John Keane, who arguably has had a greater influence on the Athens, Georgia, music scene than any other single engineer or musician, says he "kind of fell into" his role as the city's first studio owner. He had been interested in recording since he got his first Panasonic tape deck as a kid. Later he began recording the bands he played in when he moved into a house in the Normaltown neighborhood in 1980. After experimenting with overdubs and layered sounds on multiple tape decks, he bought his first 4-track, a massive 1/4" reel-to-reel Teac 3340 from local music legend Randall Bramblett and mounted it in a Kroger shopping cart.

After recordings of his group, Phil and the Blanks, aired on the local University of Georgia radio station (WUOG), crowds at their live shows grew, and soon other local bands began hiring Keane's services. With the money he made, he graduated from a "crappy" Yamaha mixer and mics to a Ramsa mixer, an AKG 414 and a Sennheiser 421 for the kick drum. In 1983 he borrowed money from his parents to buy a 1/2" Tascam 80-8 8-track. This allowed him to begin producing higher- quality demos for dozens of artists in the burgeoning local scene including R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary, Dashboard Saviors, Dreams So Real, Love Tractor, The El May Dukes and Club GaGa.

Eventually his engineering, producing and instrumental work established the national reputation of John Keane Studios. Over the years he has worked extensively with R.E.M., Widespread Panic and the Indigo Girls. He has additionally recorded albums with Uncle Tupelo, 10,000 Maniacs, Vic Chesnutt, Kevn Kinney, Michelle Malone, Nanci Griffith, Concrete Blonde, Grant McLennan and hundreds of others.

In 2001 Keane self-published The Musician's Guide to Pro Tools, which was praised for simplifying — and making light of — the overwhelming learning process associated with the ubiquitous application. The book was picked up by McGraw Hill and expanded in 2004. The second edition, updated for Pro Tools 7, has just been released and Keane recently began using it to teach Pro Tools in the Music Business Program at the University of Georgia.

At what point did you start to think, "Hey, this could be a long-term career." Was studio work always an ambition of yours or did it come up later?

