The Begining of a Musical Adventure

Throughout my son Felix’s life, he has been surrounded by music.  Even as a baby only a few months old, his enjoyment of music was evident when I thought he was sleeping in my arms. I quietly turned off the music and he began to cry, so I turned it back on and he stopped! As a toddler, he preferred noisy and musical toys and his favorite was a bright yellow and offensive sounding plastic guitar. From two years old, he used to hang around the control room of my old studio, watching my band rehearse. I asked him what instrument he would like to play and he said drums, so for his third Birthday, I gave him a junior size drum kit purchased from Arties Music in Aspley.

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Felix Watson – 3rd Birthday present

His First Drum Kit
For the first few months, he would give that little kit an absolute flogging, with me trying to play the guitar to accompany his erratic blast beats. It was endearing to watch and I never pushed him, only ever gentle encouragement and heaped on the praise when he did play. These sessions never had any structure, I just let him do what he wanted hitting the drums. I did this because I wanted him to enjoy music the same way I do, something that should be fun and a positive experience. His interest in the small drumkit waned in favor of the Pearl Export 6 piece kit. He couldn’t even reach the kick pedal from the drum stool but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. He would patiently wait in the studio for the opportunity to jump onto the Pearl kit when my band was on a rehearsal break.

Hiatus
I had to move out of the house after leaving the Army at the end of 2016, and the studio was out of action for a couple of months. Over this period, Felix seemed to have lost some interest in drumming but not his interest in listening to music.

During car rides, he would demand, “Put some music on Daddy”, showing a preference for Hard Rock. His favorite song is my band’s Simple Child – Pig Mouth, written by Sam Menzies. Almost every time I play music in the car, he requests that song. It isn’t exactly family-friendly due to the strong language in the lyrics but he absolutely loves it, reciting the lyrics in front of my bemused bandmates, swear words and all. He is highly intelligent and knows that swearing is only appropriate when singing at home (never at school), and will correct me every time I curse by saying, “Don’t use those bad words, Daddy!”

Development 
Over the past year, he is drawn to the studio when I am editing or tracking songs, doing nothing more than simply playing quietly with his toys on the control room floor. Almost two weeks ago he celebrated his 5th Birthday. The day after his party, I was driving him to school with some heavy metal playing and he said to me, “Daddy I want to play guitar.” If he is showing a desire to play the guitar, then he is old enough to start learning.

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Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JSX1

Choosing A Guitar
That evening, we searched for a small scale guitar with a fast neck that would be easy to learn on and fun to play. I am an avid Ibanez fan, having many high-end electric Ibanez guitars, so I tried to find a local Ibanez dealer that sold the GRG Mikro. Arties Music is my nearest authorized Ibanez retailer, so I contacted them. They told me that they couldn’t get it but they might have another option. That other option was the Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JSX1. On paper. it seemed to be a fair substitute. Rosewood fingerboard, satin-finish neck, nice and playable. So I paid for it and waited for them to get one in for me.

Picking It Up
Felix was excited to be going to a music shop and didn’t know why we were there, but as you will see in the video, he worked it out pretty quickly. He loved it from the outset and he even picked out a guitar strap with a flame on it, a rock star in the making! I had a quick look in the shop and the build quality looked good. Solid scarf joint neck and good sustain. The strings were very thin gauge and a bit old so I swapped them out for 10-52 Elixirs when I got home. After restringing it and giving it a tune, I plugged it into my Kemper to see what the guitar sounded like. The neck pickup sounded good but the bridge pickup sounded very dull. If he keeps playing, I’ll put a set of Bareknuckle humbuckers in there!

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Felix with his first guitar

First Play 
He seemed much more engaged with the guitar than just treating it like a toy. He even seemed to relish in the fact that he now had his own guitar. After I put the new strings on and gave it a quick setup, I plugged it into my Kemper and handed it over to him for his first shred. It was just noisy strumming but he loved it. I then let him loose on the Mesa Dual Rectifier. He played non-stop for about 20 minutes then went back out to his other toys. Even 5 minutes is an eternity to the attention span of a 5-year-old!

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Yousician Interface

Yousician and His First Guitar Lesson
I waited until the next day before I would give him his structured first lesson. There is an app called Yousician that I have used with other young guitar students to great effect. The software has an image of a fretboard, similar to how tablature is laid out. The notes are indicated by a bouncing ball that lands on a number that corresponds to which fret you need to play. The interface is extremely user-friendly and Felix tore through the first 3 lessons and still wanted more.

