10 easy steps to unsuccessful live recordings


There are lots of ways to mess up a live recording. You can play the wrong notes, you can forget to press record, you can use the wrong kind of tape or drop the hard drives down a lift shaft. They’re all risky though. If you really want to make absolutely positively sure that nobody buys your record, just follow these simple steps:

1) Identify a major event that will be well attended, well reviewed and widely broadcast. Plan to release the record six months later, when nobody can remember what all the fuss was about. Blame this delay on an obsession with the quality of a record nobody will hear.

2) Skip over all the scary new music in the program and choose something that has been recorded a thousand times before.

3) Get scared about ticket sales. Don’t mention the recording in any of the pre-event publicity.

4) Get scared about a bad performance. Don’t mention the recording on post-purchase materials like tickets and programs.

5) Ask the audience to turn off their mobile phones because the concert is being recorded. Don’t tell them when or where it will be available.

6) Don’t plan far enough ahead to build promotion of the recording into your broadcast deal, mention it in your printed materials, or even get the producer the right edition of the score.

7) Treat the recording as a “new media” side-project and not as a part of the ensemble’s core activity. Assume all the work is done once the union has signed off on the idea, and that promoting a record is either easy or not your problem.

8) Don’t use any of the information you have about who attended the concert to market the recording to your audience.

9) Don’t think about the timeline and logistics for artist approvals until you’re up against a deadline and the conductor is on a plane to Russia.

10) Jealously guard all rough cuts of the album and make absolutely sure that nobody reviewing the concert has a copy of it before their deadline.



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  1. Gregg Gustafson #
    June 17, 2010


  2. June 18, 2010

    If a group exists who can create a rough cut in the hours between the first concert’s end and the deadline the critic has to meet, I want that group running all projects in the US government.

    • properdiscord #
      June 18, 2010

      🙂 Perhaps we should deploy Floating Earth to the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know what a truck full of sound engineers would do with a deep-sea oil leak, but it would make good TV.

      We know it’s possible to have a recording ready at the end of the concert – it has been done before. It wouldn’t necessarily be the same recording you’d release if you had a day or two (or six months) to clean it up, but how would it differ?

      In essence, it would still be the same performance. All the good stuff would be there – the phrasing, the dynamics, the articulation, the tempi, the ensemble. You might make edits to remove the odd messy entry, split note, cough, burp, fart or “brava guy”. You’d mess about with the balance, make sure everything could be heard with perfect clarity and better capture the ambience of the room.

      You’d change all this stuff, but it would still be a recording of the same concert. Any critic worth their column-inches should understand that, even if it took a couple of times to get used to the idea.

      I’m continually baffled by the way people promoting records don’t want anybody to hear them until they’re completely finished. Book publishers don’t seem to have the same problem at all. I’ve received several uncorrected proofs of artist biographies from labels that would never dream of sending out mixed but unmastered audio. It all seems indicative of an unhealthy obsession with the wrong aspects of the performance, putting polish before substance and underestimating the listener’s ability to separate the two.

  3. mclaren #
    June 25, 2010

    I’m continually baffled by the way people promoting records don’t want anybody to hear them until they’re completely finished.

    One word, buckaroo…bittorrent.

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