An Open Letter to The Music Producers Guild

Many thanks to Ed Waring for letting me post his first ever guest post on my blog. Ed is a photographer, a record producer, a research wizard, band member and a great sharer of knowledge. I’m proud to call him a friend too. Over to Ed.

A little while ago now I had a very interesting twitter discussion with the UK Music Producers Guild regarding membership. Firstly I want to say fairplay to the MPG for wanting to have this discussion in public. Very positive of them.

When I started following @ukmpg on Twitter they sent me a direct message thanking me for following them and asking me if I’d like to join so I went to their website. The MPG’s mission statement is:

“The MPG represents and promotes the interests of all those involved in the production of recorded music, including producers, engineers, mixers, re-mixers, programmers and mastering engineers.”

Tape Op - Probably The Best Recordist's Magazine in the World

Hey, I thought… that’s me! I’m intimately involved in the production of music for our band and for other people. I produce, I engineer, I mix, I program and I master. I am passionate about it. I am obsessed by it. In our lovely crypt I’ve done on awful lot of it now. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learnt from some of them and I look forward to making more and learning even more. I’ve learnt so much from the internet from lurking incessantly on forums like the Womb and Gearslutz. From reading every interview on Sound on Sound. Every classic track on SOS and Mixonline. Every issue of TapeOp.

It’s an exciting journey and one that I’m very lucky to have made as far as I have. But I’m very aware that there are things I don’t know… Much of that comes from not necessarily feeling like part of peer group, of having no-one I can think of as a mentor. When you read about the producers and engineers who’ve made the records you love and they talk about interning or working at the Townhouse or the Record Plant and the environments in which they learnt and the people they learnt from I am so jealous. I am very aware of the history in of making records, the traditions in which I am working, that there are so many lessons in how things were done in the past and how decisions were made which are just as valid now. I’m actually in a situation where I act as a mentor to other younger engineers and artists educating and inspiring but there is no one to to mentor me!

So I went to the MPG membership page and found this.

To qualify for *Full Membership* of the MPG, you must have:

6 credits for production, engineering, mixing or mastering on commercially released tracks, either on single or multiple CDs, vinyl or cassette albums, EPs and singles, or DVDs. These tracks must have been commercially available via traditional outlets, i.e. record shops or mail order. *Personal sales, i.e. directly by the artist at live venues, do not qualify*.

or:

12 credits for production, engineering, mixing or mastering on commercially released tracks or two full-length CD releases that are available via digital download from recognised online music retail sites. *Sales from personal websites do not qualify. Tracks solely available free from other websites, e.g. a MySpace page, do not qualify*.

WTF? Ok, I realise that there might have to be some criteria for membership but these criteria are really flawed and really really got my hackles up.

1) Being on iTunes is not a barrier to anyone. I can record the sound of my own farts through my laptop mic right this second, design some artwork, upload it all to a service like http://www.watunes.com/ and be on iTunes in about 2 weeks (Rich – Further development, with Ditto Music you can now be on iTunes in 24 hours). No cost, all royalties to me, and ermmmm… no sales. Being on a recognised online retail site proves nothing!

Radiohead's In Rainbows

Produced this? You may not "officially" be a "Producer"

2) I don’t know if anyone’s noticed but the record industry is pretty screwed right now. The old ways don’t work and no-one knows really what the new ways are. The gap between under the radar and the mainstream is bigger and in some ways more insurmountable than ever. Giving away music for free and selling music directly to fans as pay what you want rather than through shops are the only things which are working for us at the moment and we advise practically every band we meet to do the same.

Here’s why…

… Unless you have a lot of national and international exposure you are probably selling music directly to people that you actually know in some physical or digital way. People that you have a personal relationship with, people that will buy your music no matter where it is. The charts are all but irrelevant and the internet allows you to sell directly to anyone. When you are talking about small amounts of records sales, the amount it costs you to actually sell through established channels is such a major part of your meagre income that it really has no purpose, it has no benefit, just a negative impact on income.

If you sell just a thousand albums to fans who you already have a relationship with through iTunes you are paying Apple over £2000 for the privilege! In the world of a small band that is a huge amount of money… that’s the budget to record your next album, to get to SXSW, to do that european tour, maybe your years rent if you are a solo artist.

