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Compression #6 - over-compression 

With audio technology becoming more and more sophisticated, and the advent of digital audio in particular, some limitations of the analog world stopped being an issue and compressors and compression techniques started to be more and more used to try and grab the listeners’ attention.

We said before that given two identical sounds, if one is played louder it will sound better to our ears. There’s probably some anthropological explanation but the fact is that play something quiet, then follow it by something else louder and most listeners will prefer the louder part…

This is why compression was used more and more during airplay on TV and radio to try and bring out the commercials at a louder level than the movie or songs played before and after, as an attempt to capture the attention of the listeners.

The loudness war

Audio engineers and studios caught up with that idea and started to apply more and more compression to songs during the mastering phase. This is why most of the digital remasters done during the 90s for CD re-release were more compressed than the original. This went so far that it’s been coined “the loudness war” (more compression = more overall loudness).

For example, let’s have a look at a graph comparing an original with 2 remastered re-issues:

You can clearly see that the amount of compression applied went totally crazy. Now the problem with that is that a lot of details of the original were lost in the process. A lot of the transients were leveled, and everything is basically at the same level… There is a huge loss of dynamics (the difference between the loud parts and the quiet parts), when dynamics is what makes music. It’s hard to appreciate something loud all the time, it’s better if the music is flowing and there are ups and downs, quiets and louds…

Another thing to realize is that over-compression is fatiguing to the ears.

Remember that sound is basically air waves that are expanding and contracting and finally trapped by our ears. So, increasing the compression increases the air pressure sent into our ears. This can sound more immediately pleasing but in the long run it creates an ear fatigue that is pretty damaging and just plain boring.

In the next episode we’ll wrap up with some final thoughts about compression and why you should care. See you then!

Compression #5 - parameters 

We’ve seen that a compressor is acting based on a threshold (of Amplitude) to know when it should start compressing. We’ve also seen that with a gain control we can rise the output level of the whole signal after compression.

Let’s have a look at 3 other parameters that are going to change the way compression works: attack time, release time, and ratio.

Attack time

The first one, attack time allows to dial how fast a compressor is going to react to signal that is over the threshold. It can be very long (up to 500 milliseconds for some) or extremely short (down to 1 nanosecond). Changing the attack time will mostly change the way the attack of a sound will be treated. This is where we can say to a compressor: as soon as you hear a transient over the threshold you need to reduce it, or we can say, take your time to let the transient play over the threshold before you reduce the sound. So, in effect we can reduce the transients or emphasizes them relative to the sustain of the sound using that parameter.

For example, let’s look at a typical snare sound again, this whole sound will take 480 ms to ring, now if we setup an attack time to 220 ms we allow the attack/transient of the snare to pass through, but we reduce it’s sustain, so we make the snare sound ‘thinner’ which is the opposite of our example of last week, where we’ve reduced the attack/transient (with a fast attack), then added some gain to the whole signal to make it sound “fatter”.


Release time

The next parameter of a compressor is the release time, and it will tell the compressor how much time it will take before getting back to normal (letting the signal untouched). Dialing the release time is often used in EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to make the whole sound ‘pump’ (go up and down) in rhythm with the tempo, because it can be used to reduce the sound for a certain time between each new beat.

In general, if you want a compressor to act more naturally, you will want to dial a shorter release time, but it’s often dialed according to the tempo for the reason above. The longer the release time, the more compressed the overall sound will be, but if the release time is too short comparatively to the sustain and the beat, it will give the effect of sound levels pumping up and down, also too short release (not leaving time to the compressor to stop compressing) can create audio artifacts and too much pressure.


The next parameter that is important to define how a compressor is going to process sound is the ratio.
The ratio is expressed as 2 numbers like 2:1 or 5:1 or more. The second number is always one, but the first number defines of how much decibels the compressor will reduce the sound for each decibel over the threshold. It is a divider.

A radio of 1:1 there’s no compression. For 1 dB of input there will be 1 dB of output. With a ratio of 2:1 when a sound is 2 dB over the threshold, it will be reduced to 1 dB, if it is 8 dB over the threshold, it will be reduced to 4 dB , if a sound is 1 dB above the threshold, it will be reduced to 0.5 dB . With a ratio of 5:1, a signal at 10 dB over the threshold will be reduced to 2 dB.


When the ratio is over 20:1 up to infinity:1 we’re talking about limiting. At infinity:1 this is also called brick-wall limiting, because no signal over the threshold will be able to pass (depending on the attack time some transients might be able to pass through briefly, but they will be reduced to the threshold level as soon as the attack – wait – time is over).

The ratio is an essential parameter, it defines how hard a compressor will compress the sound.

(Some advanced compressors also have a knee parameter, that defines how much of the compression is to happen around the threshold, allowing the compression to bleed bleed under it to avoid any sharp difference between compressed and uncompressed sound. But this is really advanced and its effect is subtle enough that it shouldn’t be a concern in radio land anyway)

As we’ve seen before it can be beneficial to compress a sound, so high compression is not necessarily a bad thing, it does change the sound though, and this is where the issue can arise, especially when it happens in radio land where the sound is supposed to have been dialed as best as possible in the mixing and mastering stages already…

More about that in our next episode where we’ll look at the disastrous effects of compression and limiting.

Compression #4 - usage 

We talked about the main components of a sound when it comes to Time and Amplitude: Attack (or Transients) and Sustain. Then we examined how the sound is stored in digital land and how we cannot go over 0 dB.

So, a compressor will be essential to store (and reproduce) more significant sounds without distorting. Making sure nothing goes over it, and making sure every sound that we want to hear is pushed forward enough within the absolute limit.

A compressor’s main purpose is to reduce the Amplitude (level) of a sound during its lifetime.

You can think of it as a fader or volume control, but one that is automatic and can act extremely quickly, reducing the level of the sound at various phases, depending on a few parameters…

Evening out levels

This can be very useful for sounds that vary a lot, like a vocal for example… It’s not unusual for a vocal to have a lot of variation in amplitude, even during of one single vocal line. For example, look at this vocal take:

Compression here is going to help evening out the performance by lowering the highest parts (the peaks) … Once everything is at a similar level we can then make the whole thing louder and upfront as it should be in a song.

