Tag Archives: COVID-19

Live Sound Reawakens As U.S. Tours Return

New Zealand band Six60 played to 50,000 people at the country's Eden Park stadium in April.
New Zealand band Six60 played to 50,000 people at the country’s Eden Park stadium in April.

New York, NY (May 28, 2021)—On the other side of the world, the concert business is moving full-speed ahead. Case in point: New Zealand has been allowing major events to take place, such as when homegrown rock band Six60 held a concert for 50,000 fans at Eden Park stadium in April. That’s what happens when your entire country has had just 26 COVID-19 fatalities to date. In the United States, however, the pandemic has taken a far more deadly toll, resulting in a live events industry that is now starting to reawaken as the first post-pandemic tours head out in June.

The spring season, usually marked by summer tours gearing up and outdoor venues tackling maintenance issues before the crowds return, has been quiet other than a small stream of artists and festivals putting dates on sale, usually for August or September. Current gigs—and the work they bring for audio pros and production companies—are still few and far between, even as a brighter future draws nearer by the day.

“There are still a lot of unknowns from where we’re sitting now,” said Shaun Clair, vice president of sales at Clair Global, “but we also see a lot of hope in what’s to come. We see an immense amount of opportunity ahead.”

Production manager/FOH engineer Brian Speiser (left) and monitor engineer/stage manager/guitar tech Bobby Tis, seen here in 2018, will hit the road this month with The Tedeschi-Trucks Band.
Production manager/FOH engineer Brian Speiser (left) and monitor engineer/stage manager/guitar tech Bobby Tis, seen here in 2018, will hit the road in June with The Tedeschi-Trucks Band.

The hard part for the touring industry remains getting to the point where shows return. Even with the fall season starting to heat up due to festival and tour announcements, there’s still the thorny issue of making a date stick; plenty of tours announced during the pandemic have already been pushed to next year, and more than a few venues that are hosting concerts this summer expect to be operating with skeleton staffs until absolutely necessary.

Adding to the confusion for production personnel is the lack of national guidelines on COVID-19 precautions for large gatherings. Every city and state has different mandates for appropriate capacities, social distancing, mask-wearing and more, turning each show on a tour into a collection of moving targets in terms of safety measures, potential ticket sales and more.

While COVID has made touring far more complicated, that isn’t stopping some acts from heading out. The Tedeschi-Trucks Band springs back into action starting June 11 with a show in Jacksonville, FL—the first of 30 dates scheduled through the end of July, followed by two weeks off and then more touring. Production manager/FOH engineer Brian Speiser readily acknowledges the road will be a different place for the hard-touring group this year.

“We’re not taking the full band and crew out,” he said. “We’re going to do a much more scaled-down, socially distanced show outdoors, so we’ve got half the band and a little more than half of the crew. We’re all going to hop onto one bus, throw a bunch of band gear in a trailer on the back, head out as inexpensively as possible and try to make something happen. We’re going out there in the safest, most responsible and least expensive way we possibly can, to do shows in a way that is not going to get people sick.”

Numerous executives at national and regional event sound providers pointed to vaccinations as crucial to the industry making a resurgence. “If you’re not getting vaccinated, you’re not getting hired; it’s that simple,” said one, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Whether you want to get [vaccinated] or not is your business, but considering how bad the last year has been, it’s actually surprising the number of people I talk to who haven’t gotten [vaccinated] yet. It takes five weeks for the shots to reach full efficacy, so if they want a chance to do something if an opportunity comes up, the ones holding off are almost too late already.”

Band and crew vaccinations are already in full effect on the Tedeschi-Trucks tour, said Speiser, who views the precautions from an unusually open-eyed perspective. “To supplement my income during the pandemic, I worked for a company that does COVID testing for the movie and television industry, so I spent six months driving around to actors and crew people’s homes, administering nose swabs and then dropping them off at a lab,” he recounted. “Having done that, for me, the safety issue is very important, plus I’ve also seen people who are vaccinated who have still gotten sick. The idea of now getting on a bus with a bunch of people, traveling around the country, going to places where there’s going to be a lot of unmasked people and cities where they have looser restrictions than they do here in New York is pretty scary.”

The production’s overriding concern isn’t merely to keep people on the tour safe, but also to ensure that they don’t inadvertently bring COVID-19 from one tour stop to the next and endanger the venue’s personnel. With that in mind, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band has developed a specific COVID-compliance rider that it has forwarded to all stops on the way, said Speiser.

