Pro Audio Files

VLOG #5: Decades of Reverb, Royalties & Matt McQueen

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here, welcome to the Wednesday show. Yes, I’m still rocking these glasses, yes, they do make me look like Bernard from West World, yes, we’re going to be talking about Mixing With Reverb today, and in celebration of that, we’re going to be discussing different classic reverb sounds through the different eras of music, and I’m going to be shining that spotlight on Matt McQueen. He is the owner, operator of Gem City Studios in Tennessee, but before we get to that, first some music news.

Vulture recently reported that Lil Uzi Vert XO Tour Life 3 has hit 1.3 billion streams, and from that, his record label, Atlantic, has recouped 4.5 million, of which he will receive $900,000, and there’s been some controversy along this, because people are seeing this $900,000 figure going to the artist, while the other 3.6 million is going off to the record label. People are saying that is robbery.

Well, let’s break all of this down so we can really understand what these numbers mean. First of all, let’s talk about 1.3 billion streams going into 4.5 million dollars. That roughly equates to 0.35 cents per stream.

Now, all of these streams are dictated by what’s called a mechanical royalty. A mechanical royalty is what represents the “physical” sale of the record, and when you’re talking about a voluntary stream, meaning somebody sees the record and clicks it, most of the revenue is going to come from a mechanical. It’s as if the person who is listening has effectively purchased the opportunity to listen to that song.

So Spotify reports that 0.6 cents to 0.8 cents gets paid out over every stream, so that does leave a lot of money unaccounted for. The other money that could be getting paid out could be either in publishing, which would go to the performance royalty, meaning the intellectual ownership of the song, which is traditionally a lot smaller than the mechanical royalty, or it’s going to some form of shrink, meaning somewhere along the lines, collectors, taxes, whatever else may be, is accounting for this discrepancy between what Spotify says they pay, and what Spotify is apparently actually paying out.

However, I don’t have all of the figures, I don’t have all of the information, so I don’t know what is really going into all of that.

So let’s move all of that aside for a moment. Now let’s talk about the 4.5 million dollars that’s gone to Atlantic. That is in mechanical royalties. Now, traditionally, in a record deal, it is actually more common to see a mechanical share go to the artist that is roughly ten percent. Something — actually, most starting artists, it’s usually around 9, 9.2. Some of the better deals throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, we saw numbers going up to 11, maybe even as high as 13.

However, when we do the math here, we see that 900,000 going into 4.5 million is roughly 17%. Now, a 17% mechanical split from the label is actually very, very good. So while people are saying that the artist is getting ganked, and this is not good, this speaks to the music business, actually, what it’s saying is that things are going in a better direction — that artists are getting a higher share. And remember, Lil Uzi is pretty new to the scene overall. He is a recent signee to Atlantic, and most of the time, new signees are the ones who get the worst deals.

What does this really mean at the end of the day? It means that record labels are bidding for artists. They’re saying, “I can give you more.” Which is great for people who are aspiring to come up in the music business. So instead of getting mad at the labels, I would say, let’s take this as a good thing. It’s a good payout, and it’s actually showing that there’s competitiveness in terms of getting an artist who’s hot.

Also, shoutout to Lil Uzi Vert, because he’s from Philly, I’m from Philly, always good to see someone from the hometown winning.

But now I want to turn this over to you. What do you think? Do you think that 17% is actually a really fair number for a label to be cutting out an artist, or do you think that 17% is still remarkably low, considering it’s the artist who is basically carrying the torch? Keeping in mind that there are a lot of things that go into this in terms of promotion, in terms of production, in terms of the label advancing money, in terms of the immense risk the artist takes in even pursuing music to begin with.

The fact is it’s not a simple issue, and there’s a reason why a lot of people are not even looking to labels anymore in 2017. What are your thoughts?

