Going Straight Week 5: Live vs Reaper

At the very beginning of this endeavour the most important question was asked right at the very start: What DAW?

Having used Ableton’s Live for three or four years and Cubase for a year before that, Live was certainly the obvious choice. Sadly this genius software comes in at £300 so the knee jerk reaction no. A quick shout goes out to the Fwonk* collective and Heskin comes back with the suggestions of Reaper.

Cockos Reaper has been going from strength to strength in recent year from an (apparently) fairly simple and iffy start it has from a large and enthusiastic following as a fully fledged MIDI and audio handling DAW. Top of its selling points is its price, $60 (with a couple of stipulations that mean that if you are Madonna or Simon Cowell then it costs $225.) The other great thing is that the 30 day trail that you can download is actually the complete and unrestrained version of the DAW, not a limited and annoying half arsed version of it.

I used it to put together a couple of tunes for my Perniciem project and it works really, really well. I didn’t attempt anything fancy with it to be honest, purely programming midi via the piano roll, chucking in the VSTs and automating various elements. The problem I had was the ‘flow’ of things. This isn’t entirely Reapers fault. At the moment 80% of my music making is done on my laptop at work during lunch. After I’ve made and eaten my Marmite crackers and given my lady-wife a ring that gives me exactly 37 minutes to get on and make some noise.

What I don’t have time to do is figure out a brand new DAW. Especially as I have trained myself in the way of Live, i.e. point at some thing and right click it and make it happen. This isn’t the Reaper way, I suspect Reaper has more in common with ‘proper’ DAWs like Cubase and Logic and FL Studio which I’m sure is a good thing if that’s the way you like to work.

I however like the Live way of working, it just kinda ‘works’.

I am not in any way knocking Reaper, I reckon it must be the best ‘My First DAW’ around, it looks great and I am told is capable of everything the big boys are (minus the massive lump of bundled samples) and if you learn its workflow as the work flow defacto then all would be well in the world.

But for me, to unlearn all I learned in Live was not ideal.

This got me looking in to the availability of second hand Live Licences and in three weeks of looking I only found one. It was on Sound on Sound’s ‘readers ads’ bit. Well worth a look actually quite a few bits that you won’t get on eBay there. But the chap was selling it as a bundle with some other stuff I didn’t want or need. I think the general consensus is that once you have Live then you stick with it and just upgrade.

Next step was to look at Live Intro, the cut down version. At £89 it had me sold. Okay so you are limited to 6 VSTi per project and only 6 VST effects per project but there’s always work arounds, the freeze function is still enabled and so worst ways, bounce down the track and load into a new project, no massive hardship I reckon. And so it was that as I when to click on the add to basket button I spotted something good. Something very tempting..

Ableton 7. Old stock. £189.00… Hmmm..

I spent a week trying to make up my mind, 200 quid is a LOT of money to spend in one go for me. But then I got to thinking about this properly. The DAW is the hub, the epicentre of your potential musical magnificence! By the time one has finished buying mixing desk, VST and VSTi, stomp boxes for guitar, leads, keyboard, synth and all the other extra gubbins you can get then it’ll all have added up to more than £200. Surely it makes sense to spend the money on the thing that connects them all, even if it is to the detriment of the fancy extras you had your eye on.

There’s no reason why Live 7 couldn’t last me for years. If I don’t have to upgrade for four years then it’s still less than fifty quid a year, my old website and domain was 60 quid and I knocked that on the head this year! Decision made I dived back onto my new best friends DV247’s website and placed my order. And got the last copy available!

It arrived last week. It’s a big box, nice thick manual (maybe I can finally learn the right way to do things) and stickers. Stickers! Woohoo!

So in conclusion: I think I would say that while I could have been very happy with the really quite brilliant £30(ish) Reaper had I had the time or inclination to change, I got lazy n spunked an extra £150. Glad I did it though, have been smiling all week.

Also that patience is a virtue…

NEXT WEEK: The cheapest Analogue Synth out there (hopefully with audio clips).

Going Straight: Week 3 – The Dream and the Fulfilment

Balham, a little while before the turn of The Millenium.

This was the first time I had moved out of home and my life is a haze of Northern Lights and Squishy Black. Doves, Mitzubishi and Red Bulls cost 15 quid a pop, I go clubbing at Heaven, Tennents Super actually tastes nice and “music is my life man!” The music I am obsessing over is The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Nine Inch Nails and I’ve Just heard Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy for the first time. My band mates have all buggered off to Uni and I can’t be arsed to find new ones so it is at this point I think Dance Music is the way forward. Guitar and Peavy amp mothballed in Ma n Pa’s attic, I trundle into the nearest WH Smiths and pick up the latest Music Tech Magazine (or it might have been Future Music.. not sure).

Adorning the front in glorious red and blue are KORG’s EA-1 and ER-1 Electribes. I fall in love with the look before I even know what they do, the CD given away with the mag has some samples and they sound just so.. so good! This surely is the heart, the squeal and chainsaw buzz of the music I love! (at this point I had no idea what a 303 was).

