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DIY Ditty: CreativeLive lets the experts teach you … for free.

Last updated on September 11, 2017

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As the years have rolled on for Independent Clauses, I’ve become very interested in how artists can make DIY, independent careers. To that end, I’m branching out from our bread and butter of reviews in 2014 and covering more inventive, creative services that are helping bands make their way in the world. (Don’t worry, reviews will never go away.)

CreativeLive certainly fits that bill. CreativeLive is a company that gives experts of various creative fields a longform platform to teach what they do directly to those who need it: aspiring members of those same creative fields. They started in photography, but have recently expanded to music recording classes: they’re doing a 3-day drum recording class with metal studio engineer Eyal Levi this week. As it livestreams, it’s free; after the recording is over, then they sell it. As soon as I heard about free, I had to know more. Finn McKenty, the executive producer of the music channel at CreativeLive, fielded my questions via e-mail.

1. What is CreativeLive? How can it benefit independent artists?

In a nutshell, Creative Live offers free, live education for creative professionals: photo & video, music & audio, art & design, maker & crafting, and business. The key thing with CL’s music channel is that all our teachers are DOERS, who actually make a living off of this stuff— as compared to the zillions of self-appointed “music industry experts” out there, or people who teach engineering/mixing/songwriting because they’re not talented enough to actually DO it. I’m not hating on those people; they have a place and more power to them. I’m just saying, if you want to get the info straight from the people who make the records you listen to, come to CL.

Which ties into how it can benefit independent artists. I come from the DIY punk/hardcore world, so my brain is permanently wired to do things that way… I spent my teens and 20s making zines, going to shows in basements and VFW halls all over the country, sleeping on a stranger’s floor after the show next to a pile of cat barf, and most of our teachers come from the same background. I’d say that probably 75% of my friends make their living either playing in bands or recording music, so it’s in my blood (for better or worse haha).

We are fortunate enough to have moved up in the world a bit since then, but those are our roots and we’ll never forget them— so EVERYTHING we do on CL is geared toward the DIY, independent artist. Not only because those are my people and I love them, but because (as I’m sure your readers know) that’s the future of the music business.

2. How did the music channel grow out of CreativeLive’s established work?

While we started in photography (because Chase [Jarvis] is a pretty famous photographer), our mission has always been to help people build the life they want as a creative professional whether you take photos, make movies, play music, do design, or whatever. So music is a natural expansion for us, and when I came on board last year, it was a natural fit for me to head up given that I’ve known Chase for 15 years and spent the last 20+ years of my life in the music world.

3. How did you choose the free-first, sell-afterwards model? Is that economic model working well so far?

Honestly, that happened way before I was here so I can’t really say WHY we chose it, but it works great for us for all the same reason it works for bands. If you want people these days to pay for content on the internet, it only works if a) the content is great and b) you build an authentic, real relationship with your “fans.” (being a punk/hardcore guy, I feel weird about using the term “fan” because I don’t see the people in the band as any different or better than the people in the audience, but that’s another conversation haha).

Personally, I think it’s a good thing for both us and our users. First of all, I love that you can watch every single minute of CL programming for free— because if you’re a 13 year-old kid making songs in your bedroom, I think it’s fucking awesome that you can get access to our instructors (who literally made the records you’re inspired by) for FREE. I am all about the kids, so that’s important to me. And second, it keeps us on our toes. If we want people to PAY for our content, it has to be great.

4. How did the upcoming class with Eyal Levi come about?

In addition to being one of probably to top 10-20 metal producers on the planet, Eyal is one of my best friends. I talk to him all day every day, so I’m always hearing about what he’s working on, what’s giving him headaches, etc. And hands down, one of the hardest parts of producing modern rock/metal is drums— getting that hyper-real, super polished sound without sounding fake is really hard.

I’m guessing your audience doesn’t really have to go to these lengths, but here’s an example: Eyal and I counted, and an album he produced a few months ago has an average of 1800 snare hits per song. Think about what it takes to edit and (potentially) sample-reinforce every hit on that album. You literally cannot learn these techniques at any school on the planet, and they’re super important to making modern albums, so we figured this would be a great chance for us to do a class!

5. What are some future music-related classes going to be? What are you excited about in 2014 for CreativeLive?

2014 has a lot of very very exciting stuff in the works that I can’t talk about yet, but stay tuned! What I can tell you is that a big part of 2014 for us will be a focus on mastering the basics. It’s easy to get distracted by gear, plugins, and all that, but at the end of the day that stuff doesn’t matter nearly as much as the basics: getting great recordings of great performances. No amount of studio trickery will turn a shitty recording into a good one. It’s all about getting it right at the source, and our classes on Fundamentals of Mixing, intro to Logic/Pro Tools, and Fundamentals of Digital Audio will give you exactly what you need to do that.

6. What are some things you’re listening to right now?

I listen to literally every kind of music, from old 80s hardcore to top 40 to classical to minimal ambient electro to video game soundtracks. If it’s good, I’m into it. Stuff on my current Spotify playlist includes Never Shout Never, The Ghost Inside, Lorde, Anna Kendrick, Cerebral Incubation, Katy Perry and A Day To Remember.