Live Showcase: The Tedeschi Trucks Band (2018 Tour)

“The rider lays out the minimum of what we expect to see when we show up to the venue— nobody is allowed access to certain areas, everyone has to be masked, that kind of thing,” he said. “Most of these venues we’re playing are places that were set up to do shows in a COVID world. When they get the rider, a lot of them are telling us, ‘Yeah, we will be going even further than what you’re requesting.’ Of course, there’s a few who take a look at the paperwork and are like, ‘That’s cool that you have that, but you don’t have to worry about it so much here.’ And our response has to be, ‘We’re worrying about this everywhere. Don’t think that just because you don’t think it’s important that we’re going to forego these restrictions. This is how we’re going to tour.’”

As vaccination rates go up and the number of new COVID cases continues to decrease, states are loosening venue capacity restrictions. Unless they get derailed by spikes in the number of cases, the fall festival and tour dates being announced now are likely an accurate assessment of when most regions will see live event work ramp back up. Once shows resume in force, it’ll be time to buckle up—next year is expected to be a free-for-all, with pent-up consumer demand for concerts being answered by a touring business more than ready to deliver. “2022 looks to be an incredible year,” Shaun Clair confirmed, “and obviously, we’re all just really excited to get back to work and start doing what we love.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Pandemic Folk-Prog Goes Platinum

Despite the pandemic, the 68-piece Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and choir recorded the now-platinum Histoires sans paroles – Harmonium Symphonique album at Montreal’s 1,900-seat Symphony House.
Despite the pandemic, the 68-piece Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and choir recorded the now-platinum Histoires sans paroles – Harmonium Symphonique album at Montreal’s 1,900-seat Symphony House. SIMON GOULET


Montreal, Canada (May 12, 2021)—With the pandemic restricting travel late last year, a group of engineers collaborated remotely to record orchestral re-interpretations of songs by 1970s French-Canadian folk-prog band Harmonium. Histoires sans paroles – Harmonium Symphonique draws from the band’s three studio albums to present more than two hours of music performed by the 68-piece Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and choir.

Rick Winquest, based in California, had been scheduled to spend up to four weeks in Montreal as the recording engineer and sound consultant. When COVID-19 stymied that plan, it fell to Charles-Émile Beaudin, working in the Piccolo Mobile recording truck at Montreal’s 1,900-seat Maison Symphonique (Symphony House), to track the project.

The project was orchestrated by music arranger Simon Leclerc, who co-produced the album with Serge Fiori, Harmonium founder and leader, under the artistic direction of Nicolas Lemieux, president of record label GSI Musique. Winquest, who first worked with Leclerc on Star Trek at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and was mentored by legendary scoring engineer Danny Wallin at the lot’s Record Plant-owned Studio M, monitored the sessions from his office in Santa Clarita.

Beaudin brought in microphones by Neumann, Sennheiser, Schoeps, Sanken, Royer, Microtech Gefell, Coles, Brauner and AKG from Studios Piccolo and his own collection. Apart from close-miking solo guitar, harp and celeste, says Winquest, “The main concept was distance-miking techniques: Decca tree and wide room and section placements. Symphony House has such astounding acoustics that of course we needed to work with the natural ambience of the room to make the instruments sound bigger than life.”

Beaudin also subsequently mixed the tracks at Studios Piccolo in Montreal, again working remotely with Winquest. Throughout the project, the pair communicated in real-time through Google Docs and Zoom, including with orchestra contractor François Pilon, while Winquest monitored via Audiomovers streaming software.

To monitor during the sessions, Winquest employed a Focusrite D-to-A feeding his Bryston amps and PMC IB1S speakers. “Charles used PMC speakers for monitoring also, so we had fairly equal listening environments,” he says.

Harmonium Symphonique

With coronavirus protocols in place, Winquest also helped design a 20-foot extension to the concert hall’s stage to accommodate the OSM with social distancing. “Normally, two violins would be around one music stand. Now, each had their own stand and they were two meters apart, so we needed more space,” he says.

Released in December 2020 by GSI Musique, the album was already certified Platinum—solely from physical and digital download sales—in February.

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Winquest worried that, with the orchestra so spread out, timing and delay might be a problem. But conductor Leclerc ably kept everyone in sync, he says. As for the environment, “We brought in a load of baffles and gobos so that we could have more control over the instruments and the acoustics of the stage and room.”

In the end, the only real challenge was a resonant frequency in the hall, he says. “For live performance that’s not a huge problem, but when recording it amplifies and can really poke out.”

The new album
The new album.

Winquest developed a process with Beaudin for the mix sessions, listening to files downloaded from Dropbox then exchanging notes using spreadsheets in Google Docs. “We fine-tuned this process so that Charles could look at all of my comments with song timing locations and such. Each tab was a different song with timings notated for easy location of mix fixes.”