I then read the price tag: £350. So not gonna happen. I only just maxed out my first credit card on an N64 and Turok two years ago and really can’t do that again.

Upon further investigation it looks like you also kinda need a PC to do all this Dance Music malarkey and I don’t have one of them either. So I buy the mags for a while, read the articles and looks at all the pretty pictures (keep hold of the cover discs just in case, for later) but slowly the plan dies and I get distracted. The glowing and flashing KORGs get forgotten.

Fast forward a decade, three kids, a wife, a mortgage and a beer gut or so and we find ourselves on eBay again staring at this blue thing with buttons on it. And a wheel. And some pads that look suspiciously like they may glow in the dark… a quick internet search later and my heart leaps! Flashback!

This is the lead/acid synth I was looking for!

There are a steady flow of these going throught eBay it seems and they tend to be on Buy It Now for about £150. Some patience however can (as ever) reap dividends. After a fortnight of looking I found one on a 99p start that ended on a Tuesday morning(!?!) and snapped it up for 70 quid. 70 quid!!

It’s pretty knackered to be honest, scratched and dented to fuckery and some of the pots are a bits sticky but by God does it sound special. My first two hours were spent just playing with the cut off and res on all the pre-sets grining stupidly to myself. “Lookameee! Josh Winks!”

I’m just waiting for the wife and kids (and maybe neighbours) to all be out so I can run it through my Boss ‘Metal Zone’ distortion pedal. Hehehe, hehehehheeee.

NEXT WEEK: Second Hand Software.

Tutorial Thursday: Obtaining Rights To Release a Cover Song Online

This week I’m sort of piggyback on Vasko’s excellent Going Straight series, which discusses the ins and outs of trying to do your electronic music in an honest and ethical way. (Full disclosure: Bachelor Machines uses 100% paid for gear at the moment, but like most [ed: all?] electronic artists, I didn’t start out that way either.) This week on Tutorial Thursday I’m going to talk about how to go legit on a different front: I’m going to talk about getting permission to release a cover version of someone else’s song.

Before we get in too deep, let’s talk about the four different kinds of permissions or “rights” that come into play when using another artist’s work. This will get really complicated for a moment and then it will get beautifully simple, so please be patient, I will wake you up when I get to the good part.

Also: the legalities discussed in this article refer to musical activities inside the United States. I don’t know how this works in other countries, hopefully Fwonkers from other countries will contribute to the comments thread.

  1. The first one you usually hear about is the right to use another person’s recording in your recording, i.e. sampling. This is called Master Use rights. Acquiring Master Use rights for a song allows you to use that song’s sounds in your song. If you don’t acquire those rights for the song, you don’t legally have permission and you’re technically liable for damages if you sample the record. That’s irrespective of how much money you make using the sample, by the way. The Master Use rights are held by the person that owns that master recording; typically, this will be the record label.

    Getting Master Use rights for a recording can be a convoluted and expensive process.
    But we’re not here to talk about sampling. =)

  2. The second one you usually hear about is Performing Rights. These are the rights that radio stations pay for, to artists and publishers when they play the song in public. Technically, bars and other venues pay for these rights as well. These are typically paid to the artist and publisher via their Performance Rights Organization (ASCAP and BMI in the USA). The radio station will have an ongoing reporting relationship with the PROs and the artist gets paid as a percentage of whatever the station is paying to the PRO.
  3. Third up, we’ve got Synchronization Rights, which are paid for by TV stations and motion picture studios for syncing the music to picture and then broadcasting it, either via television or via physical media. (In the US, due to a tragic legal decision back in the 40s, public performances of theatrical works garner no royalties for any musician, oddly enough.) These can be very, very lucrative for artists if they can get their tunes onto a TV show. Like Performing Rights, Sync Rights are typically administered via a PRO (so, if you think your music is going to be on TV, you should join a PRO right away.)
  4. Lastly – and this is the one that we’re talking about today – we’ve got Mechanical Rights. Gaining these rights grants you the permission to press a recording of a song to a new thing – the thing could be a digital download, or it could be a CD, or it could be sheet music, or whatever. If I wanted to sell a CD with your recording of your song on it, I would need to get both Master Use rights (for permission to use your recording) and Mechanical rights (for permission to make a CD using a song that you wrote). Mechanical rights are paid to the songwriter and the publisher of the song.

Ok, that was the long, boring part! Here’s where it gets interesting again.

In order to record a cover and do whatever you want with it, you have to acquire the song’s Mechanical Rights to do so. If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought “well, I would like to do that but jeez, I’d have to call some label’s lawyer and I’d have to pay some huge amount of money and, dang. That sounds like a lot of work. How about I DON’T? That sounds like the best plan.” And I think a lot of digital artists think the same way.

But now I’ve got a problem. I’m almost done with a new track and I think it’s pretty awesome, I’m excited about it. But, the song is a cover. Sooooo, I was thinking about Vasko’s articles again and I wondered just how difficult and how expensive a process this would be, if I wanted to make this song available to stream on Soundcloud and/or let people buy it on Bandcamp…

It takes about ten minutes and it costs a penny* per listen.

