A Van, a Plan and an X

The digital nomad idea began forming in my noggin sometime in the mid-90s. I thought it would be awesome to travel the country with a small studio in a van. Which is comical now, because I was in an analog world with digital audio gear still in its infancy. Analog is bulky. And what the hell could I do with anything that fit in there anyway?

The van

In 1997, I addressed my fellow CRAS students from outside my brown Chevy conversion van in the back parking lot to announce my plans. I told several folks that night that I intended to setup a mobile studio in the van so I could roam and work. Well it didn’t happen with that van.

Fast forward about 20 years to me shopping for a camper van to do the same thing. I absolutely understood what I needed and (I swear) diligently searched for the most practical vehicle. I needed to be as self-contained as possible with enough space to work and live. At the time I needed room for two, even though it was always just me on the road.

When the Sexy Beast showed up on a Craigslist page from Tennessee, I couldn’t ignore it. She spoke to me and called me from hundreds of miles away. And even though it was not the practical option, or close, I had to go see. Once I was there I knew I couldn’t leave her behind. We’ve been together for years and she’s always had a safe place for me to sleep when I need it. Still not practical, but awesome.

So again in 2019, I made the same declaration. This time I was loading a backpack podcasting rig with a laptop and a Zoom H-6, which turned out to be a quite-capable studio that also fit in a van. Using my vintage 1998 Sony MDR 7506 headphone from my show days as monitors, I produced the (soon to be relaunched) WYWU podcast from hotel rooms, a storage building and my van. Now I’m chasing something else I want to see exist…

The plan

Pre-divorce I’d been working on a plan for a private retreat centered around a mixing studio. I’d been through enough studio builds to know which money ended up wasted. My plan was just a mixing room, but equipped for perfect monitoring in stereo, Atmos and immersive. Bring your own gear, just plug into my system in my room. I’d also add a decent mic locker and a few good preamps, but not tons of gear. Rent the room and the suite and maybe the whole property to build your mix at your own pace.

I imagine the touring world, as it gradually leans into the immersive mixing environment, finding a Edenic sanctuary to build mixes at a relaxed pace. I see film projects and movie scores mixed and finalized on this magic property. I see singers and songwriters and musicians finding a space to work out their ideas and create new music. I also see artists and creators arriving in a safe space to make things exist that had never existed before.

And I see a competent community working together to support each other and the guests who arrive. Well I’m after it again. It’s part of the larger plan and possibly one of the first projects once I locate my Eden. I’ll be updating my progress and introducing my friends to the magic of the creators who’ve been here.

The X

The large X tattoo on the back of my neck holds some significance for me.

I’ve adopted a stage name that just feels appropriate for the rebirth I’m currently experiencing. X is the unknown variable. It’s the spot where the treasure hides. It’s mark of the uneducated, the cross on the way to Calvary, the generation I represent and the divorce that officially made me an X.

I am PodcasterX. X-sheep, X-slave and after all I’ve written about marriage, family and relationships… X-husband. Ironic isn’t it? I’ve learned a lot over this journey, including how wrong I’ve been about many things. Guess we’ll get into that more next time.

I’ll post a few more in here over the next couple of weeks, but you’ll need to get on my email list to keep up with this plan. UVXcreative.com.

Making the Most of the Downtime

Freelancers and road crews already understand how seasonal event production work tends to be. But, the Coronavirus issue is pushing the limits of our endurance as concert season of 2020 was just about to kick in.

As we’re in the midst of what might be the toughest season in the history of concert and event production, I thought I’d offer some suggestions for making the most of the downtime. Beyond the rigorous hand-washing, amidst the ever-lingering scent of disinfectants, we are already adjusting our daily routines. Since we have to adapt to survive, let’s focus on the best use of our time and resources while we get through this.

To make this a little more ridiculous, considering how fast the cash is going out compared to coming in, I’m writing this all out as checks…

Check your priorities
Some of those responsibilities we’ve been carrying so diligently for so long are now being interfered with. The closer you get to a Ramen-heavy diet, the less important some of them will become. And, all those little projects you haven’t finished, here’s your chance. When you’ve whittled your daily allotment of things that must happen, you’ll often find what really matters. Do that.

Check something off the bucket list
If you’ve exhausted all options for bringing in some replacement income or burned through reasonable amounts of time towards improving the situation, maybe think about those things you’ve always wanted to do if you ever had time.

Maybe it’s a business plan, or a recipe, or an online course, or furniture you’ve always wanted to refinish, or (yikes) taxes. I’d suggest taking a road trip, but maybe wait a few months for that…

Check your gear
When was the last time you vacuumed out the doghouse behind your console? Swept the French fries out of the van? Cleaned out the mystery boxes in the back of the shop? Replaced a caster or two? Here’s your chance to catch up all that tedious crap you haven’t gotten around to.

Check yourself out
The things we do daily ultimately define us. The downtime, once you get past the associated depression and anxiety, gives us a chance to restructure our daily routines. Slipping in a few minutes of exercise will help, maybe find some time to add daily reading. Try trading the time given to unproductive habits for something more beneficial.

Check your balance
Yeah, we’re all watching the bank accounts dwindle. This is a good time to explore some new options for working from home. Most online entrepreneurs are searching for “long-term, residual, passive income” that keeps a stream of income running 24-hours a day. For us, LegalShield and Amazon have helped immensely over the years. Of you’ve never considered a home-based business before, this might be a good time.

Check your map
Most of us started our careers with dreams and plans for how we’d spend our future. If you’re not where you wanted to be, this is a good opportunity to take an honest assessment of where you’ve ended up and how you feel about it. If the journey hasn’t gotten you to where you wanted to be, maybe this is your chance to get back on track.

