To be even mildly successful these days, a musician needs to be about as web-savvy as a Huffington Post blogger or Anonymous hacker. Sites like Bandcamp, ReverbNation and SoundCloud help bands promote themselves, but depend on a constant stream of self-uploaded audio and video files, and the stuff has to be good — or at least presentable — or web users will click on the next thing that catches their fancy on the endless free jukebox that is the Internet.
Howlers, the Bloomfield venue and watering hole, is making it easier for musicians who gig there to leave with something to add to their online repertoires. In mid-August, the bar added a new "recording rig" that allows its in-house sound engineers to capture a video recording, with high-quality audio, of every set, preserving the digital goods for bands for two weeks after the show. The files are set in the format YouTube prefers, and Howlers posts some performances on its own blog (howlerslive.tumblr.com). Howlers had previously provided live recordings for bands, but the new rig makes the process a lot quicker — and easier — for the personnel there.
At the heart of the operation is a brand new PreSonus StudioLive digital mixer, which retails for about $2,000 and can take input from up to 16 recording devices. "I can get four microphones on a drum set and even do a sub mix on the drums alone," says in-house sound engineer Lauren Shapiro (who is also the guitarist/vocalist for the band The Color Fleet).
Each night that Howlers hosts a show (which is four or five a week), either Shapiro or Jessica Kowal is in the back booth perfecting the sonics. Both studied sound recording in college, Shapiro at Emerson College in Boston and Kowal at Duquesne University.
The PreSonus is used to create the mix that the audience hears out of the speakers. A whole separate piece of hardware, called a compressor, captures a second mix that's easier to bottle up and which is transferred onto a disc that the bands go home with. The second mixing "is what makes Howlers different than other venues," Shapiro says.
The video aspect is nothing fancier than a surveillance camera, but, hey: The Internet isn't known for high video-production standards, is it?