No, recording was more of a hobby at first. In the early '80s I was playing full time with Phil and the Blanks, and we were having a go at making a living playing music. We were on the road in a crappy little van, playing in clubs up and down the coast, trying to get a record deal and writing. I was recording other bands in my spare time. At one point, about 1985, I was getting really busy in the studio recording 8- track demos and records for people. I think I was charging $25 an hour, which to me was pretty good money. I decided to leave the band and go into recording full time. I got a bank loan and bought a Tac Matchless console, which was made by Amek. I also bought an Otari MX-70 1" 16-track. The larger track capacity and better sound quality enabled me to get more work producing indie records and pre- production demos for major label bands like R.E.M., Dreams So Real and Guadalcanal Diary. By that time I had also accumulated better mics and outboard gear, and I had gotten to the point where I kind of knew what I was doing. I was starting to understand more about the role of the producer, helping bands with the creative end of what they were doing instead of just making mainly "live" recordings. I started concentrating on helping them get better sounds, picking the best songs, zeroing in on vocal performances — emphasizing the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses. It was around that time I produced the Indigo Girls' Strange Fire and Widespread Panic's Space Wrangler. Those records seem to have stood the test of time. Athens music is known more for attitude and enthusiasm than precision and professionalism. What challenges has this presented over the years, and did it have an effect on the type of engineer and producer you became? A lot of the early Athens bands were made up of musicians who could barely play their instruments, but it somehow worked when they all got in a room together and did their thing. I found out early on that musicians can become very self-conscious when overdubbing their parts separately. That's why my studio is designed for recording bands as live as possible. That has always seemed to be the best approach, especially with younger bands who haven't had a lot of studio experience. I like to put everybody in the same room whenever possible for tracking and then fix what needs to be fixed. My approach varies with different types of projects. I've done plenty of singer/songwriter projects where songs were built up one track at a time. I find these kinds of projects enjoyable because I often end up playing a lot of the instruments and there's more experimentation. Is your work inspired at all by a desire to archive the music scene you came up in? When I was making all those records it never occurred to me that I was archiving Athens' music history. I was just trying to work as much as possible so I could afford to buy better equipment to make better sounding recordings. In those days it was common for major labels to send up and coming bands into the studio for a week or so to bang out demos of all their songs before deciding whether to sign them. These sessions were especially challenging. If the demo didn't come out sounding like a finished product it could really ruin the band's chances of getting a deal, since a lot of record company people didn't have the vision to hear past a demo-quality recording and hear the quality of the songwriting. I had to learn to work very quickly and not waste even a minute of time. Sometimes the preproduction demos would end up being part of the final album. That happened a few times with R.E.M. Over the years they were constantly coming in to demo new songs. They would usually come into the studio for a week and knock out 20 to 30 songs very quickly. Sometimes magic would happen and they'd get a great take of a song and decide to put it on the album. The song "Country Feedback" [from Out of Time] is one example. What changed in 1988, when they were on Warner Brothers for the first time, and they came and recorded the full album here? In 1988 I built an addition that doubled the size of the studio and added a vocal booth and a couple of isolation rooms for guitar amps. But R.E.M. didn't come in for an actual album until 1990. By then I had upgraded to a Trident 80B console and an Otari MTR- 90 2" 24 track. That was the first time a full major label album project had been done in the studio. Was it Green? No, that was for Out of Time. They recorded the basic tracks at Bearsville [Studios in Woodstock, NY] and then came to my studio for six weeks for overdubbing. During that time we recorded most of the vocals and added all sorts of bells and whistles — keyboards, background vocals, mandolins and such. They brought Kidd Jordan in to overdub horn parts. It was an incredibly exciting time for me. I leaned a great deal working with producer Scott Litt. I'll never forget sitting at the console and hearing Michael Stipe's vocals for "Losing My Religion" for the first time. That entire project was a huge milestone for me. In 2001, John Bell [lead singer of Widespread Panic] said about you, "He's not the kind of producer that comes in and makes every band — no matter who they are or where they're coming from — sound pretty much the same. He helps a band define what it actually is doing." Is that something you can explain? There are producers who tend to put their stamp on everything they do, and they have a certain sound that they always get, as if they're running everyone through their own personal assembly line. I never wanted to be that heavy-handed. I was always more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. I want people to be able to say, "Wow that's a great sounding album," not, "That sounds like another John Keane production." I don't want all my records to sound alike, and I like working with different types of music to keep things interesting. I started out on the other side of the glass as a musician, and I went through studio experiences where a producer ran roughshod over what the band was trying to do. I never wanted to put anyone else through that experience. I generally let the bands do their thing and try to keep them from shooting themselves in the foot, if I hear them doing something that obviously they're going to regret later. For me it is mostly about trying to get the most out of what's there, rather than of trying to manufacture something out of thin air. It seems like you've had long-term relationships with a number of groups. What is the key to maintaining relationships with an artist or band? There are a couple of things that come to mind. I think you have to have a good, strong work ethic. You have to show bands that you're willing go the extra mile to do what it takes to make the record as good as it can be — whether it's in the budget or not. You also have to establish a rapport with the people in the band and have a relationship of trust with them. They have to be able to trust your judgment to help them make the right decisions in the studio. I think you've got to be honest with bands and be straightforward with them in your business dealings, too. If anybody feels like they got screwed or you overcharged them, then they're not going to come back. A lot of it is just common-sense business practice. For the album Till the Medicine Takes [Widespread Panic, 1999] you brought in another engineer to run the board so that you could concentrate on the production role. What was the significance of that decision? It was something I had always wanted to try, because I had always worked alone — putting all the microphones up, getting all the sounds, running the console and so on. I was always in the chair working the auto-locator for the tape machine — I had never done it any other way. I wanted to try something different because I had worked with producers like Scott Litt, Pat McCarthy and Don Gehman. I wanted to see what it was like to just sit on the couch and concentrate on the music without watching VU meters. But when I tried it, I totally felt like a fish out of water. I felt strangely disconnected from the process. I felt like I didn't have direct communication with the band. I had to communicate through the engineer. I was used to being able to go, "Okay, Dave we need to punch in these two bars on the bass," and we'd do it [finger snap]. It would be done in five seconds. But with the engineer here the whole process would take longer, because I'd have to explain where it was and what I wanted to do, and it just took four times as long. That drove me nuts. Even though the engineer was fully qualified and doing a great job, I sent him home after about a