The pandemic made a huge impact on different business industries. Some had bad outcomes, but some had good ones. For our guest today, it made it more popular than ever. The pandemic helped boost Kevin Williams’ business. Our guest was introduced to music because his associates, friends, and other musicians are playing in bands. This led Kevin around studios more often, making him evolve more in the music industry. Eventually, he and his partner had the vision to start a platform that enables people to record and work on anything virtually in a recording studio. This platform is Sessionwire. Listen and find out more about Sessionwire and how Kevin manages the ever-changing demand from technology and music!
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The Evolving Music Industry Through A Remote Studio Recording Solution With Kevin Williams
I am so thrilled to be here with Kevin Williams from Sessionwire. This is going to be a cool talk because he’s got a product that’s going to solve some problems for a lot of you that may have been trying to figure out how you can solve this problem, especially during the pandemic. This has become even more important and something that people are wanting to do. I’m going to let him explain what that is and what his product does. First, Kevin, if you want to give us a background of you, how you got involved in music and what you have done up to working with Sessionwire.
It’s great to be here, Bree. Thanks for the invite. It’s wonderful to speak on the subject. Quickly, like a lot of my associates, friends and people I work with, I started playing in bands when I was younger. That led me to be around studios more. The more I was around studios, the more I liked that part more than touring and playing in bands. After I did that for a while, I did a lot of different things and wore a lot of different hats in my career. That’s for sure.
The more I was in the studio, the more I liked the studio part, engineering and producing music. That led to writing jingles and other things that were commercial activities. With my skillset at the time, that evolved into doing that and starting to work on my own music. I started a publishing company, which was the home of my core or main company. That was in the ’80s. That evolved into, “Maybe I should teach this.”
It was my sister-in-law who said, “Why don’t you teach this instead of teaching in other colleges?” I started that in the early ’90s. What started to become a big issue with my career was that I liked the educational piece. From that, I started developing my own curriculum and building courses and such. By the end of the ’90s, going through all of that, that evolved into me starting my own college. I loved that and did that for many years.
My studio evolved into me partnering with Garth Richardson and Bob Ezrin and starting Nimbus School of Recording & Media in Vancouver, which is an elite recording school. That went mostly through the 2000s aspect of it. By 2009, that started. Somewhere in 2014, I moved on from that. That’s what got me all the way through that as quickly as I could to get to Sessionwire. My partner, Robin Leboe and I have known each other for 30-plus years. It was his vision to start the platform called Sessionwire.
In the music industry, people have tried this a few times but the limitations of the internet back in the day when it first started was not fast enough. There were no social media to promote it and that kind of thing. There’s always something that held conceptually what Sessionwire does back. We started that in 2016 essentially and had our first MVP in late 2016. From that, it evolved into where we are now, which is the full-blown Sessionwire app and platform which continues to expand and do more things.
The elevator pitch of what Sessionwire does and the easiest way to explain it quickly is it’s like Zoom for the music industry. You can imagine that we are on a call where I can see you and we are talking. Imagine if you could do that but connect your recording devices. In the music industry, people have DAW or Digital Audio Workstations. They are digital electronic recording software. There are a lot of different platforms. People who use them would recognize Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase and those types of names.
What our app does is connect all those workstations in any combination. In addition to the talkback channel and video channel, we have like a Zoom here. There’s a bidirectional stereo channel that is of studio quality. That connects between those workstations and allows you to record and work on virtually anything you would normally do in a recording studio, but do it with people remotely anywhere in the world as long as they have a good stable internet connection. It’s a game-changer in the sense that the music industry has always been stuck with, “How do I work remotely?”
We did not do this because of the pandemic. How could you know the pandemic was coming? We did this because we knew and what we were planning for was the inevitability that the music industry had come to a place over the years where it’s completely changing its structure. It’s like the old music industry that evolved through the ’30s, ’40s, and up until the late 2000s when it started to come apart. There has been nothing to replace that. It has been crashing, burning and evolving into something different.
What we could see was that record labels did not have budgets to fly people around and put them up in studios anymore. How are people going to work together? You can’t afford it on your own with no budget to fly people around to come to your studio or for you to go to other studios. The idea was how could we create something that was studio quality that could let people with a subtle adjustment of their workflow work as if they were in their studios, except work with anybody anywhere in the world without having to fly around and move people around?
That conceptually is where this all came from. The pandemic simply exaggerated the whole idea that people needed this. When the pandemic started, we were getting all this organic growth on our website and users that were trying to find us. They were not exactly sure what they were looking for, which was interesting. As soon as they went, “This is exactly what we need,” then our user base started dramatically growing from that. That’s the quick version that gets us up to where we are with Sessionwire.