There will be permanent changes once this current crisis wraps up, and later there will be another crisis with new challenges. The old-timers have seen this happen multiple times and survived by adapting and enduring. If you’re paying attention, you’re going to learn a few things before this is over. Pay attention to things that are just trying to trigger your emotions as well as the things you seem to ignore.

Meaning: Don’t let personal prejudices keep you in the slow lane, or get you bumped off the road entirely. Hopefully we have a vaccine soon and this is all behind us. Until then, hang in there and keep searching for solutions. (I might even go as far as recommending you check out the WYWU podcast for some ideas…)

And, if you do find a solution that might help out the rest of us in this mess, add it in the comments. Thanks.

And thanks to Free-Photos from Pixabay for the opening image.

Why User Reviews Matter and How To Write Them

I’ve been observing the rise of product reviews since my early eBay store days on a dial-up connection. Reading the words of others willing to share their experiences made me feel much more confident in the next investment. The rating systems are important, but the reviews are where I make more decisions.

While I’m here let’s mention that not all reviews are useful or fair. The high or low number of “stars” may or may not mean squat.

To properly evaluate anything from office supplies to full touring rigs, you need to be able to evaluate it under the intended circumstances. If someone else already bought it and utilized it in a similar manner, I’d like to know how it went.

Consequently, if I’ve made some noteworthy discovery in using someone’s gear or service, I’m likely to run my mouth a bit. Seriously impress me or provoke me to rage? Yeah, I’m writing that down somewhere. I’m going to share the information I didn’t find before the purchase.

Against all things socially acceptable, I’ve developed a theory that says “society moves forward on arrogance.” Case in point: YouTube. Millions of instructional videos share various accomplishments with a variety of outcomes. Basically anytime a human figures out some way do do something, we feel obligated to announce it. Even if we’re just tooting our own horn, others can learn from it. (It’s pretty much the foundation of my career.)

User reviews often feature similar arrogance and instruction, only focused at a specific item. If you know how to read them, they can be infinitely valuable. Let me explain how human arrogance can actually a good thing, especially for your wallet.

Playing Defense

I’m over stupid cliche phrase with no substance. The best offense is a good offense, the best defense is a good defense. Offense is getting busy and pushing towards your goals and making the money. Defense is protecting what you have. If there’s a hole in your pocket it really doesn’t matter how much change you had.

At this point in our online monetary system, the average person hasn’t fully embraced the real value of the user or product review system which is slowly changing business. Products and services presented online aren’t limited to the folks in traffic reading your fancy truck wrap. The entire world now has the opportunity to evaluate your worth. And they talk about it, good or bad.

From hotels to airlines, road cases to road crews, microphones to loudspeakers… We’re in the business of spending money, hopefully less than we’re bringing in. User reviews let you make substantially more informed decisions than just taking the word of a commissioned sales agent. It’s called “playing defense.” It doesn’t matter how much you make if you’re wasting most of it, or spending more than you’re making.

Reading the reviews of others brings you into a forum scenario where folks can discuss the difference in reality and marketing hype. The manufacturers are playing offense on your next deal, going for the wallet, and the wallet looks like a poorly defended rugby ball to many of them. Reviewers can come to your aid before the purchase.

Writing Reviews

Even after I had written several product reviews for PSW and Amazon, I still hadn’t grasped the full potential. For a while I just tried to be as positive as I could without focusing too much on the negatives. Then I just returned products I couldn’t find useful on any level, so I wouldn’t be obligated to dance around the fact that it just sucked. Now I’m just more picky about what products I touch so I have relevant and useful information.

I don’t have time or money to waste on crap that looks great in the photos and fails immediately. You probably don’t either. I consider it a public service to announce my joy or impending wrath towards whoever talked me into the purchase.

It’s not uncommon to find fluffed reviews where it’s obvious someone just needed to say something positive even if it lacks substance. Those don’t help. Telling me it was awesome doesn’t clarify the actual performance as compared to the specs. Telling me you hate it, or dropping your rating by a few stars doesn’t tell me if you’re qualified to make that assessment.

Breaking Out The Soapbox…

So, should you decide to jump in and speak your mind about whatever gizmo made you dance or cry, let’s lay a few ground rules so your voice is heard clearly…

Explain your reasoning for the purchase.
With plenty of other products to choose from, why did you settle on this? Was it the price, performance or recommendation from another user? Help me find common ground between what I need and why you figured this particular doodad would be perfect. If our scenarios are similar I’m more likely to read every word and leave positive comments for you.

Describe the intended application.
A network cable stabbed into a desktop that will never move is a very different beast from the cables stretched and taped across an arena floor 200 times a year. Basically the same product, two completely different applications. I don’t need to know if you like all the pretty wire colors, I want to know how it held up when the case lid slammed down on it. That’s useful information.

Telling me some microphone or loudspeaker sounds great means nothing if the reviewer obviously doesn’t know the difference between great and garbage. I sold a lot of speakers back in the day by staging simple A/B comparisons between what they wanted and what I recommended. I had cheap boxes that sounded better than expensive boxes. I also had cheap boxes that sounded like really cheap boxes. Until they were running side by side with the same source material, it was all guesswork.

Making Your Case

To have better reviews we need better reviewers. If you’re the crew replacing an industry standard with some gizmo from an upstart manufacturer, I’d like to know that story. If you’ve found some miracle tools that makes life better for us, please let us know. Tell us that story and help the good manufacturers move forward. And if they’re pushing absolute garbage on your fellows in the industry, we should probably know that too.

And whether you’re a gear junkie with a gift of gab or a manufacturer with legitimately useful products relevant to my audience, I’d like to hear from you. Impress me with your offering and I’ll try to help you connect the dots between the other buyers or sellers you might need to know.

But just know this… I’ll check the other reviews first.

Thanks to Mediamodifier from Pixabay for the opening image.