Delays to the project due to the pandemic also hastened the deadline, says Beaudin. “The time to mix was shrinking every day, and there was a lot to do—two hours and 15 minutes of music. Just by myself I would have gone crazy. So Rick was a really helpful second pair of ears. That helped me go through the process at that speed. And he’s amazing; all of his tips were great.”

While never quite clicking with American audiences, who were not used to listening to French language songs, Harmonium still found a place in the prog rock pantheon. The band’s 1975 album, Si on avait besoin d’une cinquième saison (also known as The Five Seasons), was described by Rolling Stone as “the pinnacle of the whole Folk-Prog movement.” In 2015 it landed in the magazine’s list of the 50 best progressive rock albums of all time.

The band certainly has a place in many Canadians’ hearts, says Beaudin. “Harmonium’s music is in the blood of every Québécois. Some say that if Québec was a country the anthem would probably be a Harmonium song.”

Harmonium Symphonique • www.harmoniumsymphonic.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Ghost-Engineering Meek Mill’s ‘Quarantine Pack’ EP

Anthony Cruz in pre-pandemic times.
Anthony Cruz in pre-pandemic times. Brian Ngo

New York, NY (April 30, 2021)—When COVID-19 shut down the world last spring, multi-Platinum rapper Meek Mill and Anthony Cruz, his engineer since 2013, were in the Bahamas realizing that the way they recorded together wouldn’t be the same going forward. Once the pair returned to a closed-up United States, it didn’t take long before the artist couldn’t deal with how the pandemic-induced lockdown was preventing him from emptying his thoughts into songs. Cruz recalls, “It got to a point where he was like, ‘I understand things are real, but I really need to get going.’ My back was to the wall and I had to find a solution.”

Once Cruz found it, they never looked back—Meek Mill and Cruz were able to record, mix and release the four-track Quarantine Pack EP in late November 2020, closing out an eventful year. Cruz recapped it all for Pro Sound News in this interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.


Q: After getting back from the Bahamas as the pandemic was ramping up, how did you and Meek adjust to the lockdown?

We’d been in-person vibing for seven years by that time, so it was a very dramatic change of workflow. It was just too dangerous at the time to jump out and do the regular in-person workflow, so when I was digging into potential solutions and testing different options, I was like, “How are we going to be able to work?” I ended up finding an amazing solution for the time.


Q: That involved a home studio?

Before the pandemic, we were able to store equipment at Meek’s house. He had never really used the space because he likes to leave the house to go to work, so we typically would lock-in the studios. We’d already built out a proper home studio for him—we have Genelec 1234A speakers with 18-inch subs on either side, a Universal Audio Apollo interface, and his mic chain is a BAE 1073 mic preamp that goes into a Tube-Tech CL 1B. He uses a Slate VMS microphone, which is basically a mic that mimics all the classic mics—it’s like a tool belt where, depending on who you’re recording or what the vibe of the song is, you can change the texture to match some of the vintage classic mics that we’re used to that cost tens of thousands of dollars. It does a really good job of matching the tone, and it just became our go-to over time.


Q: How were you able to record Meek remotely?

People are using Zoom to control the computer and then they use one of these audio streaming companies that basically allow you to get a clean signal on your side as the engineer and you control the workflow of who you’re recording. It’s interesting because it allowed me to really see what the opportunities were in this space, because it was never a necessity before to have to be ready for remote recording. You have to use Zoom and you have to use a plug-in and stream it, too—it’s not efficient—and it’s basically like he had a ghost engineer. Meek would be like, “Oh my god! Cruz isn’t even in the room and he’s recording me.”

Anthony Cruz (center) recorded a feature by Meek Mill (right) on the Ed Sheeran (left) track “1000 Nights” in 2018.
Anthony Cruz (center) recorded a feature by Meek Mill (right) on the Ed Sheeran (left) track “1000 Nights” in 2018.

Q: Did you observe a difference in the creative process between you and Meek working remotely as opposed to when you two have been together?

What you notice when you’re working remotely compared to in-person is that it’s all about trying to maintain the energy as if you’re still in the room. I had to find multiple ways of making the process efficient enough where it didn’t interrupt his workflow. We kept the same level of speed, but there were so many things I had to do on my end—I had to have an account that had all the beats that I was gathering from producers, copy a link, send it over to his computer while I’m streaming the audio. Then, after the session, I had to find a program that could back up all the files so I could send them to myself without it taking up too much time because maybe the internet wasn’t strong enough. We would be on a FaceTime call during the session, so we could still have that interaction and I could hear what the energy was in the room. That was a big thing. We had a separate iPad [for FaceTime] that was the communication between me and him live on the spot. Besides the streaming link, I was hearing him on the mic, but when he jumped off the mic, I had to mute the signal so we didn’t get feedback, any blasts of music or whatever. I needed a source of communication, so that was FaceTime.