If we tried to raise the level of this sequence as a whole, to bring out the lowest parts, the highest parts would go over the limit of 0 dB, so they would be clipped and distort (the nasty sort of distortion). By first lowering the highest part (evening out the whole sequence) with a compressor, we can then raise the level of the sequence without going over the limit and without distortion!

This is the typical and simplest way to use a compressor. And it’s used A LOT during the mixing phase.

Fattening a sound

Now, another way to use a compressor will be to even out the difference between the attack and the sustain inside a single sound/a single note (not a whole performance like above), making it appear “fatter”. How so?

Remember that a compressor can act very very fast (some modern compressors can see the peaks before they even appear and play – it’s called look-ahead -, and they can react in mere nanoseconds), so it can act during the lifetime of a single note at a time, and this is where it will be used to alter the sound and make it fatter.

Let’s see how this goes. First, you need to understand one of the main parameters of a compressor which is its threshold. The threshold is the volume level over which a compressor will start acting. The picture below should tell you what a threshold is:

Everything that is over the threshold will be processed by the compressor. Everything under it will stay untouched. So, with the threshold parameter, we can tell the compressor which parts it should work (reduce) on and which ones it should leave alone.

Let’s have look at a typical snare hit before compression:

If we were trying to make this snare hit louder as it is, it could go over 0 dB which is not desirable.

But if we apply a fast compression, we can reduce the attack peaks, like this:

You can see that the threshold was set so that the Attack of the snare was reduced relative to its sustain (which was left untouched). Now, because the attack has been reduced, we can actually make the whole sound louder and it will not distort. If we do so now (using another parameter of the compressor, called gain which is applied AFTER the reduction and will raise the overall output level), it will look like this:

The initial attack is back roughly to where it was, but notice that the sustain has been made louder, thus making the snare sound “fatter”!

Next time we’ll look at some other usage of a compressor and a few other parameters that are used to alter a sound, mainly attack time, release time and ratio. Then we’ll talk about limiting. And finally, we’ll talk about loudness, the loudness war and why it’s important to know about it. See you then!

Compression #3 - digital sound 

To understand one crucial role of compression, which is to avoid digital clipping, you also need to understand a little bit(!) how sound is stored and processed in digital land.

Then and now

In analog land, when music was stored on tape and vinyl, the sound waves were truly waves, and they were captured and played by components that could reproduce the air pressure that is truly the nature of sound. Waves were at the start, they were stored as waves and reproduced as waves…

The digital revolution has changed that. We are now storing sounds (and images and anything on a computer) as bits: 0s and 1s. There’s no real in between (at least until quantum computers are mainstream but that’s another story!)

Storing sound

The way a wave is stored on a computer is by cutting it into discrete pieces of information usually by grouping 8, 16, 24 or 32 (and even 64) bits together. These are called bytes and they can store a maximum range of information, no more, no less. For 8 bits, we can store 28 values, so between 0 and 255. For 16 bits, 216 so 0 to 65535, etc.

A sound is stored by analyzing a wave in time and determining its amplitude, from 0 to x (depending on the number of bits used). The sample rate will determine how fast that analysis happens, it’s called “sampling” (taking a sample of the amplitude of a sound at a given time and storing it in a byte).


Typically, a sound from a CD is sampled with 16 bits at 44.1khz, meaning there will be 44100 values (ranging from 0 to 65535) per second. There are all sorts of other sample rates and bit rates, but let’s keep it at that as our reference. Just know that the higher the sample rate and the closer the bits of discrete information are, thus more capable of a smoother reproduction of the initial sound wave. The higher the bit rate and the more discrete differences in amplitude (dynamics) we can store*.
But know that the 44100 range values between 0 and 65535 per second are more than capable of reproducing the waves that our ears are able to discern (that is unless you truly have golden ears, which might be the case of a truly gifted 0.000001% of the world population).

* The 16-bit compact disc has a theoretical un-dithered dynamic range of about 96 dB, however, the perceived dynamic range of 16-bit audio can be 120 dB or more with noise-shaped dither, an advance technique taking advantage of the frequency response of the human ear.

As you can see from the picture above, the values of the waves are transformed into discrete little samples, and these sample will only be able to store up to a maximum amplitude value. This maximum value is called 0 dB. dB is short for decibel and it’s the measure of amplitude of a sound (to note that it is not a linear scale, but a logarithmic one: A difference of 3 dB in a sound is generally perceived by the human ear as twice louder).
Every measure of sound level is always minus something… 0 dB being the absolute a sound can be stored, in 16 bits, it is going to be the value 65535. We go from 0 (which is -infinity) to 65535 (which is 0 dB).


In digital land, there’s no way we can store more than 0 dB, because a byte of 16 bit will not be able to store more than that value of 65535. If a sound goes over this limit, it will be “clipped” meaning its value will still be stored as 65535.

This was not the case in analog land, when we were pushing an amplifier, it was distorting the sound but in a way that we’ve become accustomed to, what some people call the “warmth” of analog sound, this is especially true of tube amplifiers which were overheating and distorting the sound in very pleasing way. Of course, if you were truly going over a certain level you could also blow your amplifier and get a nasty sort of distortion. But in general, you could achieve a great sound with distortion, and indeed this has been used to great effect by every guitarist in the rock world, as Jimi Hendrix could have told you!

Now the problem is that in digital land, you cannot really push a sound over the limit, it will just be “clipped” and the result of it is a nasty sort of distortion that is not at all pleasing to the ears. Think high pitch noise that could come from a robot in a bad sci-fi movie, or something that is more like white noise and hissing dirt in your ears, not at all pleasing.

All of this to say that one crucial role of compression will be to avoid clipping and digital distortion. We will see in a next part how this is achieved with some audio example as well… stay tuned!

Compression - part 1 

Compression is a great tool! When used during mixing and mastering especially, it has many uses. But during airplay it’s very rarely beneficial, especially when you have no idea what you’re doing…

A land of confusion

But when talking about compression, the first thing we need to define is what type of compression we’re going to look at. Because when it comes to audio, there are 2 types of compression that people might talk about. Welcome to the land of confusion! Hopefully, I’ll be able to help clear things up a little bit…

The first type of compression is the one we’re going to look at in details. It is the one used during mixing, mastering and also during airplay. It affects the audio directly, and you might see it referred to as dynamic range compression. Another term that we’re going to see used for compression is limiting (or even brick-wall limiting), which is nothing else but audio compression with extreme settings.