Watch the video to see how it works:

As mentioned in the video, the Harry Fox Agency is the organization that handles mechanical licenses for most music sold within the United States. They’ve created an online “shopping cart”-style interface called Songfile which makes it just stupidly easy and painless to authorize yourself to provide a limited number (< 10,000) of streams and/or digital downloads (< 2,500) of other artists' songs online at extremely reasonable prices. If you find yourself needing more than 2,500 downloads or 10,000 streams for a cover version of a song that you did, please let me know, so I can start asking you for advice.

Bachelor Machines

*Harry Fox Agency takes a $15 per transaction fee to set up the deal, which is still practically free when you consider that you used to have to hire a lawyer to get this stuff accomplished.

Going Straight: Week 2 – The Plan and The Purchase

..and so it was that having decided to rid myself and my HDD of this illegal filth I thought I’d get all James May on the task and try and go about replacing all my bits and bobs in a sensible, logical and cost effective manner.

As discussed briefly before, it looked like Reaper is going to be the way forward as far as a DAW was concerned and to that end I have set aside some PayPal balance for it to be purchased later this month after my 30 trial runs out.

I though the best way to organise my shopping list was to look at my most commonly used bits of kits and find specific replacements. I’ve been flogging stuff on eBay over the last month and had gotten together a bit under 300 quid so had a half decent budget I reckoned.

While I have nothing against freeware I had my heart set on owning a couple of ‘big brand’ bits if I could and so it was back onto eBay and checking out what second hand stuff their might be. Turns out there’s a steady flow of it if you are patient. Of course they joy of ‘second hand’ software is that (barring scratched discs and registration problems) there is nothing second hand about it! As long as you are happy with a slightly battered box (fnarr) then there really is no point in buying it brand new… is there?

I was also in a mind to buy some of the stuff from the people I had previously not given any money to. If you know what I mean. The whole ‘try before you buy’ ethos perhaps actually ringing true.

With this in mind I started my search for the first thing on my list:

Primary lead/acid and bass syth.

I have used Rob Papen’s Albino 2 and 3 on probably every track I have ever made. Simple layout, obvious controls, easy to learn and the best arpeggiator I have ever used.

Sadly there was no second hand Albino software that I found and brand new it costs a hundred quid or more and I didn’t want to spend that. What I did find on my search was an LE edition of Blue! I had tried Blue a while back and I didn’t remember it being particularly ‘lead synth’ material but that it had some great pads and really intricate and delicate stuff on it. It’s an FM synth and so not directly comparable to Albino but I like Papen’s stuff so well worth a punt at £35 (+ £6 p&p….).

Anyway having used Albino, SubBoomBass and the awesomely evil Predator for a while nowI though maybe I owed him some of my 300 squid!


So first purchased made: Rob Pappen’s Blue LE.

The LE edition looks pretty much like this but has fewer presets and also fewer editable parameters.


NEXT WEEK: Primary Lead Synth yearnings still not utterly sated.. Hardware!!


Going Straight: Week 1 – Intervention

So stealing is easy and 99% of my three thousand pound studio is warez.

Last week this was true, this week it is not.

Gone is the (nearly) entire Native Instruments back catalogue, gone is Fabfilters entire range, gone is the lovely, lovely ‘Vintage Warmer 2’, gone is CamelPhat and CamelSpace and gone too is Sonnox’s powerful ‘Inflater’.

Perhaps most importantly though, gone is Ableton Live, the DAW I have been using exclusively for the last three or four years.

It’s probably worth me pointing out at this point that this isn’t a moral crusade that I’m trying to push. I’m not telling you WAREZ IS EVIL, purely that for me, I’m wanting to leave it behind. The main reason being that my kids are getting older and I’m thinking at some point they are gonna ask me where all this fun stuff on the PC comes from and I like to be able to tell them that I worked hard and saved for it and bought it. Not that I nicked it. I’m a lead-by-example kinda guy. But as I say, this is just me on my own personal mission, no preachy, preachy here, move along now!

Before I abandoned Live entirely I spent a week or so searching eBay for second hand copies of old versions, I was perfectly happy to use version 5 or 6, I don’t use half the clever stuff anyway, basic is good. It seems however that once you fork out for Ableton then you are sold for life, upgrade all the way baby so no second hand to be found.

So it was that the cry of ‘help’ went out to the Fwonk* forum and Cockos Reaper was suggested. It’s an affordable, fully fledged audio sequencer, with all the routing options of the big boys, only with none of the gigabytes worth of sample libraries. I’ve been playing with it for a little while no and all indications are good. Utterly different.. but good. I am gonna have another week with it before I give you a more complete opinion so watch this space.

Mondays’ Going Straight then is going to be me trying to replace all my nice shiny stolen goods with honest to goodness cheap or free stuff, hopefully this will be interesting and informative. Fingers crossed eh?