week [laughter]. When I finished the recording we brought in Jim Scott to mix the project. That was great, because I had been listening to the songs for weeks and needed some fresh ears. You toured with Widespread Panic full- time in 2006. What was the transition like to go from working with the band in the studio to playing in front of 20,000 people? It was a completely different experience. I felt like I ran away and joined the circus. Of course, I've sat in with the guys many times over the years, but this time I was playing on a lot more songs, so I had to do a bit of homework. It gave me an incentive to work on my guitar and steel guitar chops, which had gotten rusty due to a couple of injuries that prevented me from playing guitar for a couple of years. Of course, I was familiar with the most of their catalog — having recorded the songs and even played bits and pieces here and there on the records. But that's not the same thing as actually knowing the song well enough to be able to get up and play it with the band. So, I had to sit down and learn a ton of Widespread Panic songs. Having been out of the bar band business for 16 years, I had completely forgotten what it was like to be a full-time musician. Riding all over the country in a big tour bus with my buddies was a total blast. It was quite a rush to play in front of thousands of fans in places like Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall. You're known for excellent recordings of acoustic music. Can you talk about your approach and the techniques you've developed? With acoustic music I'm always trying to capture what the instrument sounds like when you're standing in front of it. That sounds like an easy thing to do, but it's really not. If you sit in front of an acoustic guitar and put your head in a certain spot, and then you put the mic in that spot where your head was and go into the control room and listen to it, it doesn't sound anything like what you were hearing in the room, and it's really frustrating. That's just the way it is with microphones — they don't hear like your ears do. So basically I do a lot of running back and forth, moving the mic around and trying different combinations of mics — and watching out for phase cancellation. Anytime you have more than one mic on a single acoustic instrument there's possibility for the sound to actually cancel itself out, if it doesn't reach the two microphones at the same time. One thing that's helped me a lot is that I've got a couple of Martin guitars here that record really well. Nine times out of ten they are gonna sound better than what someone brings in here. It really starts with the technique of the player. Those Martins sound different in the hands of every person who picks them up. Sometimes they will sound great, and sometimes they sound awful. So you are adjusting for the player. Yeah, and I'm usually coaching the players. Some people will play too soft, and some people will play too hard and overpower the instrument, and it won't sound good. Sometimes I have to work on improving a guitar player's technique. He might be using a pick that's too thick that sounds thuddy. Or a pick that's too thin will sound clacky. If they're playing it too soft, it sounds wimpy. If they're playing it too hard, and it's rattling and buzzing the strings, it's just non- musical. So, a lot of it is technique and a lot of it is having a really good sounding instrument. If you've got those two things, then the choice of microphone and mic preamp is just icing on the cake. It's the same with a drum kit or anything else. Is it the same working with vocals? Yeah, it's similar, because vocals are an acoustic instrument as well. It's very critical that you pick a mic that enhances the sound of the voice, as with an acoustic guitar, or banjo, or mandolin or what have you. To me the vocals are the most important element of the song. Everybody's voice sounds different. Some people have really dark, throaty sort of guttural voices, and some people have really bright nasal or raspy voices. You just have to have several different sounding mics in your arsenal. Usually I can listen to a person talk and get an idea which mic is going to sound best. A lot of times the best sounding mic is going to be the$200 Audio Technica and not the $4,000 Neumann tube mic, so you have to keep an open mind about that. I've got these Earthworks TC30 omni mics. It looks like a dentist's drill. It's probably the last mic most people would think to pull out and use on a vocal. But I've used that on a great many and often choose it over a standard mic like a Neumann U87. I'm a big fan of Audio-Technica mics. They're inexpensive, but they sound really great. They sound good on acoustic instruments. Did you make a conscious decision to specialize in acoustic music, or was it just a result of the bands that came your way over the years? Yeah, it was just a result of bands that would play live rock, like R.E.M., Drivin' and Cryin' and Uncle Tupelo. When they got in the studio, a lot of times they would want to do more delicate acoustic numbers. I think that also working with the Indigo Girls brought in acoustic musicians, because the Indigo Girls have a very wide circle of musician friends that were doing acoustic music, like Michelle Malone. I've always really liked that kind of stuff. I think that Uncle Tupelo album [March 16-20] is definitely one of my favorites. How does performing on an album change the working relationship with a band? Does it? Well, it makes it more fun, I think. It's a little different headspace that you get into when you're playing on something, as opposed to recording or producing, and sometimes it's hard to maintain objectivity. As soon as I strap on a guitar and starting playing it, I'm worried about, "Oh, do I have the right guitar sound? Am I in tune?" It's a little tricky playing and engineering at the same time, but it's the only way I've ever done it. How do you approach the producer role on a new project? The first thing I do is ask them to send me a copy of whatever the music is they're considering recording. It doesn't matter how it's recorded — it could be a live recording off the board at a show, one mic in the center of the practice room or one guy strumming a guitar and singing. I just want to hear the song and the arrangement to see if it is something I can contribute to. After that I usually meet with the band and talk about what they want to do, how I might record them, tell them which songs I think are the strongest and what areas might need more work. If I hear the drummer's having trouble staying in tempo I might suggest they practice with a click track, so that when they get in the studio, we can hopefully resolve tempo problems. I have to tailor my approach according to how much time I have with the band. I really like to be able to spend time working on the sounds, especially guitar sounds, and try to make each song a little different in terms of the guitar sounds and the arrangement. Maybe use different snare drums for different songs. You can't do very much of that if you've got to do a whole album in a week. You really have to put them in a room, let them play, fix the mistakes, mix it and do the best you can. You began using Pro Tools in 1991, soon after it's introduction. What led you to the program and what were your impressions of it in the beginning? A lot of the records I was working with were super low budget, and a big part of the mastering cost was sequencing the songs, because I couldn't do it. I'd just have to send in a DAT tape with all the songs, and they would do it at the mastering facility at$110 an hour. I was griping about this to a friend, and he said, "You really ought to check out these new Digidesign editing systems that run on a Macintosh computer, because you can sequence the songs, and then burn a CD from it," which was something kind of new at the time. After looking into it I went out and spent about $20,000 on a new Pro Tools system, and I had no idea how to use any of it. I blocked out six weeks — no sessions for six weeks. I put the system together and started going through the manuals trying to figure out how to operate it, and it was a nightmare. At the end of six weeks I could barely do anything with it, but I could take my DAT mixes, put them in the computer, cut the stick clicks off the front of the song and get them in sequence. So I could make a DAT with all the songs in the right sequence the right distance apart and send that off to a mastering facility, and they could transfer it directly without having to incur three or four hours at$110 an hour — basically saving my clients a lot of money.