The quick elevator pitch from all that is whatever you normally would do in your recording studio with a slight adjustment of your workflow, you can do on Sessionwire. It’s the next best thing to being there. The quality of the audio is extremely high studio quality. The video quality is high. I won’t get into details of how high. It’s not worth it. It feels like you are working with people in your own studio, except they can be located anywhere in the world.
It’s pretty darn cool. With my students during the pandemic, the first thing they were looking for was they just wanted to jam with other musicians or at least practice with their band when they could not be together physically during the lockdown. Is this something they could use for that even if they were not recording? They tried a bunch of different things and there were always these latency issues.
Here’s the reality check. The latency issue is a fact of physics. If somebody says, “We have a map that solves latency,” they are not being truthful. Our app manages the latency in a clever way. For the idea of jamming on the internet, there are sites that will do that. Musical people get pretty picky about subtle timing delays. You can call it latency but we call it musical latency. For instance, if you are a bass player who stands on stage a long way away from his bass amp, you get used to playing with that delay of the sound of your amp coming to your ears.We'll have versions that are more geared towards audio posts. Click To Tweet
Imagine what happens if you put your headphones on and there is no delay, but you are always used to delay because of your bass amp being farther away. I’m using that as a metaphor. You are going to be picky about that. Musicians get picky about timing and rhythm. On top of that where there is no latency, imagine if there is latency. How are you going to deal with that? With the idea of jamming, the other sites work but they work poorly. You have to be very close. Farther away does not work at all.
That’s not how our system manages latency. You can have people and people use Sessionwire all the time to co-write together. I have a pair of headphones on and an omnidirectional mic picking up an acoustic guitar and their voice. It’s going through the stereo channel and working on ideas back and forth. The amount that’s there is not such that it would annoy you that you can’t write and work together that way. I would not record it that way. I would do that for getting ideas down. I might say, “I’m going to play this chord progression we both like and I will record that.”
Maybe the other person adds something to that. That starts to become the basis of where the song grows from, which essentially is what you would be doing if you were sitting in a room with somebody working with them in that way. We also have a feature that we have added as of July 2021 with our Version 2.0, which allows you to add other people to the call. It’s not just two people on the call, for instance. On the subject of launching Version 2.0, we had Version 1.0, which we archived back at the beginning of July 2021. It was the original version we had. It was only available on Mac. It wasn’t available on Windows.
The new version is for Mac and Windows and has been built from the ground up. It uses plugins. With the original version, setting it up with your audio interface was not hard but it required building an aggregate device. For some people, that was a little too hard. The version we have now has plugins. If you and I were connecting on Sessionwire and you had your recording software open, all you would have to do is take the Sessionwire stereo plugin and put it on the main output of your recording software. That’s it. You do not have to do anything else.
Hit play and everything that is in your recording software come to me. I put the plugin to receive it on my side. It’s even easier. Automatically, our system detects if you have an audio interface and it comes to your audio interface. There’s nothing on the receiving side that you have to do. The reason I told that to you is we have made it so simple to set up at this point that anybody who uses their digital audio workstations and recording software would find what I said, “It’s that easy.” It has become second nature for people to not only set it up but also use it and work on their projects together.
The barrier to entry for a lot of people is how to set this up. When you started talking about, “We have to create an aggregate device,” my students would be like, “I’m not doing this because that’s too complicated.”
I have taught Music Production and Audio Engineering for 35 years or more. I have taught this to people. Seriously, over the years, everyone’s attention span seems to be dropping. That was at kindergarten and things like that where it’s used to be accepted. When you were trained to work in recording studios, it was like, “I know all that stuff.” It’s different now.
There are people like me who are not trained in that area that are still recording from home. I want to do it but I don’t want to have to go and learn all of that complex stuff.
On that subject, I can say two things. We have essentially an application that allows this. Let’s say I’m a producer and you’re my topline, the artist I want to work with or a singer. I can control your computer like TeamViewer where I send you an invite and you go, “You can take over my computer,” which people do all the time. I can run your computer for you. All you have to do at your end is make sure that your mic is plugged in. I would do all the rest on the computer. That’s one solution. It’s important to top producers that they have the ability to control the other person’s computer.
That’s so incredible because they will be like, “Let’s punch in here.” If you were on the other end as the singer trying to go, “Where’s my marker?” It takes all the fun out of being the singer at that point.
We also have another feature coming out, which will allow that scenario to be even simpler if you have someone who does not have digital audio recording software or DAW on their end. They have a USB mic they plug into their computer and that’s it. There’s no audio interface. There’s nothing. They have no knowledge to run anything from their side. We have a feature coming that will allow all of it to be controlled from my side if you are the topline I was connecting with. It will be interesting to see all that and how that plays out with people.
