the technology available today, musicians who take the
time to learn are no longer reliant on rented studio time.
A recording studio can be put together at home
-- in a garage or a bedroom -- and the results, given
the use of good equipment and knowledge of how to use
it, can be high quality. But can home-generated recordings
go the distance in helping artists achieve their career
goals? In this article, Music Connection looks
at a band and two solo artists who have parlayed their
home recordings into successful business ventures.
Of All Trades:
Rock, Film, Video Games
EGNEW IS BUSY THESE DAYS. She runs her own label, Ave
Vox Music Group, writes songs (mostly for the country
music market), composes film and TV scores, and produces
recordings for other artists. Right now she's at work
on a solo album which she is also producing. In fact,
Danielle Egnew has been finding herself in demand as a
producer, thanks to a reputation she earned largely through
home recordings made while with the alt-rock band Pope
"The revenue from producing continues to shock me."
based in the Los Angeles area, Egnew honed her skills
back in Montana as a musician and home producer while
playing keyboards and writing songs for Pope Jane, who
later did some recording in Seattle and then relocated
to L.A. Egnew had previously recorded an album for a small
Seattle label, Whatever Records, where she says she began
to learn about audio by watching and listening to the
engineers who worked on her album.
"I would watch these guys and just learn through
observation," says Egnew. "Later I'd go work
on different analog systems, and then digital systems."
She also read everything she could find on the subject
of sound ("I'm a sound science junkie"). Eventually
it was time to put her knowledge to use for Pope Jane.
"We started recording on a good ol' Tascam cassette
four-track," she explains. "Our first [self-titled]
album, which we've sold thousands of copies of, was recorded
through a 16-channel Mackie board. I tweaked all the channels
to certain tonalities in order to commit to two channels
on the Tascam."
For the group's second outing, Relief, the budding producer
up-graded her production equipment to a 48-track ADAT
system, which she admits caused some technical difficulties.
The third album also used ADAT. ("It was a popular
system back in the mid-Nineties," she explains.)
But for the fourth album, a solo "music industry
parody" called Industry Whore, Egnew returned to
a Tascam four-track for recording and imported the tracks
to Sound Forge for mixing.
"Sound Forge is my favorite sound program, period,"
she proclaims. "It's not a multi-tracking program.
It's a two-channel sound sculpting program. You can master
in Sound Forge." The artist/producer considers what
she calls "sound sculpting" to be essential
to mastering. "Sound has always been like clay --
you just scoop it around, you move it, you press it, you
The ability to sound sculpt is a talent one is born with,
Egnew believes. "You can read all the manuals in
the world about where to place a microphone, but if you
don't have the ears to hear it, it's not going to make
While Egnew has worked with computer-based programs such
as ProTools and Cakewalk, she now prefers Cubase, which
she utilized for Pope Jane's most recent album Dog and
Pony Show. Her current home-studio setup, she says, features
Cubase and Sound Forge, a board, a vocal booth, and "a
couple of rooms for somebody to record drums. It's a pretty
stripped-down studio setup. With the way technology is,
there's really no reason to have all this junk sitting
around taking up space.
According to Egnew, Dog and Pony Show has sold thousands
of copies. And, despite the band's current hiatus, she
found herself being contacted by fans who were impressed
by the production on the albums. "When Pope Jane
was really getting rolling, we were in Montana,"
she recalls. "So I did the majority of my contacting
on the Internet. I just went out and said, 'Hey, I'm a
producer.' I posted on these message boards and said,
'This is what I'm able to do.' And then, weirdly enough,
the band's popularity continued to spread out and we started
to get fan mail from all four corners of the globe. People
started calling us, asking me, 'Could you produce an album
for us? How did you get the sound on the guitar cabinet?
How did you get a song so fat?' "
Danielle Egnew's roster of produced artists includes country
songwriter Wayne Lembcke (with whom she also collaborates
on songs) and indie rock band Coldsnap-9, along with many
other indie artists. She also produces albums of ambient
music for a division of her Ave Vox music label. An offshoot
of that is Ave Vox Publishing, offering songwriting, arranging,
and production services.
Because of her work as a producer of albums, Egnew received
offers to do film and TV scores. She had scored an independent
film while in college, and her original background was
in theatre and film. (To date she has scored indie films
The Vest, Rain That Falls Up, and Gideon's Circle.) When
Egnew applied for a job at the Adventure TV network, her
goal was to become an on-air personality for the cable
channel. "The producer asked me what I did in my
spare time. I said I was in the band Pope Jane and he
said, 'Well, actually we were looking for someone to do
audio.' So I got a job with Adventure scoring all of their
Egnew was also the senior sound designer for Fleetwood
Gaming, where "I underscored and sound-designed 28
games, over 700 sounds." Egnew says the company's
standing console is "Keno King" and it "out-earns
other games of its type by two to one."
Has Egnew encountered many technical problems as a home
recordist? "The good part is that with all this digital
technology, the screw-ups are very easy to remedy,"
she states. "You just drag and drop something over
the top of it."
Egnew warns, however, against such pitfalls as room temperature
-- humidity can change the low-mid-tones. "When we
were recording Relief, I needed to have everyone leave
the studio for half a day so I could turn on the air conditioner
to dry it out in there."
Producing an artist other than yourself, Egnew says, "is
like playing a chess game in your head and you're about
200 moves ahead. You have to account for humidity, errors,
crappy instruments, bad microphones. And mixing is all
about proper frequency separations. You could have a crummy
guitar, but if it sounds really cool [when mixed], you're
When asked if all this work adds up to a high income,
Egnew replies, "My advice concerning income is: treat
it as you would if you were fishing. The more lines you
throw over the boat, the more fish you'll catch. At the
end of the day, each [of my projects] brings in a set
amount of revenue. With Pope Jane, we never expected to
sell so many CDs. But the revenue from producing continues
to shock me. I do have a sliding scale that I charge and
I don't take on projects that I don't genuinely believe
While she declines to cite actual amounts of money, Egnew
says the income generated by producing "pulls its
"[Work] also comes in waves," she explains.
"You have no clients for a long time -- and then
you have 25 artists calling in one week, saying, 'I just
got your name from somebody.'"
In any case, Danielle Egnew has managed to parlay her
self-taught knowledge of the audio arts and her original
basement studio setup into a satisfying career. "It
kinda gets you out of yourself and your own little indulgent
problems for five seconds. You're assisting someone else
and bridging some difficulties of their own."
o Recording: Cubase, Vegas Audio
o Mastering: Sound Forge, PAS Spectrum Analyzer PRO
o Sound Sculpting / Production Software: Rubber Duck H30+
Drum Synth, Fruity Loops PRO, D-Lusion Drum Station, Sonic
Foundry ACID, Sim Synth
o Hardware: Behringer Eurorack UB2442FX-PRO Mixer, Behringer
T1953 Tube Ultragain Mic Pre-Amp, Sony Pro MDSE10 MiniDisc
Recorder, Alesis Monitor 1 Active MKII Powered Monitors
o Hard Gear: Tascam 424 Portastudio, Ensoniq EPS 16+ Sampler
o Amps: Marshall, Hughes and Kettner
o Mics: Nady TCM-1100 Vacuum Tube Condenser Mic, Shure
KSM109 Cardioid Studio Condenser Mics, Audio-Technica
AE3300 Cardioid Condenser Mics, Shure SM-58's, Shure SM-57's