So how long did you use it at just that capacity?

I used it like that for about four years. I got a nice Lexicon A/D converter and started mixing to Pro Tools, because I didn't have automation. If I had a mix that was particularly complex, like if there was an intro with a bunch of weird bells and whistles and effects going on, I would just mix the intro separately and edit it onto the rest of the song later. That was a huge technological leap for me to be able to put all these songs in a computer and burn a CD for a client. Especially if it was the kind of thing where all they needed was a demo CD. It was a 4- channel interface, but I just couldn't find much use for the extra channels, because I couldn't sync it up to my 24-track. I used Pro Tools mainly for mixing and 2-track editing until I got a SMPTE slave driver, which was another peripheral device that you could plug into the system, and it would chase the time code from the tape. Once I did that, I could transfer tracks from the 24-track to Pro Tools, fiddle around with them and bounce them back onto the 24-track. The first time I really made use of the sync capability was while producing an album for the Cowboy Junkies called Lay It Down. The A&R guy had fixated on the vocal on a preproduction demo they had done in Canada. On this one song we could never get the lead to sound exactly like the vocal on that preproduction demo and he couldn't accept that. What we did was perfectly fine, but he wasn't having it. So I said, "Send me the vocal." They put it on a DAT and sent it down. The song was in the same key but it was slower, so it wasn't going to fit on our backing track. I knew the only way to get this guy off my back would be to transfer the vocal into Pro Tools and move the words around to make them fit the track we had recorded. The problem was I didn't really know how to do it. I knew it could be done, so I told the band, "Take a few days off" [laughter]. I got the manuals back out, and in about three days I had figured out how to make it happen.

At that point the A&R guy...

He was happy. It was a good vocal performance, but jeez. People get fixated on things and they can't hear it any other way. He actually did me a favor, because that process really opened my eyes. I thought, "Damn there's a whole lot of stuff I can do with this besides just sequencing and mastering." So, I started doing more of that kind of thing with it, although it was really hard to use. The program was really slow back then because the computer just couldn't keep up with it. It was crashing all the time. And it was still version 1 of the software.