The whole goal is to make everything as simple as possible. It is a new world with bedroom producers or people who essentially have their own recording software and gear or whatever it is in a small location or office. It does not have to be a bedroom. There are millions of people doing that these days. It’s a different world. Instead of having these large studios, and there are much fewer people overall doing this now, it’s completely the other way around. Large studios still have a lot to benefit from a technology like Sessionwire. You can’t record drums in your bedroom.
For instance, you could say, “I’m going to go to the studio because they have this great remote setup.” They got all the drums and microphones. Everything is all set up and they don’t have to move or do anything. It’s affordable for me to have a drummer play remotely if I can do that. Studios have a place. That has not changed for them. All these millions of people who have a small amount of gear, whether they are amateur or even professional, want to be part of that community. The word community with Sessionwire is extremely important. It might be one of the most important words because that’s what’s happening in the world.
There are communities of people that want to work with other people, call, connect, collaborate, write songs together and hire someone to sing or play the drums on your track. We have a utility in our app. It’s that social component that allows you to reach out, find people and connect with them. It would be like a Zoom call if there was nobody to talk to. It would not be a lot of fun. You want to connect with people, hear them play, maybe audition for you and all of that. Sessionwire accomplishes all that huge community piece as well.
There’s so much of that community when you are in the studio. It’s hanging out, listening to the engineer mix and making comments. As one person is recording their part, the other people are in the control room listening and talking. That was one of the most fun parts I thought of recording.
On that point, what you are hitting on there in addition to the community piece is the experience that you get and the rush of adrenaline that you get when somebody is doing something in real-time that’s extraordinary. Park that thought for a moment. What has been happening prior to Sessionwire and remote collaborative technologies like this for the last years is that people can’t afford to be flown around and do stuff like they used to. It’s not everybody but most people can’t.
What people have been doing is cobbling together solutions, especially since the pandemic, which is a whole bunch of different apps of which Sessionwire is a one-stop location that does everything. They are going to use Audiomovers with TeamViewer and Zoom to be able to do what Sessionwire does all in one place. Even prior to that, you can take it a step further where if you and I were working on a song, we would never have that one-to-one connection in real-time to work on something that creates that adrenaline buzz.
I would be sending you, “Here’s my idea for the song. I have done this much on it. You add your parts. We got somebody else to play bass.” It’s all offline. It’s all notes and emails. I will FaceTime you a bit. It’s a combination or amalgam of things. All of that negates the most important thing that used to happen when people were in studios. It was that electricity or vibe when something special is happening, which you can’t do and get that vibe unless we are all together.
If you go back to the idea of that rush of adrenaline you get, that has been missing in people’s music. Sometimes technology is polishing it too much. The human elements got lost in all that. You could have a brilliant performance by a singer that is giving me the buzz up my spine. I go, “That’s amazing.” We are all looking for that. It might not be on the best mic. It might have had mistakes. It might not have been perfectly on pitch. It could be all these things, but there was something inherently embedded in the performance that’s extraordinary.
All of that has been missing. In Sessionwire, that is one of the biggest things that people are working with. They love the fact that you can have that vibe like you are in a session with people again. We are all excited about something and something magical comes out of it. That’s a huge thing that has been missing for a long time. We firmly believe that’s coming back with people connecting through technology like Sessionwire.
I’m excited about that because as a singer-songwriter and somebody who loves that emotional performance and it does not have to be perfect, I do think it has been lost. A lot of this is because it’s very producer-based. They get a singer, get them to record it, and manipulate it. It’s not that organic experience of the recording where they are in the same room.
Organic is a great word because if you listen to great records, whatever they are, any style or genre, you will feel that magic in the recording somehow. You play it and it’s there. A great photographer can take a picture of somebody. You can look at that picture and go, “I get it.” In another picture taken of the same person by not a great photographer, you go, “It’s just a picture. It does not do anything for me.” It’s the same thing.
There’s something inherently recorded into great recordings but it has nothing to do with the technology, not always. There are technological things that are pretty cool. Vintage keyboards will sound cool to me. If I listen to old Elton John recordings because I’m a keyboard player and I hear all those ARP synthesizers in there, I go, “Those sound good.” Mostly if you’re talking about performances from people, it’s something that was amazing that happened.
Here’s a good one. In my years of teaching and students wanting to understand the craft, they will listen to a great recording and they want to know, “Why do that vocal sound so good?” This happens a lot with producers who are asked this question. What they are looking for is a certain mic, plugin, piece of processing, and technical technological things. More often than probably not, the answer is, “It was the first take.” The person will go, “It was the first take.” Why is the first take so important? It’s because the singer isn’t overthinking it.
It’s like if you say, “Bree, I’m going to take your picture,” and you suddenly go into this weird facial expression that does not look great. This happens with my daughter’s friends when they were younger especially. You catch them when they are not trying to smile. When you do the first take, you don’t think anyone is recording you possibly. Audio engineers or producers used to have all sorts of tricks they would play on the RS so they did not think they were recording them.