It’s actually amazing the things we were able to get done. The Quarantine Pack EP he put out in late November is exactly what it’s titled—we did it all remotely. I would hit [producer] Nick Papz and bounce ideas. We got nothing but time on our hands, so it’s like your mind’s going crazy—“we’ll make this a bigger record!” Being in tune with the mixer live, you guys are both able to collaborate on a mix. They can be like, “Yo, let me try something different here,” and they’re able to control your computer and do their thing, and then you’re like, “Oh, hold on—let me try something.” So it’s this live collaboration. It still feels like we could potentially be in the same room. We were able to do some incredible things and still impact with the music.

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Q: I saw you guys got back to the studio in November. How was it being back in person?

It was interesting. It was still nerve-wracking for me, because my biggest thing was, I’m in the house with my baby girl and I got wifey, and I just felt like it was something I’ve never had to deal with before. It was a genuine fear of not about me, but how I would affect somebody else if something were to happen on this trip. It got to a point where we took all the precautions we needed in terms of constant testing and making sure everybody was safe and masked and everything. The first time, Meek actually ended up in New York and we were able to link up in person. That’s in my backyard, so that was a no-brainer. We had a couple of sessions there, and then the next sessions in person were actually back in the Bahamas again. Once the vaccine came out, I felt a little more confident once I was in that groove.


Q: Do you feel that you’ve gotten better as an engineer over the last year?

I think it’s really helped me creatively. I’ve really tapped in on another level on a creative side. Before, I would put somewhat of a limit on myself. Now I’m trying more things and putting myself out there more creatively. I think that’s the biggest thing— that it’s helped me a lot that way. Once I actually got our workflow together, it actually inspired fellow industry people to come up with really cool innovative technologies of their own, and I’m working with [Jay-Z’s engineer Young] Guru on solutions as well. We’re coming up with how we can innovate this space and make it more efficient.


Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

60 Seconds with Dudley McLaughlin of Renkus-Heinz

Dudley McLaughlin of Renkus-Heinz
Dudley McLaughlin OANA FOTO

What is your new position, and what does it entail?

I am the national sales manager at Renkus-Heinz. The role oversees the North American and Canadian markets, and the position’s day-to-day duties include all things sales: rolling out sales initiatives, developing demo and event opportunities, and ensuring we see growth across the region. That said, the Renkus-Heinz sales team aims to be collaborative in the success of our customers. Thus, this role also includes a lot of outreach to our representatives, work with end users who rely on our solutions, and product development input to ensure we bring the right solutions to market. We want to do everything we can to ensure that our customers are happy.

How has your background prepared you for your new role?

I’ve been with Renkus-Heinz for three years, overseeing the western territory of the United States and Canada, and I have come to feel very much at home here. Renkus-Heinz is a family-run company, and that approach fosters commitment to the work we do. In my time here, I have worked directly on projects with our various partners—our reps, consultants, dealers, integrators and end users. That has included working on system design, custom product manufacturing, commissioning and support.

The asset that I leverage most often is my 40 years of experience providing a professional audio solution to someone else. I’ve worked in sales management, as a rep, as a salesperson in a music store and, of course, as a musician. Also, I have worked with some extraordinarily talented and prolific people through my journey in this industry, and I use what I’ve learned from others all the time to be successful today.

What new initiatives are we likely to see from the company?

Renkus-Heinz has continued to engineer new products over the past year. We recently announced the latest products in our C Series line and our S Series line, and we expanded the range of the new Iconyx Compact Series. We were very strategic with our supply chain last year, which meant chip and component shortages did not impact our ability to develop, manufacture or ship new solutions.

That same momentum can be expected for the year ahead. We will continue to bring new solutions to market as planned. We still have the ability to custom-fabricate solutions with custom paint and weatherization at our manufacturing facility in California. My moving into the national sales manager role is a strategic change that will allow us to work more closely with those who use our solutions. We recently hired Karan Kathuria to the position of director operating across Asia, Oceania and SAARC, giving us an increased presence in the region. We plan to continue to innovate, ship product and hire for positions that will support our partners.

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What are your short- and long-term goals?

There are two key objectives in play here. The first is to maintain the current sales as we bob and weave through a not-so-normal time. The second is to be prepared and ready for a return to normal. Renkus-Heinz expects 2021 will see a normalization as vaccine rollouts continue, and we will be prepared to transition into a faster growth mentality.