I was super impressed with his attentiveness and his emerging technique, absolutely stunning for a first timer. So that he didn’t tire of playing prematurely, I ended the lesson after 30 minutes even though he was eager to continue.

Future Rock Star
He is excited by playing the guitar and I really enjoy making him happy. I will never push him to play the guitar, it will remain a fun activity and a fantastic way for us to bond over music.

Maybe years from now, he will be fondly looking back over this post as a successful musician. Who knows where his musical adventure will take him. Maybe a Jackson endorsement? As long as the journey is fun, that is all that matters.

 

My Job Interview Experience and What I Learned From Terrible Bosses

The Interview
In October 1997, I was sitting across from a Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) that was conducting my entry interview to join the Australian Army. I was 20 years old at the time. I remember feeling excited but confident during the interview and the WO2 gave no indication of his impression of me during the interview. I was one of about 50 applicants being interviewed that day and saw a variety of dress from jeans and t-shirts to poorly fitting suits with ugly ties (I wore slacks and a collared shirt). I remember how nervous everyone was and how that bolstered my own confidence.

After the initial interview, an Officer came into the waiting area and called out about half the names and instructed those called to come with him into another area. At this point, I wondered if I was wrong about how successful my interview was. Around fifteen minutes later, the Officer came back into the waiting room and told us that our interviews were successful and we would undergo further psychological and aptitude testing. This meant the others that were lead out were told, “Thanks for coming.”

Reflecting back on the significance of that interview, it was the start of a career in the Australian Army spanning 19 years.

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Me in Iraq in 2006

I realise that interview techniques and processes will have changed since then and individual experiences will vary, but the core of job interviews will be largely the same. An employer requires someone to do a job and it is very important to screen them to assess their suitability for the position.

 

Important Life Lessons
One lesson that my military career taught me is that working for a tyrant or an incompetent boss is very stressful. It doesn’t matter how hard you work for these character types because your hard work will never be appreciated, or worse still, they will take the credit for it. It is for this very reason that I have decided that I prefer to work in a freelance capacity or to work in an equal partnership of any venture that I undertake in the future.

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The 17’s – I’m in front, second from left.

Secondly, I learned that I work very well with others in large or small teams or even by myself, to achieve complex tasks under extreme pressure. I know this is true because I have been truly pushed to my very limits, as most war veterans can attest.

Another lesson that I learned from that interview is that your presentation and self-confidence are as important as the qualifications that you hold. A prospective employer needs assurance that you are the one above all others that they need for the job, and it is up to you to convince them. It seems like common sense but there are a lot of people that just don’t get it.

Everyone I have met in the audio engineering field has a shared passion for what we do. It makes everyone very happy, myself included, to be doing what we love and it’s a completely different environment to the military. So much more fulfilling.

What the Future Holds
I anticipate that a job interview scenario in my immediate future will be when I apply for an intern position for a recording studio, possibly via Skype. There plenty of audio engineers that I admire and most of them are in the USA, so it is likely that I will have to live there for the duration of the internship (or longer). The prospect is extremely exciting and the learning experience to be gained from it is extremely valuable.

 

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Studio A – Sphere Studios – Neve 8048 Console

 

For now, I will limit myself to contacting Sphere Studios LA and Fensesco Camelli. I admire his work on a variety of projects, and Sphere Studios is one of the most respected recording studios in the world. It would be a dream come true that Francesco Camelli and Sphere Studios LA are willing to give me the opportunity to work for them as an intern. I think that the most likely way to get a response will be to contact the studio manager, Megan Milius. I posted a message on Sphere’s Facebook wall, now hopefully if I make enough noise, I will get noticed.

 

The Significance of Social Media in Audio Engineering

As a creative professional, having an active and engaging social media presence is extremely important. It is an outward facing image of you and your brand and is an avenue for fans or future clients to engage with the content you create. If someone wants to find out about a person, they usually turn to google and social media, so having a solid social media game can give you the edge. Luckily, as an audio engineer it matters less with how I look but more important with how I sound and the audio products I create.

 

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Social Media Strategy

 

Social Media Strategy

Generally, I don’t really have a social media strategy. The way I use it is more as a public journal and sharing things that are relevant to my industry. For instance, I recently started recording with my friends Stayplton Street again, so I posted about it. It is a way of engaging with them and getting their band name out there as mutual promotion that costs me only a few minutes to post. With my posts, I try to just be myself. It feels more natural to post like that and people can relate more to the content I create. When I am looking at other professional’s social media, it is nicer to read when it comes from the heart.