Coronavirus Versus The Concert And Production Industries

Regardless of how bad the Coronavirus outbreak gets, the concert and event production industry is going to be permanently affected by this. We’re seeing almost every large event being cancelled and a lot of folks are going to struggle through this difficult season. 

I’m suggesting everyone take this opportunity to review your contracts and focus on cancellation clauses. There will be opportunities for people to be hustled and ripped off while this disruption continues. The old saying will come to life for many of us: “Not knowing your rights is the same as not having them.”

If you need an attorney to talk you through or review anything, or if you need a backup source of income, I’m also recommending LegalShield. They’ve taken good care of us through some rough seasons over the last seven years and I expect they will help you too. 

And yes, I’m selling something.

But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m only endorsing LegalShield because of personal experience. We’re coming into a rough season for folks who make their living on concerts, tours and events. Freelancers will likely have a tough road through this as well. 

Before you sign another vague contract that’s skewed in someone else’s favor, let the attorneys review it. Before your gigs are all cancelled and your income stream runs dry consider becoming an associate and help others through this. And before you allow someone else’s attorney to tell you what your rights are, get your own attorney. We did and I haven never regretted that decision. 

Instead of paying $200 or $300 bucks an hour for a consultation or contract review, get a membership with an attorney in your home state for about $25 bucks a month with no contract. If you don’t need it after this finally blows over just cancel. Take a look at how it works and make your own decision. See if it’s the right solution for you or your company.

Here’s how it works…

Get your membership through the “Get LegalShield” link. As soon as you have the confirmation and membership number, you can make your first call to the attorneys. They will mail you a package with your membership cards, will preparation and all of the benefits of joining the LegalShield family. Always start with a question.

“I have a question about contracts specific to my industry and need some guidance.” Or…

“I have a question about how to resolve an issue with a client who owes me money.” Or…

“I have a question about event cancellations and what happens to my deposit.”

Contract reviews and virtually unlimited consultations are part of the most basic package. Small businesses plans are also available, and discounted employee benefits packages can be created that are paid like insurance deductions and cost the company nothing. If it wasn’t such a great deal I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but it is.

Also, if you need to supplement your income, or even replace it entirely, LegalShield associates have those opportunities. We make a percentage of each sale and it comes back each year the policies renew. I’ve spent years searching for that ideal source of passive residual income and so far, this has been the best for the way I work. Listen to what other associates have to say about it…

I’m hoping for the best and that this virus is eradicated quickly, but in the mean time I’m also hedging my bets and keeping my membership. The extra income is nice and I don’t have to tolerate bullies. Good luck out there. Let me know if I can help. 

And thanks to Gerd Altmann from Pixabay for that creepy image up top.

Get LegalShield

Satisfaction Is The Name Of The Game

When someone requests sound – whether to support an event, installation or recording – what are they really asking for? Speakers? Microphones? Your best digital toys?

Nope. They want satisfaction. Plain and simple.

In reality they want a flawless event with the highest professionalism on the lowest imaginable budget even if that isn’t being clearly articulated. They probably have an image in their head of themselves basking in the glorious afterglow of applause and celebration, supported by perfect production. They need someone to make that imagined concept a reality.

They ask for sound or production support when they really just want satisfaction.

They might even think that they understand enough to itemize exactly what they want, but rarely will the best amateur efforts match the results of a seasoned veteran. Sometimes we have to specify what we know they need, but can’t exactly ask for.

If I approach you as an AV service provider, system designer, recording engineer or even as a used car salesman, I want to spend my money on a final product that gives me all the positive emotions I’m imagining when it’s over. I want a good price, but I also want a good deal. Price is only one piece of the puzzle. Remember this quote from Ben Franklin. “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

I’ve turned down substantial opportunities because the early interactions assured me that there was no chance I could make a particular client happy in the way they wanted. When their gig was over, based entirely on the clock or calendar, they were going to expect more labor, gear, time or aggravation than I felt their budget was worthy of.

Case in point…

A deacon of a local church contacted me about upgrading an old system in a much older building. Everything about the room presented the concept of expedience. Wires and equipment had been given the old band-aid treatment regularly for many years and Radio Shack gear would have been an improvement.

After clarifying the expectations for the system, I began discussing his options. Nothing in the room was worth saving. Even the gear that worked didn’t work well. Flea markets generally stock better brand names. So I worked up a quote for an entirely new system.

If I’d had the sense of a gumball, I’d have offered them a phone number and recommendation for a local competitor, but I didn’t. After dozens of mindless negotiations, we went from a new system quote down to a service call. They ended up only purchasing a few MI grade wireless mics (something I formally banned on system quotes immediately afterwards) and a cheap mixer. So we ended up only replacing the absolute worst offenders with new gear. Everything else stayed.

Just to help out a church, I took some extra time to straighten out and repair cables, and label the old equipment after the “new” system was done. Upon returning to inspect his magical new sound, he was moderately disappointed. It was now functional and wireless, but not much improved. Even after re-re-explaining that his archaic speakers were the last and worst link in the chain and everything else depended on them, he became distressed.

I didn’t think an “I told ya so” would help, so I refrained.

When the pastor came in to inspect this glorious new sound system, his disappointment was also pretty evident. He expected everything to be replaced and it all looked the same to him. Ultimately, I informed the pastor that I’d help him however I could, but also asked him not to send that particular deacon back to see me. He then informed me that I wasn’t the first one to say that.

In my drive to help local churches, I accepted many projects that quickly turned out to be far more trouble than they were worth. Each time it came down to spending money and not feeling satisfied with the results. So even when it wasn’t my fault, it was still my fault. Had I spent more time clarifying exactly what it would take to satisfy them when it was all over, I’d have turned down a whole lot more.

As professionals, it’s part of our job to assess and support the needs of our clients. If they understood the intricacies of what we do they probably wouldn’t be hiring us. Understanding that satisfaction is the real goal can go a long way towards that celebratory moment when it all comes together. Or doesn’t.

