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April 11, 2000

"KEEP THE SUITS AWAY"

Can Computer Technology Break Music Industry's Control of Musicians?

With the music industry fixated on the almighty dollar and dominated by acts that appeal to the teen market, what chance does a forty-something who wants to carry on an American musical tradition have in getting heard? That's why Warren Wolf and an increasing number of musicians are looking to computer technology to "keep the suits away" to regain artistic freedom in recording music.

Warren Wolf, aficionado of rockabilly and student of Chuck Berry and Chet Atkins from Mobile, Alabama, said he decided on the idea to release some rockabilly music updated with a 2000 attitude about two months ago. Not being able to fork over some large bills to pay for a recording session -- as if he had the backing of a record contract -- Warren turns to Timmy Dennis.

Timmy, a recording engineer who owns his studio, uses the PC-base Cubase for recording and editing music. Even though it is taking him just as long now to record and edit music than before because he has only recently acquired the computer software, Timmy says he can do more: "What would normally cost thousands of dollars can now be had at three to four hundred dollars." Timmy says, "it's not only getting cheaper but also better quality. You can do things that you can’t do before.

"You can have as many channels as the computer can hold, and I have 30-plus channels," Timmy explains, "and with fewer wires involved, that cuts down on noises." In the digital age, you can even create the "old" sound of analog, Timmy says. "But you still need to get a good take."

Warren says he knows exactly what he wants done in the recording studio and has rehearsed numerous times before going in to cut down on recording time. Warren says he probably will get the whole project completed around $1000, including producing the CDs, "burning one at a time” if necessary to meet demands from mail order or otherwise, in a just-in-time mode made possible by the advances in CD technology. Another computer-base technology, MP3, could be the savior to Warren and other recording artists to break the music industry's chokehold on music distribution.

According to Jon Wells, a computer programmer who says he is "part of a new army of MP3.com,” Internet distribution "empowers the musician to go around the music industry. It allows the musicians to retain their publishing rights and to sell the CDs directly to the public." Jon explains that musicians can get 50 percent of the gross profit from MP3 technology; plus they don't have to sell their rights. "Musicians will be lucky if they get $1 for a $10 CD," he says. MP3 is also good for consumers too, Jon says; "You can put 15 CDs in one regular-size CD and still gets the same quality."

Jon says MP3.com now handles over 100 genres of music, with the categories divided by region, state, and city. But because there is no restriction -- "anyone can get in" -- Jon says the quality of the performance of some of the downloads is less than desirable. Currently there are over 80 songs from Mobile available on MP3.com, including comedy.

Warren says he is thankful to Bill Gates for the computer technology that made it all possible for him to release his music. He plans to send a copy of his CD, Buzz With Me, to Bill Gates when it is completed, which he hopes will be in another week. A song in the CD, "PC Baby," contains a reference to Bill Gates.

-- ET


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