You are just recording a scratch.
“We are just going to do a run-through.” If you were a seasoned singer, you would go, “I know what you are doing.” It’s an important concept because you are not trying too hard and you’re not overthinking it. You are just being yourself. If you sing from your heart, then every word that you sing touches you and you mean it. When I’m producing vocals, it’s got to be like, “You got to mean this. You can’t just read the words and sing.” I’m using that as a quick example. Somehow that gets embedded in the recording. It stays there permanently in the recording because it’s there.You need people to connect with the whole experience of building community. Click To Tweet
It’s not something a computer can add at a later date. We used to joke around. There are all these amazing plugins, equalization, compressors and pitch correction. What you don’t have is this heart and soul plugin. You can’t put it on the track. Maybe it’s perfectly in tune. It’s all timed right. It’s too perfect, “Put the heart and soul plugin on there. Make it sound like what I’m describing.” It’s not going to happen because it’s not there. I hope your readers get how significantly important that is.
When you are doing MIDI instruments and quantizing them and you over-quantize them, we got to put a little humanity back into it.
That is a feature on a MIDI editor. It’s exactly like that. MIDI has its place if you have a bunch of pianos and you are not sure which one you want to use. If you record it as a MIDI track and there’s a great performance with no quantizing and you just played naturally, then at least you can switch the piano to different pianos while not trying to play it and go, “That one fits the mix that I’m working on.” That’s the great thing about MIDI.
Let me ask you a little bit more about the technology of Sessionwire. First of all, I know musicians get super frustrated with the sound on Zoom. It’s gated, squished and all that. How do you navigate that? What makes the sound on your system different?
The stereo stream is coded at the highest possible bit rate. I won’t get into the details. Our Founder, Rick Beaton, is not actively working with the company although he contributes his time as an advisor. He wrote the original code. Rick is one of the top audio coders on the planet. He’s an amazing man. He was involved with the original MP3 and the committee that put the specifications together for it in the mid-’80s. It’s the highest possible bit rate.
It’s studio quality to the point where people that I play it for have critical ears. People who have spent their lives in recording studios get super picky about the subtlest of things. That ear training takes years to get to that point. It’s like anything else. You have to practice. They will notice things that are not good enough for them to say, “It’s not good enough for me in a professional environment.” The people I have played the stream for go, “That’s amazing.”
I do the majority of setting up the A-listers, influencers and people that work with us. I have had the occasion to see so many people with this. I remember the one that always sticks for me is Andrae Betts. When I set Dre up the first time, he had a pair of headphones on in his control room. The first time I sent him the audio stream with headphones, he goes, “This changes everything.” These are people with critical opinions of the sound quality.
The first time you do hear that level of studio-quality coming over the internet to you, it is weird and life-changing. I have had the word game-changer while people hear it the first time so many times that I have lost track. It has a very high studio quality. It requires a good internet signal. For instance, if you got Wi-Fi, it’s not just having a strong Wi-Fi signal. It’s having a signal that’s not competing with a lot of other networks.
The thing that I don’t think a lot of people understand about Wi-Fi is if you are in a house with a Wi-Fi connection, there are not a lot of houses closer, and your drop-down menu that shows the networks that are available has just you, your Wi-Fi will be fine as long as you’re not so far away from the router. If you are in an office building or apartment building, there’s a huge list of networks.
Even if you have got a strong signal, you got so many networks competing for that space. If you can connect your computer to your router directly on an Ethernet cable and turn your Wi-Fi off, then it’s rock solid. A good and strong Wi-Fi signal is required because we don’t buffer the signal. You are talking about compression, buffering and so on. It’s easy for us if we buffer it to get around bad Wi-Fi.
Other applications do that, but that adds to the latency as well because the buffer is doing that so that it has some time to figure out what’s missing, interpolate it, and put it back together. We don’t do that. You need a great internet signal from your provider, plus your router and Wi-Fi if you are using it. Short of that, that’s a significant difference. You can’t say that other competitors like Zoom don’t have that. That’s a very significant difference that Sessionwire has for sure.
Is it better to plug directly into the Ethernet versus using Wi-Fi?
Yes. If you have got a cable and you plug your cable into your Ethernet, turn your Wi-Fi off. Even experienced people will plug in their computer to their router but they leave the Wi-Fi on. It’s like, “I’m plugged in.” You’ve got to turn the Wi-Fi off as well.
I have done that on my phone so many times. I’m like, “I’ll switch off the Wi-Fi,” then I forget to turn it off.