And thanks to Tumisu for the image up top.

WYWU: Working Your Way Up – Season 1

Season one of the WYWU: Working Your Way Up podcast was launched at Summer NAMM 2019. We continued on from there to capture interviews at multiple trade shows within the professional audio industry including WFX in Orlando, CSU in Virginia and both AES and NAB held in New York City.

Across season one we discussed each guest’s specific career path and the decisions leading up to their current position along with advice for the next generation. Season one was made possible with support from ProSoundWeb, Live Sound International magazine, iZotope’s RX software, Hummingbird Media, The Audio Engineering Society, The National Association of Broadcasters, LegalShield, Teespring and Amazon.

Season two is in development now, as the final episodes of season one are being wrapped up. Sign up for our email list and follow us on social media to see where we go next and get each new episode as they are released.

And now, without further ado, here’s season one…

Managing Director of Synthax Mathias von Heydekampf

Today we’re with Mathias von Heydekampf. He’s the Managing Director of Synthax, distributing professional audio brands including RME, Ferrofish and myMix. Mathias is an audio industry veteran with time at Bose, Harman, Telex and Bosch.

He’s the product and a proponent of the apprenticeship concept, with some advice for the next generation moving into the world of professional audio or considering a career in international business. We sat down together at the Javits Center in New York for the 2019 AES Convention to discuss his career path and decisions that led him to his current position. 

Music Mixer Bob Clearmountain

This episode features Bob Clearmountain. He’s been mixing albums in the studio since 1972, beginning with Duke Ellington and continuing on with the likes of David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and many more.We sat down together at Apogee’s booth on the show floor at AES to discuss his incredible career along with advice for aspiring studio engineers and his venture into digital plugins with Clearmountain’s Domain

Performance and Recording Artist Queen Esther

My guest for this episode is Queen Esther, she’s a vocalist, songwriter, librettist, playwright, actor and recording artist based in Harlem.

We sat down together in Atlanta to discuss the life experiences of someone truly living the dream. She travels and performs internationally, sharing her special recipe of Southern charm and New York hustle with audiences around the globe. She brings some strong ideas on developing a sense of community backstage with cast and crew members.

Touring Monitor Engineer Kerrie Keyes and the Soundgirls

This episode features Karrie Keyes, the executive director of SoundGirls, a non-profit organization that supports the professional sound industry with a mission of “empowering the next generation of women in audio.” She’s also been the monitor engineer for Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder for over 25 years.

Karrie has been working as a live sound engineer since the 1980s, after Dave Rat taught her to roll a mic cable at a Black Flag concert.

I sat down together with Karrie and Soundgirls Zoë JamesVanessa Silberman and Gil Eva Craig at the 2019 AES convention in the Javits Center in New York to discuss the challenges facing women in professional audio and some strategies for surviving out there. 

Audio Consultant & Educator Merlijn Van Veen

In this episode we’re speaking with Merlijn van Veen. He’s an audio consultant and educator currently serving as the Senior Technical Support & Education Specialist for Meyer Sound. Merlijn’s passion for sound system technology has led him to develop his own educational materials including the Subwoofer Array Designer which has been downloaded thousands of times and featured in Live Sound International magazine.

We sat down together at Meyer Sound’s booth at AES between demo sessions to discuss his career path and philosophy, as well as the recently introduced M-Noise test signal.

“Blemishes” – Garrison Matlock with Paizley Matlock

This is an original song written and performed by my son Garrison Matlock with accompanying vocals by my daughter Paizley Matlock. We’re testing out some applications for recording with the Zoom H6 beyond podcasting this week. This was captured with the XY microphone head and onboard preamps. It’s part of my kit for mobile podcasting and I’m pretty impressed.

The song, though… that’s epic. I’m the recording and mix engineer, but the H6 did the heavy lifting. For a song written, recorded and mixed the same day, I think they did well. 

Recording Studio Designer & Architect John Storyk

This episode features John Storyk, he’s an architect and acoustician, as well as a founding partner of Walters Storyk Design Group.  John’s been providing design and construction supervision services for the professional audio and video recording community since his 1969 design of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios.

John offers quite a bit of insight for career advancement after 50 years in the industry and brings a fatherly passion for mentoring the next generation.

Audio Educator & Engineer Dan Fox

Today I’m talking with Dan Fox. He’s an audio educator and engineer who also works with the Life Is Good “Ping Podcast.” Dan operates Wondersmith Audio, providing studio recording services for both music and voice artists.

Dan has some tremendous insight and wisdom for the student considering the pro audio career path, along with some suggestions for how to do it the right way.

FOH Engineer, System Tech & Technical Editor Michael Lawrence

In this episode we’re talking with Michael Lawrence. He’s a professional front of house engineer, audio system tech and the owner of Precision Audio Services. Michael is part of the ProSoundWeb crew serving as the technical editor for both ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International magazine, as well as the co-host for the Signal to Noise podcast with Kyle Churnside.

Audio Visual Project Manager Brandon Smith

For today’s episode, we’re talking with Brandon Smith at the LSI Loudspeaker Demo at WFX 2019 in Orlando. Brandon’s an Audio Visual Project manager from Cincinnati, OH. He’s an energetic guy with a passion for audio, music and production. He loves what he does and carries a reputation for excellence in every system or event he works on. 

Assistant Professor of Music Industry Gabe Herman

Today’s episode features Gabe Herman, a music producer, audio engineer, sound designer, educator and the Assistant Professor of Music Industry at The Hartt School. Gabe owns and operates AudioGabriel, a production company that focuses on creative, new works with performing artists from around the world.

