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A Little Mike Trouble

In the music biz, like so many others, there are all kinds of people who love to take your money. The artist, who generates the intellectual property asset, is the last to get paid. And to make matters worse, music labels dump millions of dollars into acts which go nowhere. They can, and do, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising just to get an artist to chart above #17. Those artists, like me, who can't sell 500,000 records get dropped. Those who "make it" owe all of that money back to the label. They have to go on tour to sell tickets, records and t-shirts to get that money back. Whatever is left over goes to the artist.

That is a crazy business model, right? Any small business owner knows that there must be a demand signal for a product before a business is built. Right? Well, not if your Apple Computers. You build the product and the fanbase at the same time.

That's what we're trying to do at Russ Maines Music. The music biz is tough. And we need your emotional and financial support to stay in business long enough to get to the break even point. At that point, the business can sustain itself using the internet for sales.

So, growing up on the farm did teach me how to duck tape things together to save money. And since I'm an engineer, I love to optimize processes to make things less expensive right up front. For example, I use GarageBand software because it's free. Even though it's not the "industry standard", free is very attractive to artists like me. It's big brother, LogicPro is even better (and it only costs $200 bucks)! So, soon, we'll upgrade. (Thanks for sending us your cash so we can do that.)

Another solution I found was using a foam soccer ball to use as a reflective sound diffuser. This little thing saved us a lot of money. Many commercial "solutions" to keep sound reflections down to a minimum can cost hundreds of dollars. The last one I saw on the internet costs $400 bucks. They look great and work well. They all work on the same principle: absorb sound waves.

Well, I remembered when I was a kid on the playground, and getting hit in the head with one of those red rubber dodge balls. They were full of air and stung if you got hit with one. Especially, in the face. But around 1999 these little foam soccer balls came out for little kids. They're like the NERF of soccer balls. So, I got a couple of wood bores I keep in the tool shed, and cut a 2 inch bore through to the middle. And I got a 4 inch bore drill, and bored to the center 90 degrees from the 2 inch bore. I stuck a windscreen on my condenser microphone and that holds everything in place.

So, I sing into a foam soccer ball, and am getting very good vocals these days. I use some noise gate to make it so you don't hear cars driving down our busy street. But the vocals come out very well. Even some music industry professionals (MIPs) are beginning to notice it. So, there's your tip of the day. By the way, I use a Carvin tube condenser microphone for all of my vocals. It's American made, too.

When you buy my CD's, just know we use as much American made gear as possible. The CD's are American made, too. So, your purchases support our purchases of American made goods.

But OK. The soccer ball was designed and branded in America, but we think is made in China. This is like how once Fender guitars are designed in America but made in South Korea. Again, this is why we only use Carvin and Keisel guitars out of San Diego. We don't mind spending good money on American products, they are worth it.

In this case, if you're dreaming up a recording studio on a budget, get a foam ball and use it as shown in the photo. By the way, don't use styrofoam. We tried it and it sucked! It must be polyurethane foam.

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