What is the greatest challenge you face?

I know many will expect me to talk about the pandemic, but I have always said that the most significant challenge today is tomorrow. How do we predict it? How do we prepare for it? How do we march into it? A company must be agile. What we do today is plan, but we always must recognize that tomorrow may change.

[ Harro Heinz, Renkus-Heinz Co-Founder, Looks Ahead at 90

I believe Renkus-Heinz is incredibly agile. We’ve been strategic, we’re poised for growth, and we are responsive. We are focused on delivering the right product and solution, and we do it by ensuring we work collaboratively with our partners for their long-term success.

Renkus-Heinz • www.renkus-heinz.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Sweetwater Revenues Roll Past $1 Billion

Chuck Surack, founder and CEO of Sweetwater.
Chuck Surack, founder and CEO of Sweetwater.

Fort Wayne, IN (February 17, 2021)—The past year was one for the record books in the U.S., and not in a good way, thanks to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet there was a silver lining for some, including pro audio equipment and music instrument retailer Sweetwater, which set its own record in 2020.

With professionals gearing up to work from home during lockdown, individuals and organizations implementing new video streaming and podcasting solutions, and a good chunk of the population looking to further its musical ambitions, Sweetwater served more than 1.5 million customers last year. That proved to be a significant increase from 2019, and 2020 ultimately drove the company’s annual revenues past the $1 billion milestone in for the first time in Sweetwater’s 42-year history.

Caring customer engagement has been key, according to CEO Chuck Surack, who famously started Sweetwater Sound as a mobile recording studio in the back of his VW microbus in 1979. Initially working from home, the company’s sales engineers struggled with how to best contact and communicate with customers, he reports. “I advised them to follow suit with our company’s mission, which is to simply ‘do the right thing’ and call just to ask them how they’re doing. No hidden agendas or sneaky ways to try and push or sell products.”

Noting that 82% of calls with customers are outgoing, Surack adds, “We’re continuing with this frequency and form of communication as it’s been preferred by our customers.” Most of Sweetwater’s 500-plus sales engineers have returned to the company’s campus during the pandemic, where they are following CDC and local government guidelines.

Sweetwater's new 480,000-square-foot distribution center
Sweetwater’s new 480,000-square-foot distribution center

That campus is ever-growing, too. Just prior to the pandemic, Sweetwater opened a new 480,000-square-foot distribution center—four times the size of the previous building—that added 50,000 more square feet for inventory. The company also added 400 new jobs last year, a 30% bump in the total workforce, which now numbers around 2,000.

“We built a brand-new sales floor in November that can house around 1,100 sales engineers,” says Surack, who plans to hire up to 130 new sales engineers. “We also have some expansion plans in the works for our on-campus music store. It will be double the size of the current store and should open late this spring.”

Sweetwater’s annual summer GearFest attracted more than 18,000 people to the campus in 2019. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, the company took the event online. More than 125,000 people participated worldwide, tuning in for 16-plus hours of livestreamed panel sessions and interviews, educational content and, of course, deals and giveaways, during the two-day event.

“We’ll plan to continue offering a virtual component so that we can meet our customers and fans of music where they are,” says Surack. “While there’s nothing like having nearly 20,000 people in-person at our campus in Fort Wayne from all around the world, we still want to allow the opportunity for people to experience GearFest from the comfort of their home if they can’t make it to us. With Covid-19 still a concern, we’re working out the plans and logistics for GearFest 2021; however, we look forward to the future where we can offer both experiences.”

Surack founded Sweetwater Sound in the back of his VW microbus in 1979.
Surack founded Sweetwater Sound in the back of his Volkswagon microbus in 1979.

There has been one constant during the pandemic, says Surack, a former touring sax and keyboard player. “Despite how much of the way we live, work and gather has changed over the last year, especially for the audio community, one thing has remained consistent—music. While many stadiums and concert venues have been empty and will likely stay that way for some time, people will continue to play and make music virtually or from a distance. In 2020, we experienced skyrocketing sales for gear like audio interfaces, microphones, preamps and other devices that allow you to pre-record and put things on YouTube or use for Zoom and live broadcasts. We anticipate that this will remain consistent as more people take up an interest in making music remotely, perhaps for the long haul.”

Hopefully, that love of music will see us through to whatever comes next. “While the industry has definitely not remained unscathed by the pandemic,” he says, “I am confident that music will continue to prevail until the community is able to return to a sense of normalcy.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Nu Deco Ensemble’s New Shows

Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble returned to playing live shows in October, with precautions ranging from masks to Plexiglas to social distancing all in place.
Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble returned to playing live shows in October, with precautions ranging from masks to Plexiglas to social distancing all in place.