Freelance Audio Engineer & Musician Nicholas Radina

Today we’re with Nicholas Radina at the LSI Loudspeaker Demo at WFX 2019 in Orlando. He’s a freelance audio engineer, educator, writer and musician from Cincinnati, OH. His latest project is SoundNerdsUnite.org, a website offering resources and training for aspiring audio engineers. Nicholas has a passion for music as well as the systems used to support live concerts and performances.

Walking the show floor at Summer NAMM 2019

This time around, we’re doing something a little different. This episode from series one was captured from the show floor at Summer NAMM 2019. We’re going to take a walk around and speak with Chalise Zolezzi, the Director of Public Relations and Social Media for NAMM. We’re also going to dip inside a Whisper Room to talk with Trevor Nicely about how their product made two critical interviews possible despite the noise outside.

Recording Studio Owner Sean Giovanni (The Record Shop in Nashville)

Series One of WYWU was captured at the 2019 NAMM Show in Nashville. In this episode we hear from Sean Giovanni, the owner of The Record Shop recording studio in Nashville. Sean showed up in town at the age of 19 with ambitions of finding a studio job that never happened. Today his vision is much larger and he hopes to impart a bit of hard-earned wisdom into the next generation of aspiring engineers.

Touring Monitor Engineer Mark Frink

Series One of WYWU was captured at the 2019 NAMM Show in Nashville. In this episode we hear from Mark Frink, a touring sound engineer who has mixed monitors for numerous top artists including kd Lang, Dr John, Tony Bennett and many more. Mark has a personal preference for the monitor position and quite a bit of advice for the aspiring audio engineer considering a career on monitor beach.

Season one was made possible with support from ProSoundWeb, Live Sound International magazine, iZotope’s RX software, Hummingbird Media, The Audio Engineering Society, The National Association of Broadcasters, LegalShield, Teespring and Amazon.

Support the show (http://paypal.me/erikmatlock)

Finding Your Voice and Making It Heard

For the sake of full-disclosure, the WYWU podcast is an entirely selfish undertaking. That’s right. Even while asking professionals among the music industry and others supporting it, I’m really fishing for good ideas that will benefit me and my own family.

So far, my kids and grandchildren are all smarter than I was at their ages, so we can call that progress. But just like most of the 99% here in the states, they will need options and opportunities. The big picture here is that Rabunshire Media wants to find more options and more opportunities for folks who need them.

WYWU has given me the opportunity to share inside information on career and personal development with the general population who might not hear it another way. Not everyone gets to speak with top touring audio engineers, international artists, renown architects, or successful freelancers… But I do.

The logic behind sharing these intimate conversations is based on mutually beneficial collaborations. Think of it as an intellectual bartering system. I have questions that need to be asked and they have answers that need to be shared. I’m providing the production services to build and promote their mission. I get original and shareable content to promote my work, they get another highlight on the resume and exposure to a new audience.

To be clear, it’s kinda like the venue owner telling the band they can “play for exposure,” but then they get to create content and a revenue stream that can essentially last forever. Although my interviews, articles and podcasts might end up like 78 RPM albums buried in a thrift store one day, they’ll still exist. And if we do it right, all that original content will still be generating engagement and income beyond our days.

So this is absolutely a recruiting call…

I’m looking for new collaborators with developed skills and a bit of passion who just want to create. I’m also actively searching for businesses, nonprofits, charities, manufacturers, festivals and rallies that want to grow their audience and don’t know where to start.

Let’s face it, the job boards are full of options for people who already had them to begin with. The gap between the “haves and have nots” is widening. Entry-level and repetitive jobs are being automated and robots are taking over manufacturing. We’re on the brink of a surge in homelessness if we don’t begin taking better care of people. It’s not a crack they’re slipping through, this is a canyon. Experts are saying that creativity is our best option in a changing economic landscape, so let’s use it.

Ultimately, Rabunshire will offer facilities and accommodations to bring the creators together for both short- and long-term projects with accommodations on-site. Whether you need to create, or grow an audience, we’d like to connect with you.

Projects In The Works…
I’m developing an Indiegogo campaign for season two of the WYWU: Working Your Way Up podcast along with the impending launch of two new shows. The next big road trip will be taking us to a major nonprofit organization with an incredible track record of supporting its local community. We’re not able to discuss the specific details yet, but it will be a big deal.

In support of a large local homeless population, this group has taken its efforts beyond food, shelter and clothing needs and offers short- and long-term housing, meals, education, job training and placement. We’re going inside and living onsite while recording new episodes of WYWU and hopefully launching and entirely new show that they will produce themselves.

We also have an inside track to capture another new series with the community leaders and charities supporting a remote frozen metropolis. And yes, we’re taking the van.

Along the way we’ll be capturing the voices of good people working to keep the planet inhabitable and playing well together. We’re going to keep WYWU focused on career and personal development, but we’re also launching the new in-house project that will focus on the ideas of playing well together in a sustainable world.

If any of those projects sound like something you’d like to support financially or in a creative way, please contact me and tell me your story. (Especially if you’re familiar with Indiegogo) If you’re with a nonprofit organization or business that needs to develop its online presence and needs the services of content creators, social media influencers, artists, musicians or even your own podcast… Contact me.

So to the present and future podcasters, bloggers, artists and performers out there looking for a foot in the door: This one is open. How can we work together?

And to those great nonprofits, businesses, charities and philanthropists who need to find their voice and get their message heard but don’t know where to start, I can do that. Contact me to see if Rabunshire Media is the resource you’re looking for.

Thanks to Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay for that opening image.

Showing Off My Tips For Podcasters

Season one of my WYWU podcast extracted wisdom and advice from audio industry professionals. Although it’s one of many possible formats, I feel that the interview-format podcast is the easiest way to build a sustainable brand. I’m also crossing into some very specific niche realms along the way and hoping to connect with many more good folks. We’re all working our way up together in here.