It’s human nature. In my lifetime certainly, the expectation of what the average person has to do every day from a technological point is going through the roof. If you think about all of the expectations of what we do in our lives, especially since the pandemic and people are having to connect through Zoom and other ways because they can’t connect in person. It has pushed what everybody has to work with every day or the technological portion of it. They have to rely on it more and more. Our lives are much more consumed most of the time by too much technology, media and stimulus at the same time. It’s all these things.
We have to think about all these different technologies at the same time.
Multitasking has gone through the roof. There you go.
In this experience where you are recording using Sessionwire with somebody else far away, you said you can now add more people. Let’s say you got a band and you’re wanting to record altogether. Is it possible to record the parts altogether? Is it more like they are playing and you are playing and only recording one thing at a time because they are not quite going to sync?
The quick answer to that is if you had people all standing in a studio, you would be playing all together live off the floor in real-time. We have a solution for that down the road but not currently. That would be the equivalent of trying to jam as we discussed. It’s not realistic. The latency is a fact of life. 5G will help for sure. It will be more like what you would do when you go into the studio. You would start with drums and maybe the drummer playing a click track. It does not have to. There’s a whole other story about whether to use a click track or not which we won’t get into.
If you had a drummer playing a click track, then you do the drums. The drums would be recorded on the drummer’s remote side on his computer, and then transferred to the producer so that he has everything at one location. I call it the hub of everything. You would add the bass, the guitars and so on. That’s more or less what you’re doing in a studio anyway. You are doing overdubs remotely but you are adding your parts one at a time.
I have been in some studio situations where they “record” the rhythm section, which is bass and drums together. That would not work in this case.
You could but it’s not the right way to do it. Metaphorically, it would be more or less one part at a time if you keep it conceptually that way. The other part is you were asking about more people on the call. I should explain that a bit more. The call in Sessionwire that has two people like you and me is a peer-to-peer call. It’s not a web-based call. Because of that, there are a lot of advantages. The latency is as short as it can get.
Once your account is connected to my account, which is a web-based, then our computers are directly connected together and bypassing potentially other pings off of other servers and so on. That’s good because it reduces the latency but it’s also more secure. The security between our calls on Sessionwire or the peer-to-peer call has bank-grade security. For people and producers who are working with high-profile artists and record labels who have the potential for security on their music being cracked by somebody if it’s in a cloud somewhere is of huge concern.
You could have a major artist and somebody gets ahold of that track before it has been released. With Sessionwire on the peer-to-peer call, that’s not going to happen. That’s a huge thing. When we add people, just to add the “more people to the call” aspect, we call that feature Sessionview. If you and I are on Sessionwire, this would be a peer-to-peer call. We would add other people to the call and they would go across the top like a Zoom call. Those people are hearing studio-quality audio.
They have a talkback channel and a video channel. They can mute those and turn the high-quality audio up and down. They have the same experience as if they’re on the call and part of the recording but they are not part of the recording. The people on the peer-to-peer are part of the recording. As an example, Session artists use dozens of different workflow examples and ways to use them. An overdub is different from a mix review or a mix engineer with a client. Sessionwire uses a different workflow and has a different use case.
If we are doing an overdub like hypothetically, you are the singer and I’m the engineer recording you, we would want the producer on the call. The producer could be on the call and producing the track, encouraging you, talking to you and that kind of thing. All of that would stay the same, but the producer is not recording. I would be recording you and the producer would be producing the track. That would be three people on the call.
If you are doing an audio post like dialogue replacement, foley or something, you could have numerable people on the call that are stakeholders that need to be part of the decision-making process, but only one person has to be recording it. The other person remotely is creating dialogue replacement, sound effects or whatever it is. What I’m trying to say is you can have other people on the call. They are not part of the recording portion of the call but their experience is the same.
That’s pretty interesting that you mentioned foley. I never thought of this as something that they might use in the film and TV industry.Certainly, the expectation of what the average person has to do every day from a technological point of view is going through the roof. Click To Tweet
It’s already big-time being used. It’s the same with universities, especially since the pandemic. I had a university set up prior to the pandemic so that they could have a classroom or a control room that has nice monitors and a big video monitor. Essentially, I would call them and I could be a guest lecturer. They would hear the same quality of audio from my studio at their end. I would talk as if I were standing in the control room with them.
I did this lots of times with classrooms where I could say, “Student over on the right side, do you have a question?” The person would stand up and I could listen and go, “Let me play this example for you.” It would be like I’m at the front of the classroom except I’m somewhere else in the world. When the pandemic hit, that exacerbated that to the point where you can all be in a classroom. You have got to have students separated somewhere. We have a solution for that for the universities as well, which is going well. It can be used for education big-time like music teachers with their students.
You can have mix engineers working with mix clients. You can do overdubs and collaborate on a song together. I would not record it that way but it would be like sitting in a room. You and I are working on a song idea. There are all these same types of things you can do. You have to think that the workflow and how you do it are subtly different. You have to have the Sessionwire version of how it works versus how it would work if we were in the room together. They are not that much different from the examples.
