Imagine being in one of the largest convention centers in the world, in one of the biggest cities in the world, surrounded by every legendary and new piece of recording gear. To your right is a display of microphones worth well over $30,000. To your left, Solid State Logic’s new broadcast console valued to be at least a cool million. Everywhere you turn there’s some hip looking tech guy talking about the pros and cons of this company’s new software plug-ins. If you’re a recording geek like me, then a scene like this is heaven on Earth. And Heaven is just where I was this past weekend as I traveled to New York City for the 123rd AES Convention. If you’ve never heard of this event, let me explain AES.
Every two years, the Audio Engineering Society holds a convention in New York City. It’s a massive event at which everybody who’s anybody in the world of music production, recording, and performance gather to see exciting new products, learn what’s new, and discuss the past, present, and future of the music business. The Audio Engineering Society is an organization dedicated to preserving the quality and integrity of the technical side of the music business. To quote their website, “AES is the one pro audio event that combines exhibits with high-profile technical sessions and user seminars.” For the uninitiated, they are the large group of audiophiles who insist that no format will ever be better than vinyl records, and that the reason there’s so much second rate music out there today is because everyone just listens to music on iPods now.
While there’s much to be said on that particular topic, that’s not really the reason I went to this convention last weekend. Maybe I should save that rant for a later blog. So why did I go, you may ask? Well simply put, I went because I like being surrounded by amazing gear that I could never possibly afford (or at least won’t be able to afford until I put out my double-platinum smash hit record.) It’s also nice to be encouraged and inspired by some pretty big names in the recording industry, who at this convention gave seminars and workshops where you could ask questions and hear stories about how they came to be the prominent figures in the business that they are today. Some of the people I saw this past weekend included Les Paul, Nile Rogers, Bob Ludwig, and Phil Ramone. It was both very humbling and inspiring to be in the presence of such renowned and influential talent.
DAY 1 – The Arrival: I arrived mid afternoon of what was already a bustling scene. I decided to check out the exhibit floor to see if there were any new products that I could drool over for my project studio. My dream in life is to own and operate a state-of-the-art recording studio specializing in producing and recording rock music. I visited microphone companies such as Sennheiser, AKG, and Shure; drooled over consoles from SSL and Euphonix; and learned about products like the VTC Tube Console from TL Audio (Which the Gorillaz and Coldplay used to record their new albums). After browsing the exhibits for a few hours, I called it a day and planned out which seminars and workshops I wanted to attend the following day.
DAY 2 Day two found me bouncing from large conference rooms to even larger conference rooms. The highlight of this day was a seminar entitled, “Grammy Sound Table: The Enduring Legacy of Power Station Studios.” This seminar featured some big names in the recording business discussing a studio which they had made popular in the 70s and 80s; Power Station Studio. Located in downtown New York, this studio defined what was to be called, “The New York Sound.” During it’s time, Power Station recorded the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Chic, Aerosmith, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Madonna an dyes, it was where the 80s band Power Station got their name. The engineers that spoke for this seminar, and the guys responsible for the albums from the seminal artists mentioned above, included Tony Bongiovi, Bob Clearmountain, Neil Dorfsman, and Nile Rodgers. What really inspired me the most about hearing these guys talk was not just the fact that they had worked with such legendary artists, but the way they acted and worked with each other. I was impressed with their simplistic approach to recording and instead of having a bunch of fancy, overpriced gear, they created this studio with the idea of, “Design a good studio with great acoustics, and you won’t need all the digital reverbs and delays and effects.” It was a breath of fresh air, especially in a convention overwhelmed by technology. To hear these legendary engineers say that if you design things well and take your time, you really don’t need all of the pricey technology. However….
DAY 3 – Back To Browsing The Pricey Gear! The third day found the convention winding down for me and I spent most of Sunday going back through the exhibitions and asking a few more questions and taking a few more fliers. I also checked out a seminar on mastering hosted by Bob Ludwig of Sterling Sound fame. But mastering seems like more of a black art to me, so I mainly listened to try to get some little nuggets of advice.
Looking back on the 123rd AES Convention I had a lot of great experiences. I met a lot of the “big wigs” in the recording game, heard a lot of exciting new things, and saw some downright amazing new pieces of gear. Feel free to ask me about any of my experiences when you see me in the shop. And if you’re a student or customer of Progressive and are interested in living the dream of studio work, chat with me about how you can get started and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see each other on the floor of an AES Convention!
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