Alright, it’s spotlight time, and I’m going to be talking about Matt McQueen. I met Matt through Warren Huart and Produce Like a Pro. I’ve done a few collaborations with that channel, and Warren is a good friend of The Pro Audio Files. So Matt was working on some editing, as well as helping out with some tracking. We got to talking, I listened to his reel, and I was really impressed. The guy is super talented, and he owns a really cool studio. It’s in the town of Jellico, Tennessee, which is maybe about an hour north of Knoxville, hour and a half south of Lexington, maybe about three and a half hours east of Nashville, just to give you an idea.

So before getting into how Matt got started and everything like that, I just want to play you something. This is something that he both recorded and mixed at his studio.

[music]

Now, I have to say, traditionally, I’m not a metal guy, but that was cool.

There’s so many things I like about that record. I don’t even really know where to start, but I’m going to start with the drums, because I like to start with the drums. The drums sound fantastic. Usually, when I hear metal records, one of the things that really turns me off personally is that the drums, even when they are real, tend to sound fake, because of the way that they’re processed. They’re processed in a way that hyper articulates the attack, specifically in the kick, and tends to cut away all of the tonal things that are happening in the mid-range. This is doing exactly the opposite.

We hear plenty of attack and plenty of batter on that kick, but it sounds like an actual kick. The snare, we have plenty of high end, we have plenty of snare band, but it sounds like an actual snare. Why? It’s all real. This is actually the drummer playing the drums. The guitars sound really high gain-y and very pushed and forced, but without and real additional help from the mix. They’re kind of just living as they are, and the vocal sounds like a vocalist with space, and it creates this world in which the more you turn it up, the more it brings you in.

I can blast it and it’s not cutting my head off. Instead, it’s just making me feel like I could lift up a truck.

So that band is Gravel Switch, the song is called House of Cards, and the recordist and mixer is Matt. He did it out of Gem City Studios, which I want you to take a look at. You can go to gemcitystudios.com, because here’s the thing. As musicians that are aspiring to do bigger shows, create amazing records, sometimes it can be really challenging to get into studios that have an amazing sound, without paying an arm and a leg, but because this studio is located a little off the beaten path, there’s less overhead, so it is a more affordable studio, with no sacrifice to quality. It just requires taking a little bit of a trip if you don’t happen to be located near Jellico to begin with.

Okay, let’s talk a little bit about Matt real quick. I think that the reason why Matt is so good at what he does is because he was in bands and was a touring musician for a long time, and he experienced what worked with the crowd. I feel like on an innate level, you have to understand the music that you’re making in order to make it sound great, and because Matt has lived it, he is able to reproduce that feeling when he is recording and mixing.

So gemcitystudios.com. Go ahead, check it out, contact Matt, book that studio time.

Alright, so now I want to talk about the use of reverb in music from a historic perspective. I’m going to start with the very beginnings, where we didn’t really hear any augmented reverb at all.

[Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”]

So in early recordings, before the 50’s, we were hearing basically just what they were giving us. At the times, that was one mic put in front of the vocals, an orchestra in the back, so we hear instruments with reverb, because it is the actual room tone. We hear the vocalist very dry, which can be really effective, actually. When you listen to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, and you listen to Gloomy Sunday, those songs are painstaking to listen to, because they are so stark, and it becomes evocative.

Now, if we fast forward to the late 50’s and the early 60’s, we start hearing the use of echo chambers much more commonly.

[Frank Sinatra, “Luck Be a Lady”]

Now, there’s a very clear extra tail that’s being tucked underneath Sinatra’s vocal here, and that’s a dedicated room with a speaker in it and a microphone in it, where his vocal is being ported to, and then redubbed underneath. This is the famous Capital Records echo chamber that we’re hearing here.

That was a very dominant sound in the late 50’s to basically up until the 70’s.

Now, once we get to the 70’s, that’s when things start getting really interesting. This is where Psychedelic Rock starts really coming into play, and we start hearing reverb being used as its own musical tool, not just something that exists on the instruments.

[Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks”]

Now, this famous example, When the Levee Breaks, is the natural ambience. It is the sound of Headley Grange, there is a large stairwell and a stereo pair of ribbons was placed at the top to pick up the drums, and that’s the primary sound that we’re hearing, but what we’re hearing as well is an acknowledgment of how big space can emotionally affect us and deliver power and intensity.

Now, let’s listen to probably the quintessential Psychedelic Rock, Pink Floyd.

[Pink Floyd, “The Great Gig in the Sky]

Once we get into the early 70’s, about 1972, 1973, we start hearing a lot more presence of plate reverb being used, because the advent of solid state amplification allowed for a more reliable circuit, and therefore, a less expensive creation of the EMT 140, and so what we’re hearing on this record here is an EMT stereo 140 on basically everything, and that’s that quintessential, shiny sounding reverb that we then hear for basically the next ten years, pretty frequently.

Then, we get to the 80’s, where digital reverb starts really taking over.

[Tears for Fears, “Mad World”]

So what we’re hearing in this song, Tears for Fears, “Mad World,” is what I believe is a Neve RMX 16, which is an early digital reverb, and it’s being gated, meaning it’s going through a device that truncates the tail, which is what gives it that burst, stop kind of a feel, and this was everywhere on the 80’s, and I’m going to now play probably the most 80’s song that ever 80’s-ed.

[Bon Jovi, “You Give Love a Bad Name”]

So there, we’re hearing a whole bunch of different reverbs. We’re hearing the actual natural sound of the studio, which is very large, and then we’re also hearing a Lex 480-L, the digital plate, which is also being very hard gated on that snare again, because 80’s. You know.

Anyway, let’s fast forward now to the modern era. Here’s a reverb that I’ve been listening to again and again. I have it semi-reverse engineered, but I haven’t totally picked it out.

[Katy Perry, “Rise”]

So here’s what I theorized it to be. Basically, this is now using reverbs in a very creative and artful way, which we’re hearing a lot these days.

What we hear is a hall reverb, what I believe is a convolution in Altiverb, and I think it’s an impulse of the Bricasti M7, and we hear it on both the bass synth, and we hear it on that filtered kick drum, which creates this very big, scopic stadium sound, but it’s like — it’s like a forever stadium sound. The lack of high end makes the drums feel like, humongous somehow.

Then we hear Katy Perry’s voice, and I believe what’s happening is that her voice has that same Hall reverb on it, and then there’s also a delay that is being ridden in and out on a fader, and that delay is going directly into the Hall reverb as well. So if you really listen to the tails of the voice, you hear this like, “uh uh uh” thing that’s happening inside the reverb.

[Katy Perry, “Rise”]

You hear a delay inside of it, and that I believe is what’s creating this very scopic sound, in addition to a very long pre-delay on these very, very reverberant vocals.

Alright, so the idea of this is not to necessarily give you information that you’re going to copy, but maybe to give you a playlist of some records that I think you should listen to as study, and also to give you some ideas as to how different reverbs were being used. You know, get the ball rolling and doing some research, and can you reverse engineer all of it? Can you recreate all of it in the box? It’s pretty tough to do that, but what you can do is use it to inspire your own creativity, and then when you make a humongous record with a brilliant sounding reverb on it, then you can let people 20 years, 30 years, 40 years down the line try and figure out what you did, when in fact what you were trying to do is just something that you innovated yourself in attempting to do something else.

Alright folks, you know what the story is. If you dig this video, I need you to hit that like button. That’s going to give me that inspiration and motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, and if you want to get that information sent to you in your e-mail or whatever it may be, you’re going to need to hit that subscribe button too. Those subscriptions help keep this channel going, so please click it.

And of course, Mixing With Reverb is out. The link to that is in the description. I touched on reverb a little bit here talking about it in general terms, but I get really, really detailed, really specific, and really under the hood for reverbs in that particular tutorial, so I hope that you check it out.

Alright guys, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.


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