How many people can you have on the studio view at a time?
We are working on a change to reduce the amount of consumption of processing power the individual computer requires. At this point, it’s under ten, but we know we will get that number up significantly higher once we make that change. The problem is that if you have so many people on a call, the resolution of their video coming onto the call is dragging the processing power of that individual’s computer down. That’s not going to work, but it’s a simple fix for us. Next push, we will already have that fixed.
On that subject, we have a broadcast version coming of that, which will allow you to do the same. Instead of connecting on Facebook and doing a live thing on Facebook or that type of scenario, which so many people are doing, you can do it directly from Sessionwire and then reach hundreds of thousands of people if you wanted to. They can’t communicate back in that particular example.
I was thinking of the application of maybe you are going to the studio. You do crowdfunding for your record and offer your highest tier. You get to come to hang out in the studio while we record. You get to have this spot, be watching and everything. That would be one of the coolest experiences that you could offer for a price.
It’s all part of what I alluded to. We refer to it as our version of the pay-per-view, fly-on-the-wall concept. Would it not be great if I could watch a major band doing the production of their tracks and be the fly on the wall? It’s that application. It would also be the application if you got a band just starting out. They would love to have people participate in and hang out with them. It’s all of those things for sure.
You could have the level where you get to do the pay-per-view and the super high level where someone could be in the room and make comments.
Having your fans and your crowd participate is a huge issue. We are all over that for sure.
I have a Rode condenser mic and a Scarlett. I use Ableton and all that stuff. If someone has a mic and they want to participate in something like this, is it possible for them to do that? If so, what kind of a USB mic? Do you have any recommendations? In my mind, I was like, “USB mics would not be good enough.”
I won’t go into any recommendations at this point but I will go back to what we talked about. We do have that feature coming. It will be so easy for a topliner to connect with a producer that way. At that point, we will have a forum or something where people can say the same question you asked, “What have you seen as far as performance and sound quality out of any USB mic?” The assumption people make is, “It’s not a real mic if it’s a USB mic,” which is a mistake to think that way.
I have to admit I do. I have to be proved. I will have to have a side-by-side comparison of one of the manufacturers of mics, which goes into a mic pre and one that’s a USB that goes right into the computer. A lot of them I’m sure will start making the same mic in a USB version. It’s not just going to be companies selling more affordable USB mics. It will be the large manufacturers. It would be interesting to have a side-by-side comparison for sure.
I’m thinking even Rode already has one that I have not tried. I always thought, “For podcasting, it’s fine.” I felt like it would not capture the vocal nuances but maybe it will.
There’s so much to that story too because it’s not just the mic, believe it or not. I know you will get this for sure. It comes down to the quality of the cable. If you think of the whole chain, there’s the mic, the cable, and the mic pre-amplifier. It’s those three things right off. What is it going into as far as a converter at some point? Will it convert analog to digital? Is it going into a mixer? Is it going directly into your recording software? If so, then it has to go through the interface. What’s the quality of the interface and the mic pre-amplifier that’s built into the interface? It’s all those things.
Over the years, I have seen this pattern where you will have somebody who has not thought through the whole chain. They will go and get an amazing microphone and plug it in with a piece of crap. People don’t think that something like a cable can contribute to the sonic quality of something but it does. Manufacturers know that people know that and they can exploit that to some degree going, “They will put all these names all over it.” The extra things they are doing may not make any difference but they can sell the cable for more because it sounds so good. That’s a whole other subject.
The room that you are in is going to make a big difference too. There are so many factors. I will have to re-explore this USB mic thing.
For instance with a singer, typically you want a dry and dead environment, not ambient. If you are talking about if you have got the time to work on it and the years to appreciate it, the opposite is true for drums. Back in the day with Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, he was a pioneer in ambiance. If the drum kit was at the bottom of the staircase in this huge hall and it sounded amazing, it was amazing because the hall sounded amazing.
Putting microphones close to the drums and not getting that room ambiance would be negating that whole concept. There are two things there, a dry environment to record in, which is important for certain things, or close mics so you can control them individually so the leakage and the bleed isn’t an issue or the opposite, “I want as much of that huge sounding environment and room as I can get because it sounds amazing.” It’s everything in between.
I’m always thinking like a vocalist but that makes a lot of sense. As far as the recording, does it matter? Does it make more sense for each person to record on their own computer? Do you not lose anything for the producer to record the vocals for the vocalist instead of just me recording it here on my DAW?