File compression

The second type of compression that you might hear about is file compression. This is the difference between a .wav (or .aif) file and a mp3 for example.

There are various types of file compression, some are lossless (because they will not affect the sound in the end, no information will be lost because these formats will be de-compressed when played) others are lossy (some information is lost during the compression process).

Think of lossless as a zip file. It is a compressed file, but you can always decompress it and get the contained files intact after the process. Lossy compression though will remove some information based on clever algorithms that analyze the sound to get rid of whatever is deemed non-essential to reproduce it. It’s based on the physics of how we perceive sound and what frequencies are more important than others, and on various other factors. How much the sound is compressed with lossy compression depends on the bitrate per second, measured in kbps (Kilo Bits Per Second), the maximum for mp3 being 320kbps, which is almost (but not quite) lossless.

So, in audio land you can have:

  1. raw files (not compressed at all), like .wav or .aif 
  2. lossless files like .flac or .ogg 
  3. lossy files like .mp3 or .aac

Although lossy compression affects the sound (and the lower the bitrate the more it will), this is not what we’re going to look at. The reason being that most radios will play at a rate of 128 kbps or 192 kbps (some use 64 kbps which is hardly listenable), and although of course this means a loss in quality compared to raw files (for 128 kbps it can mean as much as 90% of the initial information lost), it is bound to the bandwidth they have, that bandwidth itself being based on how much they pay and how many listeners the stream provider can support at that rate. So, in short, there’s not much they can do about it…

What online radios can work on to improve the quality of their sound is the first type of compression, which is audio compression (and limiting). So, this is mainly what we’re going to examine in detail, in the hope that it will give everyone a clue as to what they hear and whether too much compression is damaging it… 

Tune in next week to start diving into the wonderful world of audio compression!

Compress or impress? 


There’s a lot of misconceptions about compression, how it works, how it affects the sound, what are the benefits and how to use compression (or avoid it) in mixes but also during airplay. What’s the “loudness war”? What are the standard nowadays? How can compression damage the sound?

Routinely, I hear radios who are over-compressing, actually limiting, tunes that have already been compressed and limited during the mixing and mastering phase. This doesn’t help the sound, in fact it’s badly hurting it! Add to the fact that most internet radios and podcasts are streaming at 128 kbps which is quite a low bit rate, already damaging the sound, and you get a lot of shows where the sound is pretty atrocious.

This week, I was also asked my opinion on a tune that is to be released for Xmas and is supposed to be a cover of a pop song, I was surprised to hear such an amount of compression and limiting in that tune that it was sounding more like Metallica in its worst days than a light-hearted pop tune for a young audience… that mixing and mastering engineers made such mistake in their assessment of the amount of compression for the genre is rather disturbing.

This really made me think that I should try and write a few articles on compression, what it means, what it can do, how it can help the sound but also how it can damage the sound irreversibly. Dynamics is a vast subject and very misunderstood, even by some novice sound engineers (and apparently some seasoned ones!) and indeed by a lot of radio hosts as well.

Now, the trick will be to find a way to explain this complex subject with something anyone can understand. I’m thinking of a “compression for dummies” kind of refreshing course in a series of articles… If I can pull that off, maybe this will help radios (and even listeners) recognize the effect of over-compression and make them strive for a better/more natural sound.



I confess that I’m affected by a rare new disease, and I’m afraid it’s incurable. It started developing when I realized how much streaming platforms were the true enemy of indie music and artists.

I tried to get away from it, as I wrote in a previous blog where I said I was opting out and told my reasons for it. But it looks like it was not enough.

BTW, I’m talking about Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer, Pandora, you know, these platforms who strive by screwing artists from their royalties, right? Surely, you’ve heard of them?

For those of you who don’t know yet, they are the ones who would make you believe that the pipes are more important than the water you use, the cables more important than the electricity, the plate more important than the food, the server, software and network more important than the content. Because from what they are paying the content owners, it sure is what they mean.

Now it got to a point where the more I receive these kinds of links, - be it in DM from bands I just followed, or in my stream, or anywhere really -, the less I see them… I think I am at the last stage of streamyopia! Meaning I’m afraid I will no longer be able to repost/share any of these links anymore, sorry! I might still love the bands/artists who are pushing them, but I cannot help my blindness, so I call it a change of perspective instead.

Actually the only links I see are to bands’ websites, or radios and shows and blogs and supporters of indie music, these look crystal clear to me, so I will keep posting them and sharing them and pushing them as much as I can.

Who knows? We’re still in the early discoveries of this affection but it might be contagious! Now wouldn’t it be something?

Pick of the week 

Starting this Wednesday I will appear on KB Radio “The House Party” during the indie show that airs from 8pm EST to midnight.

For those of you who don’t know KB Radio and this particular show, its motto “What Radio Used To Be” sums it up nicely: it is a radio that air great music 24/7 like it used to be. With a veteran host, Al Yardy, who cares deeply about music and has decided to share his passion all over the globe animating shows with his legendary laid back approach that is sure to please all listeners.

The indie show itself is 4 hours of interview, new indie submissions, top 10 charts and fun banter on twitter. You have to be there to believe it, it truly is "The House Party"! :)

I’ve been in touch with Al for a while because we share a similar vision (and taste) when it comes to indie music and I proposed to do a short segment every Wednesday where I will introduce a new song every week. Al graciously embraced the idea. I will choose a song from an artist that has not been played on KB Radio but that I believe should be heard, it might also be a deep cut/different song from an artist/band that is already familiar to KB Radio listeners.

I hope this will give KB Radio listeners a taste of some more great music to discover. To that effect, I will host a page here on my website where I will put links to the artists/bands I presented, for you to follow and explore.

The Extreme Tour 


WARNING: I haven't had any direct experience with these guys, except for a couple email exchanges. It looks like they are asking for a submission fee for an audition which I'm not sure I agree with, but they justify it in their FAQ. See the exchanges below in the comments with a few artists who have been dealing with them one way or another and make your own opinion...

