An Excuse to Listen to More Music
The team at music blog Dash ‘n’ Verve asked me to get involved with production on their new weekly online radio show, featuring tracks and interviews from emerging artists and labels across a whole range of genres. I don’t need an excuse to listen to more new music, but if ever I did, producing a radio show is as good as it comes.
Each week I receive seven new tracks and up to as many interviews and voice links. My brief was to pull all of these together into a coherent and fun 30-minute radio package. As I’m not able to get into a studio every week, I also had to be able to do this remotely. Challenge accepted!
Where to Begin?
I started off by working with Dash ‘n’ Verve to build a format for the program that we all felt would showcase the diverse range of styles they champion in the best way possible. Consistency and smooth transitions between tracks and interviews was the priority. I developed a script template for them to follow when recording their vocal links and gave them some pointers on getting the best out of their equipment (Røde NT1-A) and studio space (a bedroom in a noisy block of flats). This meant less time spent worrying about recording and more time to focus on getting interviews with the artists for the show.
It’s All About the Music
The first show was definitely a steep on-the-job learning curve. I found that the mastered levels of the songs varied quite dramatically from track to track. As I wanted loudness to have as little influence on the listeners experience of the music, I decided to start the production process by adjusting the gain of each track to loudness normalise them at -23 LUFS, in line with EBU R128.
We all agreed that it was really important that the artists’ sonic intentions were maintained as much as possible when their tracks were played out on the show, so I decided to apply no EQ adjustment in the signal chain of the music.
Out in The Streets – It’s Really Noisy!
The guys at Dash ‘n’ Verve do a great job engaging with the artists and have secured interviews at short notice with some really exciting new acts. But, to do this sometimes means compromising on audio recording quality. Some of the musicians have access to great studio spaces and facilities to record their interviews, others may be bedroom beat makers and not have as much experience with microphone technique.
I’ve had to work with audio recorded on noisy streets where police sirens were flying in and out. Another fun interview to edit was one recorded in a pub by a band gathered round a laptop. Every week is a new opportunity to put my editing chops to the test. I’m always having to think creatively to ensure the main feature of the interview – the artist’s voice – is clear and audible above any noise.
The different environments and equipment people use to record their pieces adds to the atmosphere of the show. It feels like you’re being allowed into the artists’ personal space, rather than another homogenous sounding studio.
As with many free streaming services, compression and conversion of files to lossy formats is unfortunately par for the course. This doesn’t mean compromising on production quality at my end though.
Ensuring a competitive playback level on Mixcloud whilst minimising limiting compression was my goal when mastering the show ready for broadcast. Thanks to setting conservative playback levels early in the production process, I’ve been able to get integrated loudness levels around -14 LUFS and still have digital headroom to play with. This also meant that I was able to leave the artists’ mastering choices untouched.
Doing the show is always a lot of fun. It’s great to hear the artists tell their stories and I’ve had my ears opened to some new acts that I’m definitely looking forward to seeing play live, and maybe even having the opportunity to work with in the future.
Do you have an upcoming audio project you’d like some help with? A new podcast that needs editing? A debut single that needs a mix or master? Drop us a message with details and we’ll get back to you with some suggestions.
You can listen to the full back catalogue of The Dash ‘n’ Verve Show on their Mixcloud page.