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Come Together: Streaming in Professional Music Production

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The guitar had six discrete electronic pickups, one for each string, and two additional channels of audio—one for the guitarist to speak or sing on a discrete channel, as well as one for the musician to hear the summation of the strings and his or her own voice—all output on a wired Ethernet cable. Pundits called it the “Ethernet guitar” but Juszkiewicz saw it as the beginning of something much bigger when streaming was involved.

“It’s a multi-channel instrument and you’re getting six feeds,” said Juszkiewicz in an interview with Modern Guitars magazine when the Les Paul digital guitar launched. “Getting multiple feeds allows you to do a lot of stuff, either live or in post-production. A monophonic signal [traditional electric guitar] is just that—one signal. All of a sudden, when you can split it up, the ability to do different stuff is enormous. It’s like when hi-fi went from mono to stereo—we are sort of jumping from mono to surround. ... [Y]ou can have as many as 700 simultaneous streams happening, uncompressed, at 96 Khz, 24 bits.”

Juszkiewicz noted in that 2006 interview that Subbiah had created NetworkSound as a spinoff from the work at 3Com, since the networking giant had shifted focus, and Subbiah has continued to work on audio and video synchronization issues across multiple locations and with various types of devices, building on patents that Subbiah has around network sensing and other key elements of signal synchronization.

“Musicians in the same room are used to not just playing in synch with each other,” said Subbiah, “but also in being able to talk to each other. Just because we’re talking about musicians connecting from all over the world, that doesn’t mean we should lose the basic ability to talk back to each other.”

Lessons Learned

For those aspiring to break into the music business, especially as talent, the mantra of “practice, practice, practice” holds true. And from that standpoint, the use of streaming to facilitate lessons with the best of the best has become an attainable reality.

Take, for instance, the example of Lessonface.com, an online video collaboration platform dedicated to bringing together music teachers and aspiring musical talent.

Lessonface vets its teachers, which must meet a number of criteria in order to be able to even offer their services for virtual music lessons. According to the company, Lessonface teachers must have either taught music for more than 2 years or have been employed as a musician for at least 5 years (and by “employed,” the company means someone who is “a professional musician with music being the primary source of income.”)

After the company conducts a live interview with the potential music teacher—using its own platform—Lessonface also does a technology check of the music teacher’s tools to verify that his or her teaching skills can be translated into a remote training setting.

Then, in a step that many parents and civic organizations will appreciate, Lessonface claims that “U.S. residents are then put through a background check (covering at least the U.S. sex offender registry).”

As a way to obtain rapid feedback on the synergy of a parent-student-teacher match, Lessonface says it requires its students to provide feedback “after their first lesson with any teacher,” and the company claims that it maintains both an open-door policy regarding future feedback as well as a money-back guarantee for the first lesson with any teacher.

The number of instruments—as well as musical styles, engineering, and vocal options—offered is quite impressive. From lessons in Carnatic and Hindustani musical styles, to tailored percussion lessons in djembe or doumbek, over the past 6 years, the Lessonface model appears to be paying off for both music teachers and students alike. You can find an example of a teacher’s site, complete with student reviews.

Rockin’ All Over the World

There’s a significant difference between collaboration on music and the distribution of this same music, and that difference is worth a mention.

Kompoz is a typical music collaboration website dedicated to musicians finding each other and adding individual tracks to a song. Sometimes the songs start as lyrics, as is the case of user MrMom, the screen name of John Scunziano from the southern Adirondacks region in upstate New York.

“Just a guy with lots of words in my head,” Scunziano writes in his @oneslowtyper Twitter profile, adding, “luckily, I have friends from all over the world putting music and vocals to those words.”

You can see a typical collaboration for Scunziano in his lyrics to “Country Road,” which he describes as a southern rock genre piece.

Scunziano requests that other musicians and vocalists on Kompoz help him finish the collaboration, noting “I am currently requesting uploads for the tracks listed below.” They include banjo, drums, guitar, harmonica, and vocals that fit his lyrics:

Society spins faster than the planet / You feel the need to race with all the rats / You can’t relax, you need to climb the ladder / You shower cause you have no time for baths...

Kompoz allows discussions for any given collaboration, and “Country Road” is no exception, with Scunziano and other potential collaborators discussing everything from the sound of separation tracks (sep tracks) to self-deprecating, in-the-know jokes about fellow collaborators.

As with other compositions, MrMom has an initial copyright statement that became effective the day he started the collaboration (March 25, 2018), but he also declared his intent to participate in copyright sharing via the following statement: “MrMom has declared the following Composition and Sound Recording copyright intentions for this collaboration, when completed: Composition (Equally with other collaborators) and Sound Recording (Equally with other collaborators).”

The concept of copyright sharing also leads to the need for a way to split royalties, which can be accomplished through the use of split sheets.

For all the composition work, though, Kompoz seems to realize it isn’t the place to shop the music. The site pitches the use of a site called SoundBlend, which it says is “the first and only music store dedicated to crowd-sourced music.”

Kompoz notes that SoundBlend offers seller agreements and split sheets, so that “When your fans, friends, and family buy your songs on SoundBlend, we’ll manage the payouts according to your split sheets.”

There are many other sites dedicated to selling music. MrMom, for instance, has a ReverbNation account where he allows listeners to hear his featured collaborations. But few of these sites offer the collaborative benefits of a music creation site, whether for public collaborations (Kompoz reminds potential users that they can “work with artists you meet in our global community” or do private collaborations and “work with your friends or band members.”)

Is This the End?

As we wrap up this quick “greatest hits” overview of streaming’s use in music production, it’s worth remembering: Just as a greatest hits album isn’t the same thing as a band’s full discography, streaming isn’t the key melody in music creation. It is, however, a significant step forward in global collaboration for both time-shifted and live “studio” sessions for a number of musicians who can’t afford the time or money to fly to one central place and collaborate for just a few hours. Streaming’s advantage is its ability to allow musicians to make their distinctive music in their own unique environment, joining with others to move from lonely solo to pure, sweet, streaming harmony.

[This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Come Together: Streaming in Music Production."]

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