A little while ago, I’ve received an email from the “Extreme Tour” to perform and take part in their worldwide tour, they said they were researching artists and came across my website… The irony of it is that, as I’ve said before, I don’t gig and have absolutely no intention to do so.

First, I’m a recording artist, and my pleasure is in writing, arranging, recording, producing, mixing in my studio. I’m a studio rat, and this will likely never change. Add to that the fact that since I’m performing all the instruments it would be a little bit difficult to do on stage. And quite frankly I’m not one to do simple acoustic/vocal tunes either. It’s just not my thing.

So, I was sorry to have to decline the opportunity, especially when I learned a bit more about what these people are doing. They propose to make the world a better place with indie music. I mean that is pretty great a goal and I’m all for it, really, so I decided that I would support them any way I could.I thought that it would be a good to write this blog post to point this out to other artists that could be interested.

The idea is that they create events all over the globe, inviting indie musicians to take part and perform. All the proceeds of these concerts go to help local communities and especially associations that aim to “reach at-risk and counter culture youth with services and resources that would assist them in making positive, as well as healthy, decisions for a successful life”. I’d say that a worthy cause.

As artists, you would not get paid for these concerts, but you would get “food and lodging provided for at each performance date”, and you can decide what dates and what places you can/want to go to. So as well as doing a good deed and not being out of your pocket for it, you could perhaps also find a new audience at these events!

So if anyone is interested, I suppose the best is for you to check the Extreme Tour web site - they have a FAQ page that should explain things better than I do, then you can apply online here or contact them via email for more information at

Eclectic Underground 

Today I thought it was time to tell you about the Eclectic Underground

I have always said everywhere that I was proud and happy to be independent. Meaning no label is going to tell me what music I should record, no producer is going to tell me how it should sound, no one but me is responsible for the music I do.

I cherish that freedom and would not trade it for all the fame and money of the world. As an artist I want to be able to explore my own ways, my own sounds, my own style. One example of that is the new album that I just released which is resolutely different from the previous EP. I know people might not follow me on that but genres are irrelevant to me. I do the music I love, and I leave you to call it whatever you want…

So, you might ask why I joined this collective of artists who all come from different background, different music and different tastes? Is it a label?

The fact is that I also share a lot of ideas with these people. Mainly that we, as indie artists, want to share and care and that we’re all in it together. I wrote a few times about that already and still believe it strongly.

So I totally adhere to the Eclectic Underground motto, which is “A collective of like minded but musically individual indie bands and artists. Not so much a label more a mutually beneficial musical commune.”

As Erin At Eleven said so well on her own blog: “We believe in writing, recording and producing our own music. We support one another & other independent artists we like.” - Yay to that!

You can find us on Bandcamp at and hear a sample of the diversity in our collective here:

I wish more indie artists will join us soon and share and care with us!

The Beards Corner 

As is launching today its new music page "The Beards Corner" where I will be reviewing music every two weeks (hopefully!), I thought it would be good to talk about my motivations for embarking in this risky endeavor…

Tracey Arbon, who is the amazing brain behind Music Talks, asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested and at first, I said that I didn’t think it was such a good idea… I mean I’ve seen bad reviews (I’ve had one myself, ah!) and I know that they can be upsetting, depending on how much of a thick skin you have, especially when they are coming from someone you know nothing about. Plus, music is an art form that is hugely subjective after all, so what would qualify me to voice my opinion on my peers?

I took the time to think about it though, and it seemed like it could be a cool way to shout out to great bands and artists and give them thumbs up (and beards!) and have their music exposed to anyone who’d like to discover something different… I started to see this as another occasion to share the love of indie music.

What’s for sure is that I have no intention to be the judge and jury of any artists around, or to pose as an arbiter of taste. 

I have my own tastes and distastes of course, like anyone else, but my intention is to say what I love about the songs that I came to listen to and appreciate. My angle will probably be more on the music and production side of the tracks I review, simply because I’m passionate about music and production; and they will be biased this way, as I’m usually less focused on lyrics for example; but in any case, I intend to focus on the positive always, so you will most likely never read a bad review from me, my condition was that I would not review something if I don’t like it, and Tracey understood that and gracefully accepted.

All I hope is that it will help good artists get a little bit of extra exposure in the music world. Wish me luck!


I often see (or rather hear!) bands and artists releasing demo tapes and unfinished songs on SoundCloud or ReverNation or Bandcamp or any of these free sites where people upload music, and it always makes me wonder…

It can be a pre-pre-version of a song (which finished version will more often than not never see the light of day), a sing-along recording done with an iPhone in a bathroom (for the acoustics, right?), an acoustic guitar strumming + vocal jam thing with barely recognizable vocals, a recording done on a laptop in a hotel room while the room service is ringing at the door, a booze induced racket with your pals at the pub… or anything in between.

Fact is, guys, I hate to tell you, but no one really wants to hear that! 

I mean you can record anything you want and maybe a couple of your die hard fans will drink it like honey milk, but quite frankly they will be alone. There is so much good music around, of great sound quality, done with taste and with hours and hours of careful thinking and good recording, that your last recording at the park with a ukulele when dogs were barking in the background and complete with birds accompaniment is not going to cut it.

What you need to realize is that putting too much of your scrapes out there is not helping you. It just feels unprofessional and people will get bored easily if you’re releasing half-assed ideas and bad recordings.

If you want feedback on your demos, send it to other artists for useful feedback, don’t send it to your family or close friends for honest feedback, they will likely praise it (whether they’ve listened to it or not). For honest feedback, ask your peers, or find forums where people exchange about music, there are a few around… 

I’ve been on one of them for years and have learned a lot from it… it’s been discontinued now but most of the people from there are now on another platform called Indie Recording Depot - worth checking out if you want to achieve better recordings.

Do yourself a favor and delete these demos from the face of the internet. High quality music is what you want to be known for! #JustSaying

The "genre" question 


You get that question every time you put your music online, whatever the platform, whatever the site, the submission form…

What genre does your music fit in? What sub-genre?

Quite honestly, as an artist, I resent that question. I spent my life listening to all sorts of music, from all sorts of “genres”. And I like listening to one thing and then to something totally different next. That’s what life is all about, that’s what music is all about, isn’t it?

