Brian EATON / Blog

Mix to Master

I've created an audio reference playlist on Spotify featuring a collection of recordings, from various genres, that are mastered well, possess good dynamics and are not squashed from hyper-compression. Many of the select recordings are highlights from famed mastering engineer Bob Katz’s Honor Roll albums (CDs). WARNING: do not judge the quality of a recording based on its perceived loudness! As Bob states, "high intrinsic loudness necessarily produces lowered microdynamics because of the compression/limiting required to prevent peak overload. A hot recording will have lowered transient clarity and less dynamic range. As the intrinsic loudness goes up, the sound quality can go down. The sound will not be as clear or as 'sharp' or as 'open' as a recording whose intrinsic loudness is lower. You can’t beat the laws of physics." Thus, the race to have the “loudest” recording is self-defeating!

As I have always explained to artists, follow best practices: the best mixes make the best masters. In fact, a perfect mix may need little to no processing at all during the mastering session. Therefore, take the time to craft good, if not great, quality mixes and not be of the mind set of “we’ll fix it during mastering.”

I think many of us engineers, producers and artists over the last few decades fell prey to the concept, and especially the competitive nature, that “louder” through more and MORE compression, soft clipping, and limiting some how equaled “better” sound. It’s time to come to the light and stop sacrificing quality for quantity (i.e., decibels)! We all have a volume control on our devices, but none come with a quality control (i.e., dynamics) you can adjust.

Many thanks to Bob Katz for continually sharing his knowledge and expertise with the music industry, and for his fight against “The Loudness Wars.” I'm a better audio engineer because of him and an avid advocate for bringing back dynamics to recordings. For more information about the Mix to Master Playlist, including important playback instructions and additional audio resources, visit: http://www.eatinrecords.com/resource

The Problem With Music (Business)

The Problem with Music is an old, but much-celebrated and enlightening essay ranting against the rock music industry by producer/engineer Steve Albini (Nirvana). Originally published in The Baffler in December 1993, I used to keep a copy of it in my Chicago studio for clients to read. Although the industry has changed much in this digital and streaming age, there are still some relevant lessons to be learned from it. The original eight-page article can be read here: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-problem-with-music


Favorite Quotes...

"A really good band with a bad drummer is not a good band. A really bad band with a good drummer sounds better." — Ginger Baker

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." — Jimi Hendrix

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do." — Bob Dylan

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." — Frank Zappa

"And, in the end The love you take is equal to the love you make." — Paul McCartney

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." — Thomas Jefferson

"I don't stand for black man's side, I don't stand for white man's side, I stand for God's side." — Bob Marley

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life." — John Lennon

"All this talk about equality. The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die." — Bob Dylan

“Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” — Stevie Wonder

"People tend to forget that the word 'history' contains the word 'story'." — Ken Burns

“I wanted to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space.” — Joe Meek

"You can play a shoestring if you're sincere." — John Coltrane

"I 'm not a star. I'm just backing up the cats." — Jaco Pastorius

"Only a spiritual being has awareness." — Chick Corea

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within." — Will Durant

Chicago Local Music Community Mourns

Long before Q101 (WKQX 101.1FM) was Chicago’s Alternative rock station, it was originally all-news radio. And over the years its format has gone through many changes: from news to adult contemporary, then back to news, then to album oriented rock, then back to adult contemporary, then to Hot AC (adult contemporary), then to adult Top 40, then to Modern AC, and finally to alternative rock for nearly 20 years. Now, the station has been sold again (I won’t bore you with that history) and under corporate restructuring the station is returning to an all-news format. Why is this significant? Well if you’re an independent artist/band in the Chicago area, then you’ve lost one of the great champions of local music. And if you are a music lover and fan of new music, then the same holds true, for one of the very few radio platforms that promoted and exposed local artists to listeners is gone. Chris Payne’s Local 101 show is one of the casualties of the corporate restructuring. Since the ‘90s, Payne’s local show has helped launch the careers of many Chicago bands (e.g., Disturbed, Fall Out Boy) and exposed countless listeners to new music they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear on a commercial rock station. That conduit is priceless to the independent artist, for commercial airplay is virtually nonexistent for them. Q101 does live on via the internet at Q101.com, but the Local 101 show with Payne will not. During the last Local 101 show, which aired on July 14 and was fittingly the last live broadcast on Q101, Chris signed the station off and stated he was retiring from radio. It’s hard to believe we won’t hear Chris’ voice this Sunday night, or any of the new music he would always share with his listeners. So, thank you Chris for being such a champion of local music and supporting all the local artist/bands through your many years of broadcasting, including some of the bands on my Eatin’ label. You were and are a staple in the Chicago local music community–you’ll be missed.

Graphic Nature, the New Album by Brian Eaton pushes forward

After a very successful Midwest regional radio and press campaign, the new album pushes forward toward a more national campaign. The new media blitz is targeting radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Houston, Seattle and more. Graphic Nature, featuring Seal’s mega-hit “Crazy,” received extensive attention regionally, and on the Internet, to warrant the expansion. One of the highlights included an on-air interview with Eaton and airplay of three tracks from the new album on 105.5FM The Kat with host Tim Lamping which aired on Thursday, April 21 (listen now @ www.BrianEaton.com/press-radio). Graphic Nature also made an impression with the local and Internet press, including the Chicago Rocker that stated, “Brian Eaton’s new solo project, Graphic Nature, is a force to be reckoned with in the rock/pop genre...” Recently, a huge breakthrough unfolded when rock radio stations 101.9 Fox FM and 95.7FM The Panther added “Crazy” into regular rotation (listen live @ www.1019foxfm.com & www.957thepanther.com). And WRSE (Elmhurst College Radio located in the western suburbs of Chicago) confirmed they will be adding “Sobriety” and “The One Who Shines,” from the new CD, to their rotation starting this week. The station has also invited Eaton to the WRSE studio for an on-air interview and live performance which will air Friday, June 17th @ 8:30pm (88.7FM). Meanwhile, Brian’s facebook News Feeds & Ads are approaching a milestone with nearly 500,000 views! Fans can hear the new album, join the mailing list, follow and get more info by visiting Eaton’s facebook page and official website at: www.facebook.com/BrianEatonMusic and www.BrianEaton.com The new album, Graphic Nature, is now available at iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, CD Baby and many more online stores. As always, thank you for the continued support!