We’re making plans for season two and likely dipping into the worlds of the custom van communities and vintage camper folks because they’re a fun bunch. I’m looking for clubs with effective charities to showcase and businesses they work from the road. These shows and rallies are often full of retirees with great stories and vendors who are carving out their own niche. I spent many years providing sound reinforcement for rallies like this and always enjoyed the time there. Along the way, I hope to help lots of folks develop unique podcasts that absolutely suit their style.

If you can conceive of a sustainable format that you’ll actually enjoy doing, go for it. It’s a low entry-point investment, especially if you’re already sitting on a home studio. The podcasting market is wide open and expected to quadruple in a few years. Make them good, your great grandchildren will be listening one day.

Do your own research. If you’re a creative type willing to learn the basics of the gear, it’s worth looking into.

The Other Benefits of Podcasting

I don’t consider myself intelligent enough to come up with fresh content on demand. But if I only have to ask a few questions and chase rabbits, I’ve got a show. I had to figure out what worked for me and I had to learn to listen. To fully engage in conversation. I’m still working on it, but it’s improving steadily.

My format basically involves asking people who are smarter than me what they do for a living, how they got there and what kind of advice they’d offer anyone pursuing a similar career path. That’s the entire format for WYWU season one and it’s led to some incredible conversations.

I figure the cumulative wisdom of successful adults has to have common denominators. They all pursued their passions and money was never the driving issue. I guess it can be like that if you already have it, but most of us don’t. Regardless, they’re not chasing the money, they’re just doing work that satisfies their soul.

And again, for the record, I’m hearing these stories in-person. Nobody gets to hide behind a screen. We’re talking face to face as fellow humans and sharing good ideas. The guests have the freedom to sling their own bullshit if they want, but it’s permanent. They can sort out the backlash if they’re up to something. I don’t see the need to form judgments and criticize them, but if the bullshit runs deep enough the show doesn’t get published.

So if you do care about podcasting and want to develop your own sustainable brand, here are the tips I’ve received along the way…

Big Tip Number One: Be real.

If you’re attempting to present yourself as a character other than your absolutely honest self, you’re taking on a very heavy weight. Facades are heavy. Think of them as stage props or makeup. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m saying it’s extra work. We’re all basically avatars once we go online. Choose yours carefully. Transparent avatars don’t have shadows to worry about.

You can’t manufacture sincerity. In the long run, I predict absolute honesty as the deciding factor in who’s still producing non-scripted podcasts years from now.

Big Tip Number Two: Don’t Sell Your Soul

If you’re only going in for the money please go open a MySpace account and just post there. Nobody is going to buy shit from you unless it’s just cheaper or nobody else has it. Be creative, Be unique, or Be gone.

Everyone is selling something online and we’re all about sick of it. Overloaded pages with ad after ad, and pop-ups… I hate them. Years of marketing has made me respect the results but often despise the strategies.

We’ve thinned our list of approved advertisers and sponsors down to Amazon (because I’ve found some products I will recommend), PluginFox because we all need plugins and I earn a commission from sharing iZotope’s great products), and LegalShield because normal people can’t spend $300 an hour for a lawyer.

Maybe you have a home-based business that needs some exposure. That’s my connection to LegalShield and I’ve maintained it since 2013. I played many of the affiliate marketing and MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) games for a few years. None are worth squat unless you’re willing to commit beyond the honeymoon phase. LegalShield has been spectacular for us. If you joined an MLM or affiliate marketing group because you get to represent something you honestly use and believe in, promote your own business. Don’t bombard us with stuff that you don’t even use.

Once we get the bugs worked out with our swag products, they’ll also be available in here and at shows or rallies when I setup as a vendor for WYWU Live Q&A interview events. Beyond that, I’ll be updating my books and calling it done for chasing financial support in here. We’re going to use Indiegogo for the fundraising starting soon. I’m a fan of the “multiple streams of income” philosophy, but we have to thin that herd out regularly and only hold onto the good ones.

The bottom line is that you can publish your show with the slickest ads and highest imaginable return, you can spend years researching tricks for clicks, you can push for the highest return on clicks and never make a dime. Content is still king, so start there first. Then try and stick with your niche when you consider what kind of crap to offer your audience.

Big Tip Number Three: Play Well With Others

I chose the non-scripted interview format for WYWU because there’s an unimaginable wealth of content waiting for anyone who can hold a conversation with a complete stranger.

But, before you pin your hopes and dreams on becoming an international superstar as a podcaster, you need to clarify how you’re going to interact with other people. Competitive or cooperative? Aggressive or passive, or both? Late night television-style shows seem more cooperative and passive. Hard-hitting journalism plays more aggressively and competitively, like the interview is a gladiator match. When they’re just chasing a bias it’s nothing but confrontation. Not my style. There’s obviously room for both but I believe cooperative play will serve me better in the long-run.

So if you want to try the interview format, I will also suggest suggest practicing and recording with friends and family. Attempt to maintain an honest conversation and let them tell their stories without interruption. Find something in there to ask a question about that furthers the conversation. Simple. And if you’re bored or distracted while the victim is speaking, you’re not actually listening. It’s a developed skill and it will only strengthen your skills with human interaction. Don’t skip this one.

If you have more tips for podcasters, feel free to add them in the comments.

(Thanks to milivanily on Pixabay for the opening image.)

 

Facing The Dragon Behind Podcasting

With the podcasting market growing by leaps and bounds, the question often arises: “Why would you want to do a podcast?” or my favorite, “Why wouldn’t you?”

The big takeaway from months of studying the podcasting world, for me, was how easily the home studio crowd can add podcasting to an existing client list. Sorry if I’ve given away a secret, but the opportunity is just too big to ignore at this point.

From my own experiences and those of others I’ve known, the average home studio looks nothing like a magazine cover. Most aspiring home studio engineers probably have less than a grand invested in their whole rig and those cats need the work.

