stands as to direct the sound of the amplifiers to the audience as a whole (not just to the front row of the audience, if the amplifier was placed directly on the floor). The microphones used for the guitar amplifiers were Shure SM57’s. This is because Shure SM57’s are industry standard and are very versatile and sturdy, which is also why it was used for miking up the snare drum and toms for the drum kit. The Shure SM57’s were placed facing the speaker of the amp, with it aiming near the point between the cone and the speaker paper to give an even sound of the soft lower frequencies (from the paper) and the sharp higher frequencies (from the cone).

“…the SM57 is perfect for the task; its frequency response, originally tailored for speaking, matches the mid-range “voice” qualities of the guitar. It also has a compression effect on loud sounds – it squashes nicely…”

(http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/print/studio_microphone_techniques_to_get_a_great_electric_guitar_sound)

The guitar set up with amplifier and microphone

(The guitar set up with amplifier and microphone)

The Bass Guitar

The bass guitar amplifier was placed on the front left of the drum kit stage. The reason for this was to also prevent tripping hazards as well as tidiness on stage. The bass amp is different to guitar amps because the frequencies that are produced are low, which means they travel in every direction rather than primarily the way the speaker is facing, which is what happens with guitar amplifiers. It was with this reason that the bass amp was placed on the side of the drum stage, as to take up less room on the main stage. The bass guitar was plugged into a D.I. box before being plugged into the amplifier, which meant the bass amplifier didn’t need to be miked up.

Vocals

There was three vocal microphone placed at the front on the left, the centre and the right of the stage. Although the microphones were placed more forward than to other instruments and microphones, the vocal microphones weren’t placed to the edge of the front of the stage. This was because they needed to be behind the front of house speakers as to reduce feedback.

“Positioning the main speakers well in front of the vocal mics and aimed so as to minimise the amount of sound bouncing back into the microphones will help…” (http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug10/articles/qa-0810-5.htm)

The microphones used for the vocals were Shure SM58’s. Just as the Shure SM57 is industry standard, the Shure SM58 is even more so, and is considered the most popular used microphone in the world. The SM58’s have a bass roll off and brightened mid range to cut through the live sound mix. The microphone’s also have a cardioid polar pattern, which mean that it isolates the main sound source, minimising background noise and reducing the possibility of feedback.

Other instruments

As it states on the mic list, the rest of the instruments; keyboard, acoustic guitars and drum machine, were all D.I.’d. This meant there were no speakers needed as the instruments went to a Direct Inject box and then to the snake box. The exception was the violin which wasn’t DI’d as the instrument didn’t have a DI built into it, so instead an SM57 was used (which was placed in front of the drum kit until it was needed for the violinist).

The stage set up with all instruments and microphones in place before the gig began

(The stage set up with all instruments and microphones in place before the gig began)

Speakers and monitors

The monitors used were JBL monitors. The monitors were placed in front of each microphone stand so that each singer/musician could hear themselves or each other. Another reason for placing them there was so that each musician could have their own monitor to listen from, which creates more space on stage rather than just having a centre monitor and the whole band in the middle of the stage. As well as the front monitors there was also a drum monitor for the drummer, positioned to the left of the drummer so he/she could listen to specific instruments or vocals because the drums would be to loud to hear the monitors that were at the front of the stage.

One of the three vocal microphones set up with the monitor placed in front

(One of the three vocal microphones set up with the monitor placed in front)

The front of house speakers were made up of a three-way speaker system (low, mid and high loud speakers) on the left and right of the stage.

The loudspeaker system was adequate for the venue but not as good as, they should have been. As the venue is a theatre, half of the time the sound used is for acting and sound effects for theatre plays. For that use the loudspeaker system is passable, but for a live gig it wasn’t sufficient, which was partly to do with the types of speakers used and partly because of the positioning of them.

The front of house speakers were placed on the stacked on the floor on each side of the stage and facing slightly central to the audience. The tallest speaker (the smallest high end speakers) was directed at around the middle row of the audience, which meant the mid and high frequencies were directed to only half the audience. This created a sound that sounded better at the front of the theatre compared to the back of the theatre, which didn’t get as much detail and clarity from the mix. This intern created a mix, which was louder in the highs and mids than the low’s because from the position of the mixing desk (at the back of the theatre) these frequencies were attenuated due to the positioning of the front of house speakers.

What could have been done was use the headphones for monitoring the sound that was coming from the speakers, but at the time it sounded good.

In the recording from the sound recorder, the bass guitar was very low in the mix but compared to the sound from the video recording the bass wasn’t too quiet and was fairly audible (which admittedly wasn’t the best quality sound wise, but still did a good enough job for you to hear the bass guitar).

Mixing Desk Set Up 1Mixing Desk Set Up 2Mixing Desk Set Up 3

Analysis and Evaluation

When watching the video there are changes in the mix that I make. These are points in the live engineering where the biggest changes are made;

At 2:15 I turn down the guitar to make the vocals stand out as the guitar was to loud in the mix and was dominating the rest of the band.

At 4:35 I turn up the bass guitar, as that part of the song only has the bass guitar and drums playing behind the vocal, so the bass guitar needs to be made evident in the mix.

At 7:35 I turn up the left overhead, to make the cymbals more present in the mix to make ending louder as it’s the final part if the song.

At 9:00 I turn down the guitar as it is overpowering the vocals at the start of the song.

Below is the Video Recording

Below is the Audio Recording from the Mixing Desk

Upon Evaluation of the live engineering of the band, there are obvious factors that can be improved on for next time I do the engineering for a band. The main point that I noticed was that was using the gain knobs as faders. This is something that I was doing correctly at the beginning of each song, in terms of setting the gain as close to unity gain without it peaking. However using the gain is something that is done when doing a sound check to make sure there’s a good line level, but not something that should be done in the middle of a song. The line level is usually close to unity gain, so the gain is not the problem but instead the volume of sound coming out the speakers, which is controlled from the fader. From watching the video you can see that use the gain knob when I should use the fader, which is apparent with the vocals a lot of the time. The gain knob is also more sensitive than the fader so turning the vocals up or down is heard very obviously rather than a slight difference in the mix from using the fader.

Another criticism that can be made was not using the monitoring headphones to hear what the sound was like from the mixing desk and making differences based on that. The differences might be little, but it would make be able to hear parts that weren’t audible because of the room acoustics or crowd absorbing certain frequencies, which attenuate certain sounds.

Conclusion

On a whole, there wasn’t the need to change settings for the effects, such as the gates, equalisers or compressors. This was in part due to the band being last so the effects were all set to parameters that suited the instruments.

It helped that the band was the most experienced and best sounding of the night, not just in terms of sound but the way they played their instruments. An example of this was the singer using the vocal microphone close to his mouth to get the most out of the sound and correctly held it from the grip too. Other examples were that the guitars were tuned before the band went on as well as the drummer playing the drums hard and in the centre of the drums, where the microphones were aiming at, as to get a full sound from the kit.

Risk Assessment: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hqypnelyt0s7fgi/UBS%20Christmas%20Risk%20Assessment.docx?dl=0