Whenever I interview an artist, I learn so much. This interview was an interview that I have been anticipating for a while. Peter Weis and I have a history that began with mutual friends from Uniondale High School. In the past few years, I have had the pleasure of connecting with Peter online and learning about his career, his views, and his lifestyle.
Peter is honest, candid, detail oriented, and successful. He has a very unique and refreshing view of the music business. In fact, I plan on picking his brain even further over coffee in the next few months. If you are serious about making money in the music business, I encourage you to read this. It gets deep. Even more important…take time to deeply reflect on what Peter is saying.
Enjoy his interview and be sure to share your thoughts below it.
MV: What do you enjoy most about being a producer?
PW: Being a producer I get to unleash my musical ideas and creativity out in the world. There are very few jobs that allow people to be truly creative. Of course there are many times when I am working on a project that I must focus on a specific genre or style but ultimately when I am done with that I can always work on whatever notes are flying around in my ears and then find some place that it fits later.
MV: Can you tell me about the most unique project you’ve ever done?
PW: The most unique project I have done would have to be music for a stuffed animal. I don’t think they ever sold any place but I had gotten a few after the manufacturing was done in china. The company that was making them contacted me to do a 30 second piece of music that was kind of fun and crazy. I brought a rapper I was working with at the time in on the project to sing a hook and eventually had my wife go in the booth an over dub the lyrics to make it even wilder. It almost sounded like one of those crazy frog ringtones when we were done. When the project was completed the client sent me a few. I gave most of them to family members but I still have two in the house. It’s such a blast to hear your wife’s voice coming out of a funny looking pink stuffed monkey with long arms and legs.
MV: What advice would you give to an artist looking to record a killer demo?
PW: There are few things I would suggest:
First, be prepared. The more prepared you are the more your budget can go towards the right places. If your recording yourself at home then your not burning money on studio time which is great for capturing ideas and doing preproduction. Ultimately you want to have as much of that as possible done before you start paying some one. Lets take two examples first a solo vocalist and second a band.
A solo vocalist should know their songs in and out by the time they get in front of the microphone. All the preproduction (backing tracks and arrangement) can be done at home in something as simple as Apple’s Garage Band and brought to the studio. If your working with a professional producer they should be able to give you the track as “Stems” that any studio could import and work with. If you had budgeted 4 hours of studio time to record the song you that would allow you plenty of time to try and “get the best take”, correct any minor imperfections in pitch, perform any edits needed, record background vocals, and even experiment with a few spur of the moment ideas. Its quite possible you might even leave the session with a decent rough mix if there is enough time. The simple act of being prepared as possible also keeps things flowing easily. The last thing you want to start thinking in the booth is “oh my god I just got to record this right, I’m running out of time”
The more time you leave for your own talent to shine and for the engineer or producer to do their thing, the better product you will get.
Now if your in a band, you should be rehearsing to the point that you can play your songs verbatim every time before you pay for studio time. The same suggestions apply. If you can do any preproduction like synth parts or MIDI work at home in something like Garage Band or Protools go for it. For the band with a modest recording setup at home and a limited budget, they might be better off recording as much as possible at home. Then spend money on one session rerecording all the drum tracks in a good studio, and another session recording all the vocals. Then mix…even if the sounds you are using aren’t the best. If you play your piano part into Garage Band and then bring it into my studio, I can open the session in Logic. After I make a few adjustments I can take the same piano part and try 10 different very high quality piano sounds until we find one that works best with the track. Its important to realize though at this point we are using the studio time to find the best sound, not just to get it down. A band shouldn’t be plugged up to the board with the red light on making changes to the arrangement. Record a few really good takes and move on. Stay in the groove and enjoy the music. That makes great recordings.
The next thing I would suggest when recording your demo is to let an engineer who knows what they are doing mix it. Even if you are pretty good at recording find some one good who can mix down your project. Then I would spend as much as you can afford or as needed to mix each song. Mixing is another part of the process you can’t rush. For a vocalist a few hours might be enough to get a really tight sounding mix. This depends on whats involved of course. For a band editing and mixing can run up the clock very quickly. Most people have no clue that when you hear your favorite band’s single on the radio your listening to 8-16 hours of mixing and probably that much time of editing before that. There is a reason it sounds good.