Miami, FL (January 27, 2021)—The Nu Deco Ensemble demonstrated its flexibility when the coronavirus pandemic brought the genre-bending orchestra’s sixth season to a premature end in March 2020. Six months later, after several months of engaging their audience over digital platforms, it was back to live outdoor performances.

Founders and creative directors Sam Hyken and Jacomo Bairos formed Nu Deco in 2015 with the aim of reimagining the chamber orchestra for the modern age. The hybrid ensemble, which combines traditional and modern instruments, has carved a niche for itself with new arrangements of music by the likes of Daft Punk and Queen, and special commissions of orchestral works by contemporary artists, including Kishi Bashi, Robert Glasper and Pascal La Boeuf.

Nu Deco has retained the same independent audio team since its inception, says Hyken. “Amplification is a crucial part, as we’re deliberately trying to create a futuristic sound, a new version of what an orchestra should sound like in a concert hall and beyond. We consider the audio team almost as members of the orchestra, because what they do for live sound and the recording component is so critical. We recently have come to an agreement with a video team on the same level.”

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Every performance is captured to the highest quality audio and video formats, but Nu Deco’s concerts, which are now being streamed, are live, not pre-recorded. “One of the things that made us who we were in the beginning was playing in intimate venues,” says Bairos. “We asked ourselves how we could capture that intimacy in all the music we do but also have some pizazz. We decided to have a live shoot; it’s a live show.”

The first concert since the pandemic hit, with guest artist José James at Miami’s North Beach Bandshell in late October, had all the hallmarks of a Nu Deco show—just no audience, and with masks and Plexiglas screens visible on stage. Since the repertoire is all custom, says Hyken, they can easily scale the size of the ensemble to meet social distancing requirements.

“We’ve been working with Baptist Medical, one of the best hospitals here, to check all our protocols,” he says. “Anyone coming from out of town, like Jose James, is rapid-tested every day. We follow the CDC and local recommendations to the letter.”

The ensemble also benefits from Florida being a right-to-work state and with no union agreements restricting live performances, says Bairos. “So we’re one of the few orchestras still playing.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Phil Spector, Producer/Murderer, Dead at 81

Phil Spector
Inmate Phil Spector poses for his mugshot photo on June 5, 2009 at North Kern State Prison in Delano, California. Getty Images

Los Angeles, CA (January 20, 2021)—Producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector died in a prison hospital January 16, 2021. In his music-making prime during the early to mid-1960s, Spector created hit after hit with a rotating series of singers and session musicians, developing the Wall of Sound production method that became his trademark. While his obsessive nature aided his quest to turn simple pop songs into aural epics that exploded out of the mono transistor radios of the era, that same quality also led to severe mental illness, wrathful control issues and erratic, violent behavior that that came to a head with his 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Sentenced in 2009 to 19 years-to-life in prison, Spector contracted COVID-19 in December, 2020 and died due to complications from the virus. He was 81.

Phil Spector was born in the Bronx borough of New York City the day after Christmas in 1939; his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 14, following the suicide of his father. Forming a group, The Teddy Bears, with high school friends, Spector had his first success penning and co-performing the group’s sole hit, “To Know Him is to Love Him,” in 1958. After they broke up the following year, Spector headed back to New York City, where he became a musical jack-of-all-trades, co-writing Ben E. King’s hit, “Spanish Harlem,” and playing guitar on The Drifters’ “On Broadway.” Returning to L.A., Spector moved into record production and soon began cranking out a seemingly endless stream of hits with acts like The Crystals (“He’s A Rebel”), Darlene Love, The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”), The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”), Ike & Tina Turner (“River Deep – Mountain High”) and more.

During this era, Spector developed his trademark “Wall of Sound” production method, often working at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood with engineer Larry Levine, arranger Jack Nitzsche and a loose-knit group of first-call session musicians nicknamed The Wrecking Crew. The dense, bombastic sound was based around a near orchestral approach—rather than use the typically sparse instrumentation of the day, a Phil Spector production would have dozens of musicians crammed into one room, with multiple instruments playing the same parts in unison to create larger, thicker tones, whether that was the same instrument—say, three guitars—or different, though related ones, such as a piano, organ and harpsichord. The thick, sometimes gummy sound was further expanded through use of echo, reverb and distortion; this, along with the fact that they were recorded live in the studio rather than multitracked piecemeal like they would be today, gave the performances an immediacy and often overpowering drive that set them apart from anything else on the charts at that time.