And, as an artist, I claim the right to play any kind of music I want. That’s also why I like being an independent artist. I can play a rock tune one day, a jazz one the next, a folk one to follow. No one is going to tell me that I should restrict myself to re-do the same kind of tune that I just did… That would be so boring. And that is probably what is boring in the commercial music of today.

I can imagine that fans could have a hard time with that although in the long run, they might get used to it and appreciate the variety… As for me, I value eclecticism in music. And I resent being put in any kind of genre box.
Unless there was a “good music” genre? Then I’d try to fill that box.

I remember a time when there was no limit to what bands would put on an album. There could be a rocking tune followed by an acoustic ballad, followed by some crazy psychedelia. And fans at the time were digging it, they were following the artist’s journey through sound and broadening their taste at the same time. It was always a discovery… you never knew what you would hear next.

This is why I have so much troubles answering the “genre” question. What kind of music do I do exactly? I have been doing progressive rock, jazz fusion, jazz ballads, soul, pop, blues, classic rock, all sorts of things. What box should I tick???

My next album that will be released soon, is going to reflect that. It’s much more jazz oriented than the previous EP, but you will find lots of influences from many different places as well. And I hope listeners will come along with me on that journey. I really do.

Opting out 

Things are not going well in the music industry…. That’s an understatement. The truth is that things are pretty screwed up in the music industry… That’s also an understatement!

More people need to realize what artists get paid by streaming platforms for their hard work. More people should care!

The cold numbers (per play)
Napster pays $0.0167
Tidal pays $0.0110
Apple Music pays $0.0064
Google Play pays $0.0059
Deezer pays $0.0056
Spotify pays $0.0038
Pandora pays $0.0011
Youtube $0.0006 (IF you monetize)

To get on these platforms you also have to go through a distributor, for example CD Baby, which takes 19% of these royalties… On top of the fixed price for the entry ticket of course, which varies between $49 and $89 for an album. And of course to withdraw that money, you will have bank or Paypal fees…

So in average among these platforms, you get $0.0065, minus the 19% that’s a whooping $0.005265! Meaning for 10,000 plays you get roughly $50

Sleeping with the devil

So, I see indie artists trying to work around the system one way or another, trying to aggregate playlists to be played in loops all day on a desktop (sound muted) by all the people featured… And for what exactly? Hopefully they’ll get a burger by the end of the year. Who has even been truly listening??? What kind of interaction have they gained from being there, do they even know, do they even can contact the fans who have played and liked their music on these platforms? Nope.

I see countless artists, even radios, linking to Spotify and Deezer and Tidal on social media, actively promoting their links and playlists! And I’m thinking “I’m sure these platforms are really pleased that your fans are sent to them to listen to YOUR music.”

There’s a name for it, I believe. It’s called “Sleeping with the devil”.
Every day these platforms are petitioning in court to try and pay less and less royalties to artists, and put more money in the hands of their shareholders. They have no trouble using your content to do so. They will not promote you in any way, they are bound to big labels who couldn’t care less about indie music.

And then what?

I have decided that I will no longer condone any of these platforms, link to them or put anymore of my music on any of them. I’m just tired of endorsing crooks and bend over to get screwed a bit more, and say thank you while I’m at it…  It’s not going to make that much of a difference in my revenue anyway, that’s for sure.

And I sincerely think all indie artists should do the same.

You will be able to find my music on my own website where I’ll get 100% of the revenues, on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon (they all take a cut).
But also especially you will be able to hear it, alongside many great indie artists, on indie radios and podcasts and shows, and read about it on indie blogs and magazines… All of the true distributors and dispensers of today’s indie music that we should all support, link to and recommend.

Fans should stop using these platforms. Radios should stop promoting any links to them. Their only aim is to create a monopoly and eliminate all the little guys, they will kill any creativity that’s left. Let’s not play their game!

But we don’t have a choice!

The main objections that I hear from artists are:
“You have to be there to be found…” - really? And who is finding you there, except the fans you’ve pointed to, to begin with?
“You don’t have a choice” - hum, isn’t that how dictatorships are made?
“If you don’t do it, others will” - again, isn’t that how the 3rd Reich’s atrocities happened?
“If you’re not there, no one will want to promote you” - I don’t believe the people in the indie world are really looking at Spotify to find the music they play and review and promote.
“It’s not that bad!” - go back and read these numbers from the beginning again, please!

Perhaps not many artists will find that worthwhile, and perhaps not many will change anything and they will keep linking to Spotify and the others, but as for me, I’m just tired of sleeping with the devil… I’m opting out! I think you should too!

Invisible release 

Montréal, QC, Canada - October 20th, 2017

On this date, Ghostly Beard will release his second album “Invisible”.
The songs collection forms a unique blend of jazz, fusion and soft rock.

The eleven-track album opens with the up tempo “Upper Hand”, a tasty blend of jazz and soft rock, complete with horns section, the second track “Set Me Free” is resolutely jazz-rock fusion with keys and guitar solos, “How Can I?” mellows into soft rock, when “A Reason to Leave” is catchy jazz oriented pop rock. The “Blue” ballad is a heartwarming fatherly love song, while “Lazy (from Time to Time)” jazzes it up. “The Odds of Our Lives” ventures into Bossa-Nova with a twist, while “I Dream of You” is a chill down-tempo ballad, then followed by the lively jazz of “Along the Road”. The comedic “Fool” offers smile inducing self-deprecation, and the final “Someday” ends it all with an acoustic tone and soft harmonies.

Various videos will be produced for the occasion, starting with an official video for "Blue", which will start the release promotion ahead of time.

Make sure to mark the date to taste it all while it’s fresh!

I fight for darkness 


Well, maybe not exactly the way you think… but let me explain!

This week-end I’ve received the masters of my new album from my mastering engineer. He’s great and has a really good ear, for example he has found little issues in my mixes that I had totally overlooked, like some overbearing hiss on the drum part of one song, or a click in the middle of a word on the vocal track of another. I’ve listened to these a thousand times and was rendered blind to these details…

But one thing is that his masters tend to be quite bright, and me, well, I’m more on the dark side…

I suppose it’s a sign of the times, but it makes me think that when people moan that CDs and digital sounds bad, and mourn the good old days of vinyl and the warmth of analog gear, perhaps all they are really longing for is a darker sound.
To be honest, the good old days were riddled with noise and distortion and many unwanted issues, and the sound was suffering from it.