Hope and Social have made more money from selling music in the last year than we ever have (and that includes 2 years of national distribution, MTV plays, name PR companies, radio play etc) and for every one of those 5000+ sales we’ve had in the last 12 months, that person could have had the music for free. They chose not to and they chose give us money. What’s more, because they were interacting with us directly we got all that money. More than 95% of our sales are directly to fans either at gigs or online. We’re not alone in this.

There are many variations! If I’m a club or hip hop producer maybe the music I make and give away is nothing more than an advert for my club nights where people pay to see me and maybe buy mix cd’s directly from me, it’s a calling card that in the future gets me paid remix or recording work for other acts who may just give the music away or put it on their myspace where teenagers who don’t buy music can hear it because actually the majority of their income comes from appearance fees and t-shirt sales. There’s a million situations where giving stuff away, selling personally and totally bypassing the shop system makes the much more sense than the traditional way of selling music.

THE CRITERIA ON THE MPG SITE DOES NOT REFLECT THE REALITY OF EXISTENCE FOR THOUSANDS OF GREAT, “SUCCESFUL”, SMALL BANDS.

On another note it means that if my only production work had been the last 4 Nine Inch Nails albums and Radioheads “In Rainbows” I wouldn’t qualify for full membership either!

3) I don’t know if anyone’s noticed but the record industry is pretty screwed right now. This is having a major effect on recording studios and professionals. Even some of the largest, most well known are having problems (see Townhouse closure for example…) Labels small and large are having huge problems making money and even justifying making records. This effects everyone in the industry. The people this is really going to affect are the people in the low middle…Fantastic niche acts who 5 years ago might have been able to count on a deal from a small label; now they’re are on their own.

The little cool studios, maybe run by someone in a band they love, full of interesting gear, well priced and capable of producing amazing music aren’t getting the same amount of business they used to. I know of at least 3 ‘major’ small bands in Leeds who recorded their albums in the states because the exchange rate made the deal too good… The MPG needs to support this area! This is where the ‘stars’ of tomorrow come from, this is where the music that inspires young people to want to be in bands comes from. This is the future if you like! In our twitter discussions this phrase was used

“Full Membership of MPG is intended for “working professionals” for want of a better phrase”.

Myself and Rich from Hope and Social made a decision that we do not want to run a full time studio. We look around and we do not see enough bands with enough money to make that a worthwhile proposition. We can offer a better service to other bands by restricting how much work we do, by working only on stuff that interests us or where we are paid by other organisations to work with younger bands. Bands that work with us learn an incredible amount about recording practice, about making records, about songwriting, about how performance is key, about how they can keep their band financially viable… We are a key part of our local music culture. We interact with and try to inspire hundreds of musicians and budding engineers every year…

We are ‘professional’ but not by the MPG’s definition. Again, we are not alone in this. We are part of training the next generation… a generation to whom the idea of going into a studio as we think of it now may literally be history. We also feel responsibility for keeping the “oral history” going… Telling the stories about how great records were made, about the generations of engineers and producers before us and the things they did and how you can use that knowledge when recording at home straight into a computer. Is this part of the MPG’s remit? To ensure that the techniques we know now don’t get lost or die out? To ensure that those working on a budget or in less traditional ways are doing so in the best interests of the profession as a whole?

The MPG firewall

Want to read the MPG's words? That'll be £55 please.

4) Finally, when I went to the MPG site and read the T&C’s I immediately felt excluded. a) because of the reasons above (it didn’t seem to be aimed at people like me, it seemed to be aimed at people from the past) b) as I browsed the site so much content was restricted! I couldn’t even see the details of forthcoming events to see if it was worth me joining! In a tiny way I totally see myself as part of an ongoing history of recorded music and just as my band are constantly having conversations and making decisions and mistakes that are part of the future of how musicians will act to survive and make music and find an audience similarly I’m part of the future of how good sounding, well made, emotionally moving records are made too. I’d love something like the MPG to be part of that as well… because, and I don’t know if anyone’s noticed this,  but the record industry is pretty screwed right now.

Why The MPG and Me Should Be

The MPG should be there to help me and my recording peers (from whatever genre); to give us opportunities to meet and learn from people who have so much more skills and knowledge than us and to provide a hub to help us all to find a way forward through these exciting but troubled times. I also feel as an organisation like the MPG should be looking to help ensure that even if the future means that most records are made by engineers working part time for artists who make a living selling ‘stuff’ directly to a small body of fans in rooms which may or may not count as proper studios that those records continue to be made with skill and respect and love for music that has produced so many classic records in the past. In a time where Elbow can win the Mercury Music Prize with an album that was essentially recorded and mixed in a project studio.