Spector went into semi-retirement in 1966, and married Veronica Bennett, better known as Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes in 1968, adopting a son and later surprising her by adopting twins as a Christmas present. It was, by all accounts, a cruel, abusive marriage that found Bennett and the children kept captive in Spector’s mansion, though Bennett ultimately made a late-night escape from their mansion—and marriage—in 1972. In their 1974 divorce settlement, she gave up all claim to future royalties on the Ronettes’ work and likewise gave up custody of their children—a decision she said was made because Spector threatened to have her assassinated. In the decades since, two of the children have alleged they endured sexual abuse due to Spector in the years after Bennett left.

UK Producer Steve Brown, Dead at 65

Pro Audio In Memoriam 2020

By this time, Spector had revived his production career, as he was hired in 1970 to assemble rough takes recorded by the Beatles into the band’s final album, 1970’s Let It Be. While it was a massive hit, Paul McCartney took issue with Spector’s heavy-handed embellishments, eventually going so far as to have the album remixed without them and released as 2003’s Let It Be…Naked. Nonetheless, Spector made inroads with the other Beatles as a result of the collection and went on to record multi-platinum albums for John Lennon (Imagine; Some Time in New York City) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass; The Concert for Bangladesh). With Spector’s increasing unpredictability, however, both artists eventually stopped working with him. Lennon initially hired the producer for what would become 1975’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, but Spector’s heavy alcohol abuse and wild behavior like showing up to record in surgical scrubs, firing a gun into the studio ceiling, spilling whiskey into A&M Studio’s console, and ultimately kidnapping the session tapes for months at a time, led the project to be shelved for a number of years.

Spector closed out the 1970s recording poorly received albums with the Ramones and Leonard Cohen, and remained largely inactive throughout the next 20 years, sporadically working with on tracks with Yoko Ono, Starsailor and a failed collaboration with Celine Dion (Dion allegedly walked, fed up with Spector’s dithering). Spector spent much of those years in reclusion, fading from public memory, but that ended abruptly on February 3, 2003, when he shot actress Lana Clarkson in the mouth at his mansion. Barely acquaintances, Spector had invited her to his home after they met at L.A.’s House of Blues, and later claimed the death was an “accidental suicide.” Spector’s driver called 911 and quoted him in the call as saying “I think I’ve killed somebody.” After a 2007 trial ended in a hung jury, a second trial resulted in Spector’s March, 2009 conviction.

While Spector’s musical ingenuity is still admired in many quarters, his volatile actions throughout his career have long since overshadowed whatever accomplishments he achieved. He will not be missed.

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Grammy Awards Postponed to March 14

2021 Grammy AwardsLos Angeles, CA (January 6, 2021)—With the COVID-19 pandemic spiking throughout California and particularly in Los Angeles, the Recording Academy has pushed its 63rd Annual Grammy Awards broadcast back 42 days, moving it to Sunday, March 14, 2020.

Originally scheduled to take place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Sunday, January 31, the event is traditionally the highpoint of the music industry’s year, honoring successes of the previous 12 months while often being used by artists and labels as a highly visible platform for laying the groundwork on upcoming releases and summer tours.

2021 Grammy Production Nominations Announced

However, with the pandemic raging throughout California—74,000 more cases were reported on January 4, the day prior to the announcement, setting another single-day record for the state—the Recording Academy opted to err on the side of caution. Before the announcement was made, the event was already planned to be drastically different from the often bombastic shows of years past, which have been typically high on production numbers and low on actual award presentations. While still being held at the Staples Center, the ceremony reportedly will still feature performances and award presentations on site—but without the presence of nominees or a live audience.

Most winners of the 83 Grammy Awards categories—including the production categories honoring achievements in production, engineering, mixing, remixing and mastering—are announced and awarded at an entirely separate event: the Pre-Telecast ceremony. In recent years, that occasion has been held midday across the street from the Staples Center at the Microsoft Theater, and livestreamed online. Currently there is no word as to the status of the Pre-Telecast.

A joint statement regarding the main telecast’s changed date was released from Harvey Mason Jr., chair & interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy; Jack Sussman, executive vice president, Specials, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming, CBS; and Ben Winston, Grammy Awards executive producer, Fulwell 73 Productions, stating, “After thoughtful conversations with health experts, our host and artists scheduled to appear, we are rescheduling the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards to be broadcast Sunday, March 14, 2021. The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show. We want to thank all of the talented artists, the staff, our vendors and especially this year’s nominees for their understanding, patience and willingness to work with us as we navigate these unprecedented times.”