Fact is that vinyl has limited frequency range compared to digital: it’s true of the low end that cannot be extended to the kind of subs the EDM crowd is used to, but it also has limited range in the high end, which generally equals a darker overall sound… 

With the advent of CDs and digital, there are no such limits anymore, and we can render up to 20Khz and even more (which is pretty pointless actually) and this makes for more clarity in the high end, extended subs, etc. 

Add to that the extreme compression that the recent loudness war has accustomed our ears to, and the fact that people listen to their cell phones, laptops with ear buds, with little low end, and all of that makes for a modern sound that is generally very bright.

Me, being the old dinosaur that I am, I tend to favor a darker, mellower sound, I even suspect that some amount of mud in a mix is necessary for a better sounding overall listening experience, something that doesn’t fatigue your ears and caresses instead of hammers your eardrums.

So in the end, I have asked my mastering engineer to add some mud back and to embrace the dark side. I’m sure Darth Vader would be proud! :D

The essential studio accessory 

When I started getting back to music, I knew one thing I really needed to learn was audio engineering… It’s one thing to write songs but another to record them properly and yet another to mix them nicely.

You can get all the best recording gear in the world, build yourself a great sound treated studio, buy the most powerful computer, the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation if you wonder what that means), but the one thing that you really need is to actually learn how to use all that.

And it takes time, because you need to train your ears. Critical listening is the one essential skill you need beyond the basics of learning how to operate a DAW which is a pretty complex and powerful piece of software. You can learn about EQ, compression, delays, reverbs, but you will get nowhere if you don’t know how to listen critically.

Now as I’ve said elsewhere, one thing you learn as a mixing engineer is to close your eyes, because it’s easy to get tricked by what you see… for example, say you are EQ-ing a track, and you look at the EQ curve, your brain will trick you to hear a change even if you’re actually EQ-ing another track, or even if that track is muted… It happened to me more than once, and it happened to most of the audio engineers I know. So best close your eyes if you want to avoid any false stimuli…

Which is where the essential accessory comes into play! Every studio worthy of this name needs one.. I’m talking about the Lava Lamp!!! Yes, if you look at recording studios, you will see all sorts of gear, mixing console, effects rack, cables, audio monitors, etc… But in the coolest studios, you will also likely see a Lava Lamp.

Personally, I feel that it’s very inducing to creative mixing. Just looking at the lava bubbles blowing up is fascinating and when I’m doing work on a mix and don’t want to close my eyes, I look at it instead of looking at the screen. Plus the light is really cool and not aggressive so you can sustain more time in your little sound bubble with it…

So if you really want to get into audio engineering, think about this essential mixing accessory! Your studio won’t be the same without it! ;-)

You’ve been bearded! 

As many things do, it all started with a silly joke! 

I was urged to show my face by some people on the internet (yes, you, you will recognize yourself!) but as I’ve said many times, I don’t have a public face, I’m invisible and intend to stay so, as I believe my music is there to speak for me and all the rest is unimportant and uninteresting… 

But the pressure was such that I took the image of a fellow artist, and Photoshop-ed a beard on him… That pic is now infamous and I deeply apologize Codie Prevost! I hope you have a sense of humour, it wasn’t meant to be a joke on you in any case, and I do love your music! Let’s just say you were the first but you will certainly not be the last!

Because this made me think, and I was also prompted by my good friend Walter Hargrave from Indie Music Bus, that I should use that as a recognition award.

I really mean a recognition award, not a Top 10 or “best artist”, or anything like that, but as a token of my appreciation for the good music and the artist/band, or even for some great indie supporters, radios, blog, anyone active in the indie scene that deserve thanks for all they do for the love of music.

So from now on, I decided that I will give that award from time to time, here and there, (and I’m afraid there will probably be an accompanying pic, yes!) to shout out to great people, so that anyone who follows me will also know that I’m thankful to these people and that they deserve a following, a listen and some love back…

So, watch out because anyone worthy might get bearded!
And you might well be next! 

The importance of a street team 

This blog post was inspired by two things that happened today, kind of a coincidence, really!

The first one is a post by the amazing Walter Hargrave of Indie Music Bus, about a cool new idea he has launched, which is to help and reward indie music fans with various promotion goodies and a chance to steer the bus wheel…
See Indie Music Force for more info.

Another one was conversations with 2 big fans of Codie Prevost (a great Canadian songwriter, see my “friends” page to know more) who have each been creating a twitter account to post news about Codie and support their favorite artist, engage in friendly banter with many people and generally get some attention around their idol.

It made me think again about the importance of a street team. We all know about the old concept of enrolling your friends, family and fans to distribute your flyers for a concert, now the same thing applies to social media.

A street team is a group of people who will tweet about you, post content on social media, interact with other potential fans and artists, bring more attention to your content and your music, vote for your songs, they do it because they love your music and your attitude, they do it because they are here to support you!

So how does one creates a street team?

If you’re doing gigs, it’s probably easier because you can interact with the audience after the show and when they tell you they loved it, you can ask them if they would help spread the word. If you’re an online artist it’s perhaps a little bit more complicated, but I think it all comes down to the same idea again: human connection.

After all, isn’t it the ultimate goal of music? To share and make us all feel part of the same family, people with similar taste, enjoying the same music without barrier, without frontier and without care for any difference of race or gender or religion or political ideas, just being human beings after all?

One of Codie’s fan asked me what I was thinking of her supporting endeavors and I had to remind her that Codie is very fortunate to have her, because music means nothing if there’s no fan to listen. Yes, they are one of the main reason we do it in the first place!
Does music even exist is there’s no one to listen?

I engage all the music fans to do what they do best, love and care for music and for the artists, buy their CDs and merch, go to their concert, share their music and news on social media, vote for them on radio charts, spread the word and the love! 

We love you back!


















The more I think about it the more it makes sense to me…
And I sincerely hope it will also make sense to you too!

