Back in the music business

I use the term “business” very loosely because while making music has been a lifelong passion, I’ve never really made any money at it. However, I have spent many hours throughout many years working at it.

A live performance from the new studio. Please note the distinct lack of microphone hiss!

As a kid, it was a much different landscape. There was no internet. There were no free guitar tabs or piano lead sheets. There was no way to ask questions about instrument repairs or even how to change strings. You just had to figure it out or wait until a visit to the mall and remember to ask one of the guys that worked at the instrument store.

The stores were different as well. They usually sold pianos, rented band instruments, and carried lots of sheet music with guitars being just a small part of the store. In each town there was probably just one place to go, but there were also serious deals to be found at pawn shops and garage sales since nobody had a clue regarding the value of most instruments.

That’s all been replaced by online big-volume retailers, mostly focused on guitars. I don’t think the days of the small independent music shop are ever coming back. On the upside, it’s now easier than ever to get independent music in front of a listener.

Back in the late 90s getting a gig was tough, especially for an introvert. You had to create a press kit with a demo tape or CD and then go in person to the venue and pitch it, then wait for calls from the booker that never came. If you weren’t a charismatic salesman, it’s doubtful anyone even listened to your music. Now you can video a few songs with your phone, upload it to YouTube, email it to the booker, and you’re all set for next Friday night. You never even have to speak to anyone.

Writing and recording music was always much more fun than performing, though. Back around 1998 I installed a Gadgetlabs Wave8/24 digital recording card into my 400 MHz Celeron PC. It had some latency issues depending on which software it was paired with, but it ran great with CoolEdit Pro. I built a little cart to move around the tower and the rack unit with the big fat CRT balanced on top. It seemed so magically portable back then. Playing with the effects was great too with the exception that each time you added one you had to wait about 15 to 30 minutes for it to finish processing.

I believe that system was running on Windows 95, then 98, then Gadgetlabs folded, but the user community was able to cobble together drivers for XP to keep it working for a few more years. Unfortunately, it died with Windows 7.

Aside from just sloppy playing a terrible singing, all my early recordings had one serious flaw — cheap microphones. There was no quick reference back then. There was no way to compare. Money was super tight, so when it was time to buy microphones, we headed to radio shack and bought ourselves some $30 Shure co-branded Realistic mics.

They were garbage.

The $50 M-Audio pre-amps from Mars Music were also garbage.

I knew HOW to punch in and out of recordings, but I couldn’t because the background hiss was always so high that it was overwhelmingly obvious where you stopped and started different takes. The tonal response when recording drums and vocals was horrific. It also didn’t help that we played the cheapest of cheap second-hand instruments.

I had hoped to run a mobile recording studio, but I knew the equipment I was using wasn’t up to standard, and working as a journalist, I couldn’t afford to bring it up to standard. Eventually all of it fell away to other hobbies like photography and sailing.

That was an extremely long lead-up to announce that after all these years, I built another studio — this time with an incredible Antelope Audio Orion Studio Synergy Core 12-track system and some much higher quality microphones. I also acoustically treated the room to stop flutter and reverb issues.

Growing up during a time when the labels controlled music distribution, I was also under the false impression that you needed some sort of deal or approval to get your music onto streaming services like Spotify. Turns out, you don’t. Basically anyone can distribute anything through companies like or Distrokid, no matter how bad it is.

Therefore I’m proud to announce I have several terrible tracks now available on all streaming platforms, so if you would follow me as an artist on your favorite platform, I’d be forever grateful.

Check out my new song, “Just a Swinging Dinghy.” I wrote it in January for the 2022 Tiny Desk Concert and then played all the instruments to record this demo.

I also released a few tracks that I recorded at Majik Studios back in 2006. My Acadia Bar open mic friends played on these songs with me. I couldn’t actually afford to ever finish these recordings. It was basically just one day in the studio, so only “She’s Infectious” got a lead guitar part and a few harmonies. However, they aren’t terrible, so I figured I’d put them out there for the sake of nostalgia.

Had I been smarter I would have released “She’s Infectious” right at the beginning of the Covid outbreak, but I had kind of forgotten the song even existed. I also considered releasing a few of the late 90s/early 00s home recordings, but I just don’t rate them as good enough to ever see the light of day.

After all these years I’m finally registered with ASCAP, I have songs available to anyone who wants to listen, and I have plenty left to record. I also hope that as Finn gets older he’ll continue to show interest in music and want to record with me.

More new songs coming soon.


One thought on “Back in the music business

  1. Sounding great! Just keep doing what you love and you can’t go wrong. Next year I’ll be celebrating 40 years since I played my first professional gig and I’m happy to say that I’m still getting booked. It hasn’t made me famous or wealthy (my music pays for my boating…) but I just can’t seem to keep away from making music. I think you know what I mean. I love your Hummingbird by the way! Take care, Tony.

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