I look forward to your responses and am very happy to be involved in this conversation in whatever way you find useful. Maybe a little MPG organised convention could be in order? A day of round tables and panel discussions between ‘producers’ at all levels?

42 comments

  1. Tim Hornsby says:

    Really interesting, mate. Didn’t realise there was that much to it. Good luck!

    • Tommy Cockerham says:

      Great guest blog Ed.

      The established (yet struggling) paradigm on which the MPG membership criteria seem to be constructed, illustrates the general feeling of bewilderment regarding the commercial viability of recorded music as a product. This inevitably affects how recorded music is distributed and in turn, how it is made.

      What technology giveth, technology hath alstho thaken away…

      What is the ‘new model’?

      I’m not even sure that there IS a singular ‘new model’ by which the whole industry can conform. Despite this and most importantly, people are STILL MAKING COMPELLING RECORDS and some people are even making a living from it.

      Considering the sheer enormity of the upheaval within the industry, it may now seem trivial to mention that I can completely understand how it might be difficult to identify relevant criteria for eligibility of membership into the guild… Especially since every other organisation involved in the business of recorded music is either being buried alive, or evolving in order to remain relevant.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steve Lawson and Rich Huxley, Dean Stewart. Dean Stewart said: RT @TheHuxCapacitor: New Blog Post – An Open Letter to The UK Music Producers Guild ( @ukmpg ) http://wp.me/pwVdW-dG by @edhombre […]

  3. Dubber says:

    Sadly, this is exactly what a guild is for: keeping people like you out.

    The very definition of “guild” is (to paraphrase Wikipedia) an organisation something between a trade union, a cartel and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by an authority or monarch to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials.

    In other words – the logic of guilds dictates that if you don’t qualify for membership – you shouldn’t be making recordings at all, and nor should you have access to the tools.

    Hopefully the Music Producers Guild are able to move beyond that, and as an organisation, they should see the value in having members like you. But institutionally, they may be incapable of it by definition.

  4. Mike Hillier says:

    I’m with you on this, the UKMPG is too far behind the times on membership requirements. I realise they don’t want to open membership up to every Tom, Dick and Harry that’s recorded a bedroom album, but there are countless people who make a living in recording who as you say aren’t able to join who should be.
    The big question I suppose is how they should limit membership if the traditional methods aren’t working.

  5. Tommy Cockerham says:

    If we use the wikipedia definition, I think the MPG leans more towards a trade union for professionals, rather than a ‘secret society’ intent on monopolising the artistry of the profession. In any case I don’t think there is enough material for the next Dan Brown novel.

    I think the real issue is that the MPG needs to adapt in order to remain relevant to professionals, just like everyone else involved in this industry.

  6. edhombre says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys… I’m hoping that there’ll be a response from the MPG (and a little bird on twitter suggests that there will be soon). My intent is not just to get a response re: membership requirements but hopefully get them to think about what their role is in the industry going forward! Are they a ‘secret society’ for the dwindling well paid elite or can they move and change to fulfil some wider and far more influential and productive role?

    Will keep you all informed…

    ed x

  7. Mixed thoughts on this – if they don’t let you qualify for membership, why would you want to join? I’ve seen the site and thought the same, but I’m pretty sure there’s different levels of membership.

    • edhombre says:

      Hey Tom…. My point is not that I want them to change the rules so that I can join (as I instantly changed my opinion on what the organisation actually was and whether it could provide any value for me). When I wrote the letter above I was just AMAZED and actually kind of worried that they were so out of touch with what I see happening around me in the “real world” in the music industry.

      I was also quite astounded that they appeared to be almost pro-actively marginalising themselves in a way that was almost totally out of sync with their (on the face of it) very inclusive mission statement.

      • Also, I think it’s interesting that these things really aren’t a barrier to most anyone wishing to join. We can all get music on iTunes in a day now (if we want the artists we record with to avoid reaping the rewards of services such as bandcamp et al).

        Here’s hoping that the guild wants to include us, or failing that, maybe it is time to start our own open source group as discussed here.

        Thanks to you all for such vibrant discussion and smart comments.

        Now, back to my holiday.
        ;)
        Rich

  8. And on that note, let’s just start our own guild. The people commenting here are the same group of people using twitter as an audio chat room. I hereby propose the Awesome Online Producers Guild and welcome you all, unless you are an MPG member, in which case you need over 100 production credits and a home in Monaco for our annual general meeting.