I say “those cats,” like I’ve already reached budget-less success and just throw cash into whatever bottomless pit I choose. Nay I say unto thee. If you’ve read the WYWU Road Report on PSW, you fully understand my own investment.

My need was for a way to more-fully engage with the industries I serve by carefully deciding what I was and was not willing to do, day after day. Personally, unless my wife gave birth to them or we consider them family, I have zero interest in tracking and mixing the projects for anyone anymore. But, I already owned most of the gear to do basic home recording and it wasn’t staying very busy or making me a dime.

For about six months prior to launch, I attempted to understand podcasting in the long-run. Was it a sustainable concept? Could it be something based on what I already do and who I already am? Did it require a laundry list of new gear and a crew of experts to produce it? Was I willing to launch with obvious imperfections in the final product?

These were the questions I needed answered before investing in another push to create new content. Well, here’s the list of answers…

Is Podcasting sustainable?

I have incredible conversations with smart and passionate people all the time. Traveling to trade shows has been part of my gig with ProSoundWeb anyway. The only change to my routine that works well for me was in recording these conversations. Essentially, the only new accessory I needed to utilize the growth potential around me was a microphone.

Now that’s not necessarily a new or genius idea, but it does kill two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone. I needed to shift gears to get off the access road and merge back onto the freeway. I also needed to do it without adding significant additional responsibility or expense. I can do this forever. So yes, sustainable. Check.

But everyone’s already doing it.

Podcasting is still in its infancy, regardless of what you think you know. I recently heard a respected podcaster discussing his logic in jumping into something when there already “millions of podcasts out there.” Well first, there were roughly 750,000 podcasts (as of the 2019 NAB Conference) out there, and the life expectancy stands at around seven episodes.


Check me on this…

“Also, a common question is “how many podcasts are there?” and most of the data out there is outdated, but we have an accurate method for determining the number of shows – and it’s currently over 850,000.

There are also over 30 million episodes as of January 2020.

To highlight the growth, Apple confirmed there were over 550,000 podcasts at WWDC 2018 in early June.”

From the 2020 Podcast Stats & Facts page.


If you want something that will really bake your noodle, read Podcasting Is Going Mainstream


A great idea is greater if it can survive for ages. If you put yourself on a timeline from “then to now” you won’t get it. You have to look from now, on through the timelines of generations going forward. We’re creating historical documents, not closing statements never to be unearthed by our great grandchildren.

What I’m saying is this: If you are one of the many owners of a bedroom studio, podcasting appears to be another opportunity for justifying those credit card charges you already made. Whether it’s your own show or something you help create, produce or engineer, podcasting is worth looking into. Just give it the same production treatment as if you’re mixing music.

I’m also going to suggest adopting a more collaborative and less competitive attitude with your work. ProSoundWeb now has WYWU, Signal to Noise, DCSoundOp and a forthcoming Church Sound University podcast. We’ve interviewed some of the same people and even discussed similar ideas but we’re each unique and pushing each other forward. Don’t “hide your light under a basket” and keep the good ideas all to yourself. Get to know others and promote each other as much as possible.

We all have unique voices and perspectives. And besides, the global population is developing a voracious appetite for podcasts that won’t be satisfied with any number of shows. Unless you’re just copying someone else, it’s a great expression of your own unique style and interests. Have fun with it and continuously improve the production along the way.

This generation of podcasters is likely pioneering a format which will evolve over time. The last set of numbers I heard said podcasting generates about 500 million dollars worth of revenue annually with expected growth nearing one billion in less than two years. (also from numbers discussed at NAB2019) If you get in, don’t quit. Focus on creating good content and don’t worry about making money for one or two years. Build your content, your brand and your audience before reaching for their wallets.

If you’re just in it to get paid you’re in the same trap as the starving artist. You must create to maintain your mental health and express yourself. Once your income and expenses place demands on your creativity one side gets the short end of the stick. Either the creativity or the money will suffer, and eventually both. (My theory, no real research attempted.)

My thought is this: if you need extra income and already have the skills and gear for recording and editing then podcasting is absolutely worth looking into. If you have a passion to create, there are no rules about how you do it.

Facing Stage Fright

As discussed in my episode with Michael Lawrence, I fully understand that the ProSoundWeb subscriber list is chock full of committed, life-long professionals who make their living in a world with microphones and loudspeakers on each end of their signal chain. We have fun in here, but we’re making sure to produce accurate information because our audience will bust our chops quickly and forthrightly.

I think my biggest roadblock was basically stage fright. I was proposing to produce a no-budget show with some borderline-ridiculous demands, like insisting on face to face interviews. Recording in less-than-desirable situations was going to be unavoidable. Resolving to focus on the content of the interview, rather than the background noise or the sound of my well-traveled southern drawl at center stage was where I dismissed my biggest fear.

The sound of my own voice has historically annoyed me for years so I can’t imagine what my listeners are enduring. It was useful for tuning PA systems and project studios since it’s pretty tough to dial in. Prior to practicing with the existing studio rig, I didn’t want to listen to my voice. I guess I had my self-doubts and some concern about ridicule for a brief season while planning the podcast. I couldn’t care less anymore, just give me the content and let me have this conversation.

I had to come to terms with my willingness to do the best I could do with minimal investment in gear and make do with what I already owned. I had to decide how to deal with the judgment I feared that was holding me back from something I wanted.

I had to face the dragon holding my treasure and break that monster. I didn’t see it as something I could slay once and “be done with,” so I had to make it an ally. Don’t let the dragon stand in your way, but don’t bother facing it if you don’t even know what’s behind it. What treasure do you seek? What hill are you willing to die on? How important is this to you? Do your homework and learn to welcome the criticism that often contains answers you didn’t even know you were looking for.

