2020 In Review

To say it’s been a weird one is to state the obvious!

This year I set up sub publishing for Arms Production Music so it now covers 14 territories: very much feels like it’s finally in the right place to bear significant fruit in a year or three. Especially pleased with signing with BAM for the USA, France, Canada and the UK. The back end bit meant that it’s taken until now to port all 33 albums to a unified admin system, ending the year with all albums out again and a load ready to go for 2021. As well as more typical albums you’d expect on a library label, I’m releasing some artist EPs and albums too…positioning Arms more of a label for creative expression rather than ‘just’ a library.

I wanted to spread my wings this year and start writing for more libraries, and I’m pleased to say I had around 70 tracks released on 6 or 7 libraries. A couple of highlights are the albums I did for The Music Supervisors : one with Sally Hossack and one which was me solo

I did a few virtual choir projects with my friend Hannah: she’s a top choir leader, singer, songwriter and all round Vocal Goddess and turned lockdown into an opportunity to write some choir pieces that her virtual choir could learn and record at home, with me mixing the results. The difficulties…well, the singers were not professionals, they didn’t have any mics other than their phones, and they were recording in less than ideal places: so the resulting mix sessions were full of flex markers, EQ, automation… pulling things into shape to bring out the best so it sounds like a cohesive choir. Any song with ‘t’s’ and ‘s’s’ is a stretch to make it sound like there isn’t a bag of snakes….imagine timing 100 singers to get that right!

Confetti has been fun: although very stressful trying to steer the ship through the pandemic to make sure students get the education they deserve, there’s been a load of good stuff: Industry Week had some great guests, but Alan Mcgee was a definite highlight, and we ended the year with Andrew Scheps doing virtual mix critiques of student mixes. I hosted it which was a bit of a dream as I’m a fan: not even necessarily of his mixing (of course, I am)…it’s more about his approach which is full of common sense to me and less about the gear. The tech team made the whole thing look amazing….a signpost to what we are going to do in the future….I’ve booked some legends for March already.

We had the Confetti single recorded by producer Al Groves for our student James Burt, and I mixed the B Side ‘Something Inside Me’ : we should have released it in June, but ended up doing it in December as a live streamed event which looked and sounded great.

Some new (to me) plug ins I’ve loved are the Abbey Road Saturator and the Renaissance De-esser : but I tend to stick with a few plug ins I know really well, so I haven’t changed much. Virtual synths..again, I still use Logics, but bought a couple of Drum Drops libraries and a few Spitfire ones: the Originals series are excellent value, and I got the British Drama Toolkit, too. LABS got rinsed as ever and the BBC SO free version has been a staple for an upcoming album I’m writing. Arturia V Collection remains a firm favourite: the Solina and Moog are go-to synths for me whenever I need inspiration.

For music I’ve listened to, I’m still doing a monthly playlist on Spotify, but highlights have been , yes, the Morrissey album: fine voice, average songs, great production. Baxter Dury, Jarv Is, Doves, but my main love of the year has been the Taylor Swift ‘Folklore’ album : In no way have I been anything other than a distant admirer of her stuff before….a great writer of pop, but Folklore , despite it being over long (could have been a perfect 10 songs rather than a good 16) , it’s Class A song writing and fantastic production.

All the songs are ace, but the three that gut punch every time are ‘Mirrorball’, ‘This Is Me Trying’ and ‘August’

Last month, the Long Pond Sessions film came out: perfect live accompaniment to a corking album: she’s a force of nature.

I spent some time sprucing up my studio…..just re casing stuff, getting rid of bits I don’t use, new surfaces, new storage, and making sure every inch of space is used well: I’ll take some piccies soon. I got rid of my old crappy bass and got a new one that stays in tune and everything! Same for my old Tele copy electric: that’s on eBay and I got a dreamy Seafoam 70s Squire Tele. Although my playing is ‘functional’ at best, my God this things sounds so beautiful and it’s all over 2 new projects I’m writing at the moment…some alt indie dream-folk (made up genre) EPs. Finally I got rid of my old nylon string guitar and replaced it with a lovely player..total bargain off eBay. Last thing to do, really, is to get my piano tuned again, then it will feel like a new studio.

I wrote and refreshed some new units for RSL Awards: a level 3 Music Tech pathway but there was no external assessment work for me to mark for obvious reasons, so all quiet on that front…not sure 2021 will be any better

All in all, 2021 promises more of the same: library music, mixing, production and making the day job as exciting as possible.

Hope the year’s been good for you.


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