The Recording Academy is not alone in punting its ceremony further down the calendar; most of the winter awards season has been shifted to the spring at this point, with the Oscars now set for April 25, and other awards such as the BAFTAs and Golden Globes likewise pushed back.

Recording Academy • www.grammy.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

COVID-19 Relief Package Will Help Pro Audio Industry

Congress / Capitol Hill / covid relief packageNew York, NY (December 21, 2020)—Late Sunday evening, Congressional leaders finally came to agreement on a long-awaited and long-negotiated $900-billion COVID-19 Relief Package; while the bill has yet to be voted on at press time, it is expected to be passed this week. The relief package would enact additional unemployment benefits, including extended assistance for the self-employed and gig workers, and would additionally reopen the Paycheck Protection Program, allotting relief funds that could aid live production pros, as well as nonprofits, radio and TV broadcasters, and more.

Crucially for the live event/touring production sector, the new bill includes the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, under which $15 billion in PPP relief would be specifically earmarked for live venues, cultural institutions, independent cinemas and more. This marks a notable step up from the original amount that the SOS Act requested when first proposed in mid-2020.

The SOS Act, co-authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), originally asked for $10 billion to provide six months of economic relief to independent venues. Issued in the form of grants, money would be disbursed to qualifying smaller venues, promoters, producers and talent representatives, and could be used, according to Klobuchar’s office, towards “rent, utilities, mortgage payments, PPE, contractor payments, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines.”

While not aiding audio professionals directly, if passed, the Save Our Stages Act could help keep venues going until they can reopen in a meaningful fashion, ensuring sound professionals have an industry to work in on the other side of the pandemic. When first introduced, the bill quickly gained the co-sponsorship of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 28 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate.

Under the overall $900 billion COVID-19 Relief Package, the revived PPP program from which the SOS Act funds would be derived, would include more than $284 billion for first and second PPP loans to small businesses, both of which can be forgiven. The new program would also expand eligibility for the program in order to be more inclusive of nonprofits and smaller, independent media outlets such as local newspapers, and TV/radio broadcasters.

News of the SOS Act’s inclusion was met with excitement in the industry. Dayna Frank, board president of the 2,600-member National Independent Venue Association and owner/CEO of First Avenue Productions, said, “We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline by including the Save Our Stages Act in the COVID-19 Relief Bill. We’re also incredibly grateful that this bill provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which will help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis. We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Shure Aids Andrea Bocelli Foundation

Andrea Bocelli Foundation
Shure has donated a substantial amount of hardware to the the new Camerino Music Academy in Italy, built by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation.

Camerino, Italy (December 7, 2020)—Since it was founded in 2011, The Andrea Bocelli Foundation (ABF) has raised more than 30 million Euros and constructed eight schools, including the new Camerino Music Academy in Italy, replacing the former Academy’s previous building, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. Aiding the effort, Shure provided microphones and headphones for the new facility.

The new Camerino Music Academy was constructed in less than 150 days thanks to the funds and oversight of the ABF. The new facility will host the lessons of more than 160 enrolled students. Architect Renzo Piano, the Municipality of Camerino, the Associations of the territory, the University, the music high schools, and the Conservatory of Fermo were also involved in the project, built with modern and anti-seismic construction techniques.

Andrea Bocelli’s Engineer Talks Coronavirus

The Andrea Bocelli Foundation, like other nonprofits, has experienced a significant reduction in fundraising due to COVID-19. Additional income for the project was also impacted as the result of a break in live performance concerts by Bocelli. The Camerino project and its need for donated audio equipment was brought to the attention of Shure by Andrea Taglia, sound engineer for Andrea Bocelli.

“Shure has worked with Mr. Bocelli and Mr. Taglia for years, providing invaluable feedback to our product development process,” said John Born, Senior Product Manager at Shure. “Their recognition in the industry and ability to bring a world-class audio experience to the largest performance venues are second to none. While we continue to be their first choice on tour, we are especially honored that Shure equipment was selected by their installation team on such an ambitious and complex project.”

Shure provided an assortment of audio gear including KSM studio recording microphones, Microflex gooseneck mics, SLX-D digital wireless microphone systems, and professional studio-quality SRH headphones.

“We are pleased to lend our support to the Andrea Bocelli Foundation for this important and worthy project,” added Christine Schyvinck, president and CEO at Shure. “The Camerino Music Academy aligns with the objectives of Shure’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, supporting the development of future generations of musical artists, particularly under challenging conditions. It is a privilege for Shure to be associated with Mr. Bocelli and Ms. Berti and their exceptional organization.”

Shure • www.shure.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com