  9. Ed,

    Several of the directors of the Music Producers Guild (UK) have had your blog brought to their attention, and are keen to respond in a meaningful and respectful manner in order to bring some clarity to the discussion.

    However, we are all working record producers and music recording engineers with busy schedules, and would like to take some time to discuss this amongst ourselves in order to give you the response that your comments deserve.

    Please allow us a few days to reflect and we will respond in full as soon as we can.

    Steve Levine, chairman of the Music Producers Guild (UK)

    http://www.mpg.org.uk

    • Thanks for your comment. Very much looking forward to hearing a full response when you’ve had a natter amongst yourselves.
      Appreciate you taking the time to give this your attention.
      ;)

  10. edhombre says:

    Just had a message from the MPG explaining that they are discussing the questions I’ve raised and should have an official response next week. They tried to leave a comment here but for some reason the internet ate it.

    I look forward to hearing what they have to say with great interest.

    ed x

  11. Dear Ed,

    Thankyou for taking the time to express your opinions with regard to membership of the Music Producers Guild (UK). Your passion for recording music and understanding of production values is evident in your open letter.

    Firstly, let’s clear up a few of your misunderstandings.

    Although the MPG is set up to represent and promote the interests of all those involved in the production of recorded music, Associate Membership of the MPG is open to anyone, and I mean anyone. There are no qualifications for eligibility, other than signing up to a £55 per year membership subscription.

    Regarding Full Membership, you’ve correctly quoted the text from the MPG website. Maybe we need to re-write it for greater clarity, as you’ve misunderstood the details. The text states that Full Members need to have a credit, i.e. their name as producer, recording engineer, mixer or mastering engineer on 6 tracks, i.e. songs, on commercially released CDs, or 12 tracks, i.e. songs, available commercially as downloads.

    You say that you wouldn’t qualify for Full Membership if you had worked on the last 4 Nine Inch Nails albums or “In Rainbows”. Of course you would qualify, since those credits amount to more than 6 songs on commercially released CDs.

    Part of the work of the MPG is to represent producers to various government organisations, e.g. The Dept for Culture, Media & Sport, and to other official bodies within the UK music industry, e.g. UK Music, PPL, The Music Managers Forum, AIM, BPI. There are several issues being debated right now which directly affect the livelihoods of producers and other royalty earners, and the directors of the MPG work very hard (for no remuneration) to make sure that the voices of producers and others who work on recorded music are heard in the highest places. Recording artists often get the lion’s share of attention, for obvious reasons. Their public profiles are higher, whereas producers and engineers are often sidelined, and the value of their creative and administrative work is overlooked.

    In order to gain and maintain the respect of these organisations, it is necessary to show that the MPG represents full-time professional producers and engineers, and has the support of a significant number of those who work on a regular basis with major recording artists, and are, as a result, intrinsically involved, and partly responsible for, the health of the UK’s economy, and for the revenue that government obtains by way of taxation.

    Hence the Full Membership category. It demonstrates that the MPG represents full-time producers and engineers.

    However, the MPG is by no means an elitist or high-minded organisation. Everyone on the board of directors, all of whom are working producers and engineers, is very keen to make sure that we encourage new members with fresh ideas. We all want to keep the MPG moving forward, and the way to do this is to engage with new generations of creative and commercially successful producers. I for one, want to keep making records which are vital and fresh, and I want to continue to make contact with anyone with new ideas so that I can keep my own techniques at the cutting edge.

    Hence the Associate Member category.

    The MPG also spends a good deal of time and effort encouraging new talent, as illustrated by its involvement with LIPA (The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). Every year, the MPG presents the most promising graduate with several prizes, including a 2-week internship at Kore Studios, a year’s Associate Membership of MPG, 2 days working alongside Paul Epworth (producer of Florence & The Machine, The Futureheads, Plan B, Friendly Fires, etc.), mentoring from experienced MPG producers, and free tickets to the annual MPG Awards event in London.
    (details: http://www.mpg.org.uk/news_stories/231)

    We realise that the openness of Associate Membership will bring in many who perhaps record music as a hobby or to help out their mates in a local band or whatever, but we also realise that many of those with currently modest ambitions will be likely to develop and be inspired by the work of others.

    So – you can see that no-one is excluded.