Let’s use the overdub workflow as an example because there are so many use cases. There are dozens. I remember one of the first mixing engineers I set up. He was reluctant to set up in Sessionwire. I said, “Let’s get you going.” He said, “I’ll be honest with you. I’m sure I won’t use it.” I went, “Why?” He says, “I don’t do overdubs.” In his mind, he had come to the conclusion that Sessionwire did overdubs. That’s it. Sessionwire does dozens of things. A mix engineer was playing a mix for a client. No one is recording anything. It’s just a monitoring condition.
The client does not even have to have recording software. The audio can go directly to the client’s computer. They are wearing headphones or the speakers are plugged in. Likely, the client does not have recording software anyway. If the mix engineer is sending his mix either off the console or in the box to your client, then you and I are on the call, I would be playing your stuff in real-time and you would be going, “Maybe we can turn that vocal up a bit in that part.” We would talk about things.
I would not have to be sending them three versions of everything to have them send it back saying, “Can you turn this up a little bit?” For me, it’s going back, restoring the session, turning it up a little bit and then sending it back to them to have the client say, “I’ve heard it again. It’s fine.” You have to undo everything you did. It took you all that extra time to do it. That’s insane but that’s what mixing engineers were doing. As soon as he figured it out, the session is done.
The client can sign off, is happy with everything and heard it in their own environment. That’s a use case. That’s not an overdub. That’s what I’m saying. People get confused. It’s one of the hardest things for us to explain because Sessionwire does so many different things. How do you focus on people to realize it does lots of things? You have to think, “What are the use cases? How do I set up the workflow to do that?” It will do all these things.
Let’s move our conversation to the overdub. That was from your question. The overdub is recorded on the remote side. You can stream the audio, record it on the producer’s side and say, “I’m the producer. You are the singer.” The old version had a sync feature. The streaming side could come by itself, not with the reference track, and record on the producer’s side. That feature will come back at some point. Even if it does, what I’m about to tell you is for some producers, it’s more important anyway. You record your vocal on your side on your computer. I produce your vocal from my side as if you were in my studio.
It’s the same thing, but it records on your side as a WAV file. At the end of that take and I like that take, Sessionwrire has a built-in file transfer system like Dropbox built into our app. I will say, “Send me that take. It was great.” You take that, drag it on top of my head and let go. It comes out on my side and shows it downloading. I then take that, drag it into my workstation and it’s a WAV file. It has the exact quality that was recorded on that side. I put that into my side with the reference mix, which essentially is the headphone cue I would have sent to you.
To back up quickly, I create a mix on my workstation and software. If you were in my studio, it’s what you would hear on your headphones. It’s like a headphone mix. I mix that for you and send that to you by dropping it on your head. It comes to your side, you drag it into Ableton and create some more tracks to sing on. That’s streaming to me and I’m hearing you sing along with the reference track. I produce it and you send what you have created back to me. I have a WAV file that you created on your side. That’s the overdub workflow.
I’m assuming you have some serious tutorials. If I were to get started in Sessionwire, I would feel like I don’t even know where to start.If you sing from your heart and every word touches you, and you mean it, that's what produces vocals. Click To Tweet
Brendan takes care of our customer satisfaction and support. He is an amazing young man. He has created this along with Ross. We have all these amazing videos on our YouTube channel for that purpose. On the support pages, there are templates for all workstations for Ableton, Cubase, Logic, Studio One and everything to get you started. You go there. If you download our app on everybody’s computer, Mac and Windows, it will have all of the plugin architecture installed. It’s just whether or not you have a paid account or not that initializes them in your DAW, but they are on your computer.
For instance, a good thing to point out is when you create a free account, we call it a Creator account, that account has the file transfer. It’s free. You could use it like Zoom except it’s free and it’s got more features. It’s pretty cool. It has the community aspect built-in for instance. If you step up to a paid account, then the plugins become active. Here’s another cool thing. Let’s say you’re a client of mine and you don’t want to be a subscriber. You work with me. I have a paid account.
I have some clients that don’t want to have a subscription, I get it. For you, I would call you and the paid features are grandfathered for the call with you. You get my features while I’m connected to you. On a free account, if you call someone else who’s free, you don’t get the features. If you call someone who has paid features, you get their features. That’s a big thing for people with clients and music teachers that have students, for instance. There’s that aspect of it too. I should have pointed that out as well.
Everybody who uses it has to have at least a free account so it will connect.
You need at least a free account unless you are on a Sessionview call. Do you remember, I was telling you about the call where I can add people to? That works in a different way. The way that works is that inside of our app, there is an icon that allows you to generate a link. If I generate a link, let’s say that you and I are on a peer-to-peer session or a call and we want someone else to join the call. Someone from the band wants to be on the call or a few people want to be on the call.
I will generate that link or you generate the link and send it to them via Facebook Messenger, email, Slack or whatever you can get on your phone. All they have to do is click the link and a browser will open. It says, “Join session.” There’s no download and install for the Sessionview portion of the call. It’s just the link you click on. As soon as they click on it, they will join the session. All of a sudden, there’s another person on the call.