The old vs the new

In too many cases, bands/artists have kept the old “battle of the bands” mindset and ported it on the internet and the world of social media. But what ‘could’ make sense on a local scene when there’s little venues to play for and a lot of great bands to ‘compete’ with, doesn’t make any sense on the internet where the virtual ‘scene’ is worth hundreds of millions of potential listeners and fans…

The challenge of social media

Actually, the challenge there is entirely different: It’s not about competing to get a coveted place on stage any more (the stage is yours already!) it’s about finding your crowd, moreover it’s about captivating that crowd with ever renewed content and keep them entertained 24/7 with quality stuff.

So how does one do that? By sharing the same songs every day? The same videos? By posting random pseudo philosophical quotes? Or posting cats and boobs? Put yourself in the shoes of potential fans (and music lovers are truly out there, and in huge numbers even!) and try to think of what they are looking for… They want new songs, new bands, new videos, cool blog posts, radios to listen to, hear about concert/events to go to… Are you capable of posting that kind of renewed content every day, all the time? Can you do it alone??
Of course you can’t!

A change of mindset

Now what if you were forgetting about the old “battle of the bands” idea and shared content coming from many fellow artists that you like instead? If you think about it, there’s tons of great content posted every day on social medias… Each fellow band/artist is going to post their own stuff regularly of course, so then what about appropriating that cool content and make it yours to share? The more you would do that, the more you would keep your own followers interested, right? But then, what if they follow these other artists? Well sure, but so what? What are you afraid of? Remember that the music lovers out there are forever hungry for more, meaning that if they follow other bands, that doesn’t mean they will stop following you! Even better: what if other bands were actually all doing the same thing, and were also sharing your content, along with theirs and many others? Win+Win

I truly believe that it is the way to go. I even think that it’s the only way to go online if you’re an indie artist and you want to keep growing your following the right way and ultimately find your own crowd… Forget the competitiveness and adopt a sharing attitude! We, unsigned artists, don’t have a big label to do our promotion, we don’t have much money to put on ads that won’t do us any good anyway, we don’t have much money to put into expensive PR… So why not enroll fellow artist to do that for us, the only thing we have to do is to do it for them too…

What we can ALL do

To put that into practice, I have created a “friends” page on my website to showcase indie artists that I like and want to support. What I truly have in mind is to create the same kind of network that you can see on some blogs with their “blog rolls” links. Each blog links to other blogs and a visitor could follow any of these links and find new content that would fit their taste, if they end up on a site where that same kind of sharing exist they could follow more links… I propose we all do that and create our own indie network of bands and fellow artists friends.

I also propose to feature an artist on my monthly newsletter, and if we all do that, we could all extend our reach… It’s not about stealing others’ fans, it’s about sharing a crowd of people who would like music of the same kind/same quality.

And of course online, on Twitter, Facebook, whatever your social media platform of choice, when you don’t know what to post any more to keep your hungry followers happy, instead of posting the same old link, or cats and boobs, why not share other bands quality content? You get happy followers plus happy fellow artists who will be happy to share your content when the time comes. 


So now, are you in with a sharing mindset or are you out doing it alone with an old and inadequate 'battle of the bands’ mentality? 
It’s an easy pick, really!

Indie Music Bus 

Since I’ve started my incursion in the wonderful (and pretty confusing) world of social media I’ve encountered (meaning virtually “met”) a lot of people in the indie music world, lots of artists of course, but also radios hosts, bloggers, fans, and a few people who act daily with no other goal than to help indie artists for the love of independent music. Pretty cool. right?

One of the leader in the selfless helping crowd has been at it since 2000, and even before, if I read correctly his amazing Press Kit, I’m speaking of none other than the famous “Indie Music Bus”… 

Founded by Walter Hargrave, seemingly with the aim of redressing all the wrongs in the music industry (and there are many!), the guy relentless work have made him and his bus an unavoidable station and vehicle towards success for any serious music artists.

Walter has been networking with many influential people in the industry, built powerful software tools to help managing and showcasing indies, always with goal of helping them through countless promotions using various social media accounts. Personally I’m a fan, and I’m in awe of everything he has achieved already and eager to see what next move he’s preparing!

So, if you don’t know the Indie Music Bus, I’d say it’s time to catch up, because this bus is unstoppable!

Let the little fish live 

Once again, I’m inspired by the indie world of unsigned artists and in particular those who are supporting them. I mean radio hosts, bloggers, podcast hosts, indie activists of all kinds and ultimately fans.

I’ve met some really cool people lately who share a passion for music, in a world where passion seems like the ultimate endangered specie: these people are still not entirely in-sensitized by media overload and/or social media indigestion.

Just right now one tweet of mine (where I was sharing music and trying to tell people that they will get free tracks to download for a subscription on my newsletter) got re-tweeted by a big shot TV/Radio show host with millions of followers who just happens to care about indie artists and is doing a lot to help out. I heard from some other people in the indie world that he’s been at it for years and is actually doing so much because he really cares. How cool is that? 

You would think that this guy is a shark in the big media pond, right? He’s going to eat us all indie little fishes, looking at our social media numbers and immediately think when he sees me: “this guy is not worth my attention… He doesn’t have millions of followers so this must mean his music is lame”

But, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, it so happens that numbers don’t tell the whole tale, IMHO. And it’s pretty cool that some people in the music business do realize that. 

It just made me think that maybe this guy is just doing it right. He reacts just like any good fisherman have learned to do: don’t eat the small fishes, because if you do, one day, there will be no more big fishes and we’ll all starve. Send them back to the sea, give them a little push and let them swim away safely…

And if you help them and feed them, one day, they might turn up big fishes too and help feed millions too. That’s the crucial role of these indie radios, bloggers, podcast hosts, indie activists and general fans have in this world. Help feed the indie musicians, otherwise there will be no music tomorrow!

So many thanks to the big fish who didn’t act like a shark and managed to keep some human connection with the indie artists around him. I feel honored to have stolen a few seconds of his attention, and blessed by that gentle push!

Are you listening? 

I’ve spent quite a lot of time lately connecting with people in the indie music world. Yes, it’s a world! And it’s actually pretty amazing how much great people are in it!

One thing that really warmed my old beard was to see how much passionate people there were still. Which is really reassuring because sometimes things look pretty dire, when you realize how music has became such a disposable thing nowadays in the eyes (the ears, really) of the general public.
It’s the thing most download for no money, most share without thoughts, most hear without listening.