 

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Instagram vs Snapchat

 

Don’t Waste Time

If I find that I spend any longer on social media than 30 minutes a day, I stay off for a bit. It really is subjective but I find that my posts aren’t bombarding people and the quality of interaction with my audience increases. Quality > Quantity. Not all social media platforms are created equal and trying to manage my time effectively reduces the amount of accounts that I use. I limit myself to facebook, soundcloud, instagram, linkedin and twitter and I don’t use twitter that much because it is a shitty platform. It is confusing for new users and it really doesn’t have that much long term appeal IMO.

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The Governator approves of this post

 

What I Like About Social Media

Soundcloud is fantastic for sharing my portfolio of audio that I have worked on and it is easy to embed on my website. Facebook has a great way of telling a story and incorporating a range of different media assets. Lastly, Instagram is a quick way to tell a story with pictures, very simply and efficiently.

I anticipate that social media will be a part of my life for a long time to come and an important aspect of any creative professional’s online image.

facebook.com/hiredgunstudio

instagram.com/hiredgunstudio

twitter.com/hiredgunstudio

https://soundcloud.com/hired-gun-studio

How to Make Extra Money From Music

So the title captured your attention? It was designed to do exactly that. If you are a performer or songwriter, then this post is definitely for you. Did you know that you can get royalties paid in addition to performance fees for gigs that you have played? Did you also know that in addition to the money you get from youtube advertising, there are additional royalties just waiting for you? If the answer is no, continue reading.

 

 

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APRA AMCOS logo

 

Music Copyright Collection Societies
There are organisations that collect license fees from music users and pay royalties to artists and composers. There are affiliated music societies all over the globe that do this, and the one in Australia is called The Australian Performing Rights Association APRA AMCOS(APRA has a list of affiliate societies here). Their job is to help music creators get paid for the work that they do and facilitates music consumers a simple way to use and copy music legally. What APRA is and how they do what they do, is shown in the below video.

 

What to do next
Go to the APRA AMCOS website (apraamcos.com.au) and create a profile. Once you have made a profile, it is just a matter of adding the details of your work to the profile. That was easy? Well not quite, there are a few hoops to jump through. When submitting works, you can only submit one at a time until they are reviewed individually. Then the best part: you list live performances that you have done because you can actually get paid royalties for playing your own music on top of the performance fee you are already receiving.

 

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Make more money for your craft

 

What’s the catch?
There is only one caveat, to be eligible to claim royalties, your works MUST be commercially released. This can be done by two avenues: you get signed to a label and they take care of this for you (at high cost), or, you can independently release your recorded music on a distribution platform such as Distrokid, CD Baby, Ditto Music, Record Union, MondoTunes and Reverbnation to name a few. For those of you who intend on distributing independently or finding out more about music distribution, here is a very good blog article: Everything Musicians Need to Know About Music Distribution.

If this blog was helpful to you in any way, please like, share and reblog to spread the word.

How to Maintain Artistic Creativity Whilst Getting an Income

When working with others to a common goal, a shared vision of the project outcome is not always possible. Some people have a very clear direction that they to take, and others know what they want but have difficulty articulating it. My aim as a producer/engineer is not only to provide a refined and robust audio product but also to accommodate the wishes of my clients.

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Negotiating an agreement

Negotiation
In any interaction between two parties, there must be a shared goal and communication is essential in negotiating the vision of a project. The expectations of both parties should be discussed during this phase, to ensure that the outcome is achievable and within the scope of the clients budget.

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“Shut up and take my money!” – Phillip J. Fry

Expectation
In the studio production/engineering industry, people generally know what type of recording they are trying to make and will seek out a suitable engineer. Most recording engineers will have credits on previous audio projects and an online presence in various forms, such as blogs, social media and portfolios, so the clients should have some expectation of what product they will be getting. Some people can be notoriously hard to deal with irrespective of the industry that they are in and if my military career taught me anything, it is that 5% of people will require 95% of extra effort.

Finding balance
Working in a freelance capacity enables me to cherry pick the projects that I like. If I am going to be spending the time listening to the audio over and over, it can’t be a genre that I don’t like. I once did an 18-hour session on a country song, and I am not a fan of country music, so that was well outside of my comfort zone. Comparatively, similar sessions on hard-rock songs, I was still pumped at the end and had to drag myself away from the desk.

Lesson learned
These two scenarios taught me that money was fairly low on my priorities but being enthusiastic about the project rated at the very top. I guess I won’t be the guy who will ever compromise creativity for $$.