How did the graphic interface change the way you started interacting with the recording? Was that significant to you?

Once you get used to seeing the waveforms and being able to grab sounds and put them wherever you want — there's no going back. The ability to do that is totally intoxicating. It gives you so much creative power over the elements of a song. There's just no going back to just using a tape machine — not for me anyway.

So at that point you were recording on tape and transferring to Pro Tools.

Right. I got the 8-channel interface because a lot of times 24 tracks wouldn't be enough, so, I would print time code on track 24 and use a TimeLine MicroLynx to sync it all together. I used that setup for several years. When that really changed was New Adventures In Hi-Fi. Scott Litt called me up and said, "For the next R.E.M. album we want to do something a little different. The guys don't want to go into a studio to record their basic tracks. We're going on a tour of Europe, and we're going to take Tascam DA88s with us and record new songs during sound checks to use for basic tracks." He said, "What it's gonna involve is transferring these tracks into Pro Tools so that we can fix whatever needs to be fixed and then overdub whatever else needs to go on the song." Most of the songs had drums, bass, and guitar, but not vocals. After the tour they sent me this huge box of tapes. I dumped those into Pro Tools and made rough mixes for the band. That was the first project I did where there was really no analog tape involved. I had to learn how to digitally transfer a 24-track song into Pro Tools. Then, I could take the bridge of a song from a sound check in Prague and take the chorus from one in Ireland, because the sound was very consistent from one venue to the next. That's when I really got good at editing whole multitrack songs together in Pro Tools.

That album was 1996 I think. What version of Pro Tools was that?

They were probably by that time up to version 4.

Were things running smoother by that point?

Yeah, by that time I believe I was using a Mac Quadra, which was a vast improvement over the Mac IIci — the software had become more stable and more streamlined and it was better able to sync up with digital tape machines.

You were recording to tape as late as 1999 for [Widespread Panic's] 'Til the Medicine Takes. When did you start recording to hard disk?

During 'Til the Medicine Takes, I was recording onto the 24-track and then transferring to Pro Tools for editing. The edited tracks were then transferred to a Sony 48-track for mixing. The next album I did with Panic was Don't Tell The Band. By that time I had a bigger Pro Tools rig with 24 inputs and 40 outputs and I could do the whole thing without renting the Sony 48-track. At that time I was still recording the basic tracks on analog tape. I had some nice Apogee converters that sounded really sweet. It was in the years around 2000, 2001 that it started becoming clear to me, as the tape manufacturers started going belly up one after another, that it was just a matter of time before tape was going to become a boutique item. When it got to the point where there was only one company left making tape, I decided to start weaning myself from the tape machine. I worked at getting things to sound the way I wanted them to using the Apogee converters, tube outboard gear, tube microphone preamps and tube limiters because I felt like pretty soon it was going to be too much of a hassle to deal with tape.

What motivated you to write The Musician's Guide To Pro Tools?