(Thanks to KazuN and Bru-nO from Pixabay for elements of the opening image.)

WYWU Road Report: Finding Colors Worth Flying

In 2010, an old friend found the motorcycle frame I’d been looking for. Dale (in the opening image with my “Mistress”) came across it and knew I wanted to build a big rigid-frame chopper. It took ten weeks to build and thirteen weeks to get a title. Thanks Georgia.

Long before my obnoxious nine-foot Honda-powered Harley had me scaring women and children, it was just an idea in my head. Why not? It’s way cheaper to build and rebuild than to buy most stuff new. I ended up with around a grand invested into something that fit me like a glove.

20191112wywuPSW5
My 1978 Chevy Good Times Machine, the official road dog of the WYWU: Working Your Way Up podcast.

Over the years I’ve owned more than fifty cars, trucks and vans. I’ve also had close to a dozen motorcycles and one piece of crap scooter that I can’t even give away. This van is number seven for me. Maybe it’s lucky. Maybe it’s part of something bigger.

I’ve got friends who’ve tried to get me to fly their colors and ride with their clubs, but I always pass. I’m not crazy about riding in large groups, especially when alcohol is involved. Mostly I just don’t like the idea of committing myself to any group that doesn’t fully represent what matters to me. Nobody has offered me colors I’m willing to stitch on my back, so I made my own.

new wywu logo 2The new WYWU logo is a picture of my SM55 vocal microphone with some old school pinstriping ideas. I sent them off to my designer who blew it out of the water. The colors were specifically chosen for the van and and give me a vibe that suits my soul. If I was a Transformer like Bumblebee, this is probably how I’d look.

These are the colors I’ll fly.

WYWU is about taking what you have and building a future with it. It’s about getting maps to the minefields we all have to cross, directly from the hand of someone who’s already way ahead of us. The job market is changing. People need opportunities. If good options aren’t presented, good options can’t be chosen. Podcasting gives us a voice and it gives me a choice.

Back in 2012 I had another idea…

What if I could make a living online and preserve what was left of my knees and back? With blogging as my entry-point to becoming a content creator, I formally flung my over-confident ass into the interwebs. I’d been studying online business since the mid-90s and felt pretty confident in my ability to ramble on for hours as a nearly-perpetual source of content, but my content pit wasn’t bottomless.

It turns out I only get to tell the same tired stories once or twice in print before I have to retire them. Without actively working in the industry, the pickings get slim quickly, even after so many years.

After my career in audio helped drive me into a near-divorce experience, it went away, along with the studio I built and two houses we’d renovated. I had to step away from my beloved mix position to work on my relationships within my home. It was about four years of hell and cost us everything, but we tore up the divorce papers and fought our way through. I equate sacrifice under extreme conditions to a plane dumping unnecessary weight, trying to improve its chance of landing in one piece. We dropped a lot of weight from 2009 to 2017. It’s taken a while to get my bearings and prepare to take off again.

Landing back in Georgia

When my wife and I decided to work things out, we also made a long-term plan for our future. I would find my perfect online niche and she would begin planning for how we would bring guests to the bed and breakfast she’s always wanted. We figured out how to make it work for both of us. I work from home most of the time so operating a business like that would have minimal effect on my schedule. (Meaning we get to have gardens and chickens too.)

office shot 1
How the office looked when I found it.

Step one with the new place involved getting me a functional office. We had a 12×24 storage building on the land when we bought it that was converted into my current workspace. Yes, that’s right. My office is actually a storage building, but it works fine for now.

Over time the concept evolved to include building me a new office with excellent acoustics so I can listen to Dark Side of the Moon as often and loud as I want. All together we’d eventually have a private resort with the best mixing room in the south. She gets her dream, I get a continuous pipeline of face to face interviews with audio engineers who’d like a peaceful place to develop immersive show files or mix with Atmos, or just fish for trout all day. WYWU will still be on the road regularly, when we aren’t hosting mixing sessions and interviews at home.

office 1
Office renovations (round one) included a seemingly irrational wall of glass, an acoustic cloud over my mix position and a whole lot of reclaimed barn wood.

And, even though we landed in the serene north Georgia mountains, I need these road trips. WYWU is the mission, the niche, the best use of whatever soup is swirling inside my head. I’ve trained my whole life to podcast and didn’t know it until July of 2018.

Beyond that, I’m looking for some specific sponsors to provide podcasting rigs like mine to other potential podcasters. I’d love to help set others up with new gear and show the home studio crowd another source of revenue. (Maybe even help develop a podcast network)

And now a word about my van…

This van gives me the opportunity to break monotonous routines that inevitably cause me to become brutally unproductive on a monthly cycle. The “yet-unnamed” van will be accompanying me on the journey as I work my own way up into the podcasting world. Over time I plan to build her out as a functional mobile living and workspace as a cheap option for the folks who can’t just buy anything they want.

The van also represents my childhood memories of dad’s old Dodge Tradesman with his own custom mural. Nothing ever fit me like a van. This one is going to take shape over time to become a showpiece. I’m going to work my own way up and document the process.

We also got another dog. My dog of fifteen years, Asia, died last year, waking up a bit of depression I hadn’t dealt with in a while. Sunny does well in the van. She’s got her own story. I’ll get into that one another time.

The big picture

I’ve decided that 2020 is the year to show, not tell. If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free. So I’m not. WYWU is the culmination of the last 30 years of my life, wrapped up into a time capsule, capturing a moment that will outlive me.

Rabunshire is the name we’ve given our home. Rabunshire Media is the tag we’re hanging on any digital content we produce up here. The site will also feature our progress as we turn five acres of mountainside into a private retreat, serving as bait, to bring audio engineers up here… So I can capture interviews for WYWU and own my niche. I think it’ll work. I think this is everything I’ve been searching for.

I think I’ll fly these colors.