It’s like a Zoom link in that way.
It’s essentially that way. It’s even easier to connect than Zoom in that way.
It’s because you don’t have to have any software at all.
There’s no download and install. There’s nothing except click the link and away you go.
I want to encourage everybody that’s reading this to go download at least the free version, check it out and try it out. What are some use cases that they could use the free version for to test things out?
First of all, if you have got someone that you’re connected with because the most fun is connecting with other people, who has a paid account, connect with them so that you can see what it feels like to do things where the high-quality audio is going back and forth with the plugins. That would be the first thing. You can connect and file transfer things back and forth with each other, which you could not do on Zoom for instance. You can find people in the Discovery tab that we have, which is finding people for your community or building your community. You can put in filters, “I’m looking for a certain singer that sings in this style.”
You can reach out and go, “I would love to connect with you.” It’s like the idea that if you see somebody on Facebook and you like their profile, then you go, “I would like to be their friend,” except this would be, “I like to be that singer’s friend because that singer sings in a style that I like.” All of that is in the free version. Instead of using Zoom for your call, it’s not a studio recording call but it’s like a conferencing call. It could be just music industry people who need to do what they normally would do on Zoom but they have that extra utility to be able to have those things happen. That’s why the Creator account is very valuable.
You can co–write and then maybe one of you creates a version. You can send the file. Also, if you are a singer and you want to find a producer that might want to work with you, you don’t even have to have the paid version if you find a producer that has one by using the forum.
In the next iteration of the software, you will be able to call someone on the Sessionview call without being on the peer-to-peer call. That’s also a feature that has been requested that we have coming soon.
What is the price for the subscription?
The price is $15 US per month for the Artist version. It’s not expensive. Also, keep in mind that we have other plans coming. There’s a Producer plan coming, which will be more expensive than that per month. It’s probably $29.95 to $30 a month but it will have other features that the Artist plan does not have and so on. We will have versions that are more geared towards audio posts. We talked about it a bit. There are certain feature sets that make sense for people doing dialogue replacement and sound effects that are unique to the post industry that music producers and content creators working on music would not care about. We will have other plans coming that are more geared towards other use cases and situations.
Why would you get the free plan when you can get $15 and try all this cool stuff out? I’m all about that.
Just a hint to your readers, that price won’t necessarily be around for much longer for new subscribers.
You’ve got to go grab it now. Let them know how can they find you on the internet and also your YouTube channel with all of the tutorial stuff.
The way you get to create an account, the landing page is www.Sessionwire.com. That will take you to an account where you can register your free account. You need to put in your email and the display name. It will walk you through some basic information, which we feel is important for us to collect from you like where you live, what workstation you have and what interface. It makes tech support and us understand the user better for everybody. Once you do that, then the app will launch and away you go. You will see yourself like we are in a Zoom call and you go, “This is cool.”
The next piece in there as you are registering your account, which is also cool, is it’s going to encourage you to refer other people. We do that because back to my metaphor of it’s pretty lonely on a Zoom call if you got no friends to talk to. You need people to connect with. For the whole experience of building community, having that real-time in-studio experience and working on music together, you have to have other people. We have created what we hope is a great flow for creating the account that encourages you to do those things. The YouTube page is Sessionwire. We are also on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. We are on all the social channels. You can find us there.
Honestly, if you have got users that sign up and create an account and you are in your account, if you search for me, Kevin Williams, I don’t have a different display name, it will allow you to add me and send me a connection request like Facebook. I want to be your friend. I want to connect with you. If somebody wants to connect with me, you can also connect with me at Kevin@Sessionwire.com. That’s my email. If I can and I’m not overwhelmed with people trying to reach out to me, I’m glad to give you a call or have you give me a call. I can give you a quick walkthrough and say hi. I can do that providing there are not so many people I can’t keep up with. I’ll try.
That’s such a great offer. Thank you so much for that for our readers. Thank you, Kevin. This has been great. I am so thankful that you have created such a product. It’s needed and exciting. I cannot wait for our readers to start using Sessionwire.
It has been my pleasure, Bree. It was fun to chat with you and talk about Sessionwire and studio stuff in general.
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About Kevin Williams
Sessionwire co-founder and partner Kevin Williams is a successful music educator and business executive with strong underlying entrepreneurial skills. He has more than forty years experience in the music industry, from the grassroots level to the executive platform. His diverse music background and professional experience covers a wide range of disciplines, everything from studio musician to music producer, audio engineer, sound designer, live sound technician, studio owner, indie label owner and music publisher. In his role as Sessionwire’s Chief Community Officer, Mr. Williams is responsible for team building, strategic alliances, artist and studio relations, as well as the companies educational development programs.