I think it was around 1999 that Digidesign decided to get into what's now referred to as the "prosumer" market, which is basically people with home studios. They came out with the LE version of Pro Tools and the Digi001. The whole package was $750, and of course I went out and bought one. It was an 8-channel interface and you could expand it to more inputs and outputs. It made it possible to have a Pro Tools system at home for a couple thousand dollars, and a lot of my friends starting buying them, like Vic Chesnutt and Mikey Houser [late of Widespread Panic]. Lots of people went out and bought these systems only to realize that the software is really complex. It's not really designed for the average person to operate. Engineers are kind of accustomed to having to figure things out on their own and muddle through it and go through manuals. They are technical, detailed oriented people and they can figure it out because they have to. It's their job. But musicians and songwriters were getting totally bogged down because there's a steep learning curve. So, I was getting a lot of frustrated phone calls, "How the hell do I make this thing work? I can't get it to do anything." I would go over and try to explain the basics of how to record a demo. I eventually started compiling a list of notes of things they needed to know to record a basic track and then overdub to another track, which is basically all they wanted to do. I started thinking about the fact that there was no quick-start guide for this. All you had was a 700-page manual that went into every nook and cranny of Pro Tools, and nobody could digest it. I thought, if this is happening to my friends it's got to be happening to just about everyone else who's bought one of these Digi 001's. I decided to put these notes together in a book and publish it myself. The organization for the book, was that influenced by your learning process or by trying to teach friends? It came from teaching friends who were used to using tape machines. What they wanted to do initially was use it like an 8-track recorder. They wanted to put down a drum machine or rhythm guitar and add some other elements to it — the same thing I was doing back when I had the 4-track — and then maybe learn a little bit of basic editing and get some effects happening, like reverb and delay. Then make a little mix of it to burn to CD. I tried to put myself in the position of somebody who was trying to get through that process. I started from the perspective of a beginner, keeping it as basic as I could. To make a demo you need about 10 percent of what Pro Tools can do, so I didn't put in any extra information that didn't absolutely have to be there. A little later in the book I got into some more advanced stuff, like editing drums and comping things together. In 2003, the book was acquired by McGraw- Hill. It was a welcome change for me because I could only get so far selling the book out of my garage. I told the people at McGraw Hill I wanted to publish two separate books, but they wanted to combine the material into one book instead. So I went through and came up with another 150 pages of more advanced material for the 2004 McGraw-Hill version. So, why the second edition now? Any computer book has to be revised on a fairly regular basis, because the software is constantly changing. The first McGraw Hill edition had been written around Pro Tools version 6. When Digidesign came out with version 7, they added a lot of new features and rearranged the menus. The book needed to be revised to reflect those changes, or the lessons wouldn't work. Also, Digidesign has started working with a lot of third party companies like IK Multimedia, Propellerhead and the folks that make Ableton Live. Now, when you buy a Pro Tools LE system like the Mbox, you get a lot of powerful free software — a guitar amp emulator, software synths and a version of Reason, adapted for Digidesign. These programs have essentially become a part of Pro Tools now, and, I wanted to address that in the new edition. A lot of people buy LE systems and never get around to installing the extras because they are overwhelmed, and the last thing they want to do is tackle another computer program. But these freebies add so much to the functionality of Pro Tools that I really wanted to encourage people to go ahead and install them and at least get a taste of what it can do. It's difficult to make technical writing both effective and enjoyable to read, but your book is not only precise but also laugh-out-loud funny at times. How did you learn to write so well? Probably from reading a lot as a kid. My mother wrote textbooks for nursing schools, so I may have inherited some of that ability from her. It was my goal to make the book as fun as possible and to incorporate some humor, because these types of books are usually so dry it's all you can do not to nod off while you're reading them. I wanted to incorporate imaginary scenarios in the book, where you're trying to compensate for a band's ineptitude in the studio, because that's what you end up doing with Pro Tools. Twenty-five years is a long time to stay in the recording business. What's been the key to your longevity? Part of it is having a good work ethic. That means staying sober in the studio and keeping your work hours down to reasonable amount of time so you don't end up burning out. I generally work five days a week, nine hours a day, I take a two-hour break in the middle of the day, and I go home and hang out with my family. To me that's the only way to stay sane and be able to do it for a long period of time. Another part of it is being smart about equipment expenditures — keeping your overhead low. A lot of times people spend every penny they make on more gear, and then they hit a slow period where there's not much work, and they end up selling gear on eBay to make ends meet. Or they have some success in the basement and move into a big commercial property only to find the monthly nut is killing them. How important has your ability to engineer, play on albums and produce been in relation to the success of your studio? Well, the studio is only as good as the people who run it. People don't usually come here because of the room or the equipment. They usually call me because they liked the sound of an album I did in the past. Has the decrease in the number of big-label albums being produced had an effect on your work? It makes it much more difficult for bands to support themselves. For instance, I put out the Michael Houser album on Supercat Records a couple years ago. I think we ended up selling a total of probably 15,000 or 20,000 copies, which is pretty good. But the sad truth of the matter is that there are probably 100,000 people that have that record. What you see happening is the smaller labels that are doing singer-songwriter records, instead of putting their artists in the studio to make their record, they'll give them a$300 Mbox and say, "Take this home, plug it into your laptop, make your record and hand it in when it's done." A lot of times people will make a record at home like that, they'll bring it over here and I'll help them polish it up and mix it for them. So, I'm getting a lot of sessions from home studios like that, mixing records that people have made at home. There's this whole mid-level of bands that are putting out their own records and getting them distributed as best they can. As a result, I'm working with more unsigned bands nowadays.