But there are people who do care. And people who do listen.

Radio hosts sharing their passion for good music on the air, sparing no expense of their time to discover new music and playing it online, preparing programs where they showcase artists, doing interviews, chatting with everyone, sharing the love. 

Bloggers with a gift for words, crafting cool reviews of their favorite releases, most of the time outside of their day job, trying to get readers interested and to make them care like they do.

People online exchanging links and tweets and videos and music, people trying to find new ways to feature good artists and their work.

I can’t put a list of all of them here. But they will recognize themselves if they read this.
All unsung heroes in a world of apathy and indifference. And they even support my music, what can I say if not thanks?

Me? I do my own music, but I also stand in the camp of the listeners. I spend a lot of time listening to other artists as well, and I’ve discovered a lot of true gems by doing so, and I treasure them, and I try to buy their music when my no budget allows. And I’ve also decided to showcase them on a new page on my website simply called “friends”. Because that’s what they are, really: fellow artists friends who deserve your time and your ears…

So, are you listening?

Giving back 

Because I see radios (indie radios/internet radios/college radios) as partners in crime when it comes to sharing good music to the unsuspecting public, I want to do all I can to help them. After all, if they succeed, so will I in a way and so will many other indie musicians who deserve to be heard.

Since I’ve started reaching out to show hosts these last weeks to pitch my new EP, I’ve come to “meet” and appreciate many cool guys and gals who are busting their ass off on the internet and on the air to preach the good music gospel. I won’t put a list here because there are too many, but if you are reading this, you know who you are!

One of the guy I came to appreciate, after a few chats and listening to a couple of his indie show is Al Yardy, the guy behind KB Radio - his tagline “What radio used to be” is perfectly conveying the guy’s passion for music and radio. The people who are listening to him know that he’s in it for all the right reasons. You can reach Al on Twitter @KBRadio_THP and say that you're here for him, I'm sure he'll be glad to hear about you too.

Recently there was a tragedy at KB Radio and most of Al’s equipment was lost. Since then he’s been trying to raise funds to rebuild his radio and get back to doing shows on a permanent basis... In the meantime, he has an automated playlist and only recently has he been able to start his live shows on some nights.

I’d say that it’s a worthwhile cause and anyone with a love of music and appreciation for the indie scene should reach out and help him with his fundraiser here: 

To set up an example, I’ve decided that from now on any sale of my latest EP will go entirely to Al’s fundraiser

So, what are you waiting for? Get some good music and make a good deed, you will feel so much better then! ;)

Millions of followers: A blessing or a curse? 

I just came upon a tweet from one of the guys at “Indie Music Bus”, a great team of people dedicated to help indie music with various promotions on their sites, couple with radio airplay, press and social media promotion, check them out here: - or follow them on Twitter @indiemusicbus​

The tweet was “ One of the telltale signs when an act is breaking into the big-time. Social media behavior changes quickly.

And of course, it got me thinking (because I actually like to do that!)…

TBH I’m fairly new to Twitter, Facebook and all the social media circus, but from what I’ve been made to believe, you cannot escape it if you want to be heard one way or another. I wasn’t too sure about it at first but then I decided to embrace it. At least I’m having fun on Twitter and it can’t hurt, right?

Influencing the influencers?

The problem starts with the perception of many medias, radios and press and basically any influencer in the “music industry” who are now expecting artists to have thousands or even millions of followers before being deemed worth of their attention. Even regular people will tend to look at your followers numbers, or followers/following “ratio” in PR parlance to see if you are to be trusted, or even considered…

So you start thinking along the same line as well… After all, life is too short to waste it with something that no one cares about, right? There’s so much music around that you have to find a way to cut through all the clutter and get to the really good stuff, right? (Note that I’m speaking about music because that’s what I do and care about most, but it’s true of any art and artists). The problem with it is that once again the principle at work with big network is at play here: you get to like a song because everyone listens to it, because it’s been pushed by people with enough PR muscles to push it into the ears of millions of people. Push any song (with a minimal amount of melody and vocal) millions of times and people will end up liking it on a grand scale… (I’m not going to cite any popular songs, I don’t care much about that, and BTW I have nothing against the artists behind them, I’m pretty happy that anyone has success in this life).

Thousands, millions, what’s next?

So you start to think that the strength is in the number of followers, plays in Spotify, etc. And you are solicited by many shameless scam companies promising you millions of followers/plays… fake of course, but isn’t it impressive? Isn’t it going to impress the influencers of this world? Will they finally give you a chance?

Nah, I doubt that very much. And so should you, if you care about what you do.
The thing is that if you’re doing it for the sake of it and you are passionate about it, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have… It will not count in the end. You could have millions of fake followers/plays, but no real human who cares, what’s the point?

Isn’t the ultimate goal of music/any art to connect with people? To tell your story to people who are eager to listen to it? And hear about them, and share your stories.

So, let’s say you truly get to thousands/hundreds of thousands of ‘real’ followers? And this is where this tweet above made me think…

My journey into the twitterverse

A few weeks ago, I had about 20 followers, I didn’t even tweet TBH.
As of today I have almost 600, and I try to follow them all. So the other day, I tried to tell them all why I was following them and appreciating them. It took me 2 solid hours to go through about 250 accounts… And I had fun lately trying to connect to people, finding a way to shine a light on them as much as I wanted them to pay attention to what I do (it really goes both way, see?). 
But 2 hours for about 250 accounts? What am I going to do next? How can I stay connected to so many people? I mean, I know that a good 50% are following me because 1/ I follow them or 2/ they want to sell me something, but still…

It means that I still have about 300 or more people that I’d like to keep in touch with… what happens if I get thousands of real people? There’s the challenge… How do I manage to still be available to them, see what they post, react to that? And yet I have a full time job, and a daughter who also need my time, and music to write/record/produce/mix/etc… how am I to fit all that in?

So my idea is that really, I’m not sure I would ever want millions of followers, because as much as it would flatter my ego, I’m not sure what it would do to my soul. I fear that I would lose any kind of human connection with any of them, and I’m really not sure I want that.

Ideally, I think a few thousands would be more than enough, if they are real people and if we share a common love for good music and care for similar things…
So, yeah, I'm just looking for human beings... Are you in or are you out?