Last talk to the engineer first before you start. 30 minutes talking with an engineer about the gear they use,, compatibility with software and sessions you might be bringing will save you tons of time and in the studio time is money. Ask whats the best way to get the most for your budget. If they are a good studio and not trying to rip you off they will make suggestions.
MV: How do you see the future of the music business?
PW: It is tough to try and predict how the music business will twist and turn in the next 10 years. I think there are a lot of issues that must be dealt with. First of course the move to digital which has just about happened. It took 10 years, but finally everyone has given in to the idea that digital is here to stay. The CD is dead; long live digital music. The next issue the industry must overcome is marketing. Music has been marketed and sold the same way for the last 100 years. An artist had to be on a record label, the record company had the deal with the distributors to get the product in stores, they paid the djs to get it heard and on and on. Now any one with a creative marketing approach and decent music can cut through the crowd. Social Media (affiliate link) blogs and sites like Youtube have put power into everyones hands. All you have to do is get a lot of people to like it. That is easier said then done but the point is its possible. Its up to you. I expect the way music is marketed will probably evolve over the next few years into a tighter more predictable business model at which point the majors can start to regain control again.
There is also a part of music’s future that scares me. Making music has become easier then understanding it. Anyone can copy and paste loops from folder on their computer and become a producer. That is very cool on a technological level. Part of me is worried though that musician ship will be lost in the mix. Music education programs are getting cut in schools left and right. I have met freshmen in college wanting to be “producers” that couldn’t name two instruments in the string family. In fact i met some one a few months ago who had been “making beats” for two years. I was trying to give him tips on mixing his beats. I had made a suggestion about using eq on the hi hat sound in the track and he looked at me dumbfounded. He didn’t know what a hihat was. That is scary. There is nothing wrong with using the technology to make music faster but you still have to put your time in learning and practicing.
MV: What are some of your goals over the next year?
PW: I have had a lot of music used on television at this point. I would really like to move into the realm of advertising and music for video games. I have done music for a few promos on TV and its really fun. Promos are like commercials for a TV show, almost like a movie trailer but quicker. Besides being fun to do because they are almost always over the top, they usually pay good because they are used so much. I am hoping to get into doing more work like that but for specific products or brands instead of shows. On another note right now I am working independently. I would like to get involved with a serious agent. I really have a hard time getting into all the administrative type stuff in this business. I want to create and keep it moving.
Who inspires you?
PW: For me I there are two kinds of inspiration. Thee first type is reference. The second is universal. When ever I am working on a project I constantly seek other sources of reference as inspiration. I am an unbelievably analytical person. In college, I was taught the philosophy that to create something new you have to understand the things that came before it. After that, you can move beyond them. Salvador Dali didn’t begin his career as a surrealist painter. He was painting figures and portraits of his family all through his child hood. He studied what he loved and eventually it synthesized into his own new style. If I am working on a project in a specific genre I might immerse might self in the style of music completely for a week before even working on it. I’ll listen at home, while driving, create a Pandora station of the top artists in the genre. I really try to soak as much of it in as possible.
The second type of inspiration for me is universal. I say universal because it can be anything at anytime. The more I open myself up to create the more my mind and senses have become awakened. If you take time to enjoy the things around you they will inspire everything you do. I explore genres of music I’m not familiar with. I read a lot, I exercise a fair amount, I cook. I do a lot of different things and what ever I do I try to do with as much passion as possible because I am am inspired to be alive. It is that inspiration that I hope comes out through as much of my music as possible.
What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
PW: Its funny. My music has been in some pretty popular daytime talk shows not to mention places like 20/20, SNL even the National Geographic Channel. After awhile though, the excitement wears off a bit. The things that become the greatest accomplishments are the ones that carry the best memories. Last year, I got my first movie credit. The music flashed by on the screen pretty quickly but it was an unexplainable feeling. To walk into a movie theater, watch a movie playing in theaters around the world and then sit with your wife as people walk out and read your name one the screen. It was just cool. I bought almost every one in the family tickets to see the movie while it was playing. The best accomplishments are the ones that let the people that have faith in you celebrate your success at your side and justify their beliefs.
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