    The distinction between eligibility for Full & Associate Membership is not perfect, and in fact is a regular source of debate at board meetings. We can probably improve on it, and if you have some ideas, we’d be happy to listen. In fact your suggestion of a round table or a panel-type event is very welcome. There have not been that many MPG events recently, mainly due to the summer being a difficult time to get people to attend, but, come the Autumn, we will be looking for ideas for new events. Let’s stay in touch on that.

    You said that you had trouble getting access to many pages on the MPG website, and displayed a screenshot showing a members-only message. I’d be interested to know which page you were trying to access, since the majority of the pages on the MPG website are accessible to non-members. There are some sections which are for members only, for good reason. We have to give our paying members something for their membership subscriptions! I agree that there have been a few events recently which were restricted to members, but I’ve just checked back through the files, and nearly all of them were events organised by other organisations, e.g. the Association of Professional Recording Services, and Music Tank. The reason they were restricted was because those organisations were giving MPG members a discount on the entry charge – one of the benefits of MPG membership! The complete list of member benefits is shown here:

    http://www.mpg.org.uk/benefits

    You say that “the recording industry is pretty screwed right now”. On the contrary, some sections of the industry have never been more robust because at last the power is being returned to the hands of artists and music makers. Many MPG members are working on projects by self-funded artists and bands who have 100% control of their careers. As we all know, income from sales royalties has dropped dramatically in recent years, and that in turn adversely affects recording budgets, which is partly responsible for the demise of many fine recording studios. However, in spite of these problems, this is an exciting time which we feel will provide new opportunities if we create new initiatives, partly by working directly with artists.

    If you’d like the opportunity to discuss any of these issues at a meeting with some of the MPG directors and producers, please get back to us at:

    communications@mpg.org.uk

    Your input is very welcome.

    Best regards,

    Mick Glossop, on behalf of the MPG board of directors

    http://www.mpg.org.uk/mpg_directors

  12. The audiophile says:

    Some good points here. Your letter was reall good Ed and pointed out hypocrisy in the MPG membership. Their response was predictable. They say they are welcoming, but they’re not. They do nothing for new members. New ideas and new members are shouted down and so it goes on – it’s the same bitter, resentful few who control everything the MPG does and that won’t change. They don’t want anyone to join unless they earned lots in the 1970s and they basically want things back to the way they were. The same directors argue the toss about ishoos on their vocal booth, the same ones who nominate themselves and win their own awards and the same ones who presumably invented the membership system to keep out the likes of you. Why would you want to join anyway? What do you gain? Nothing.Your fee will pay for them to meet up and pat themselves on the back and give themselves more awards. On the one hand, they demand proof of credits for their full membership, but on the other, they are campaigning for credits on MP3s!

    The best idea on this thread is that a new organisation is formed that represents the reality of producers and engineers NOW and not how it used to be, with a more open membership system – something modern that will encourage modern producers to join, because loads of well-known producers wouldn’t touch MPG with a bargepole. Tom Davenport’s idea is exactly what is needed.

    • Evans says:

      Regarding ‘The Audiophile’ comment

      I am an active member and the MPG has done huge amounts to help me and others I know via many areas including informed neutral advice.

      Anyone can nominate ANYONE for the awards process so thats a very open and trasparent process. However no one will win if they do not take part or nominate, so moaning about that is a lost cause IMHO.

      The huge amount of benefits I gain (there are loads including, microphone, hardware, software discounts you gain from the MPG including the exclusive 10% discount for all AVID products such as full Pro tools ranges is not availible from anywhere else directly, and justifies the joining fee alone, if you are seriously going to upgrade.

      The idea that all MPG members are from the 1970’s is a comical and niave statement, I was still at school then and also in the 1980’s as were many other members I know and work alongside (many other younger members were still at school in the 70, 80’s and 90’s, so this is not true at all by any account of today’s regular MPG membership.
      As for doing nothing for new members, please spare me the misinformation. (where have you been since the 1990’s?)

      The MPG is the only organisation offering students and semi-pro’s any forms of pre-work support and unless you join in the process you will not know what they might be in any given year. The MPG site offers work placements to new trainee engineer/producers via it’s working members ‘placements offered’ via their MPG profile for their projects or studios. The MPG also award student of the year (engineer) at LIPA (before they even start work!)

      There are also HUGE amounts of well known producers in the MPG, some of which choose to stay anon via their choice of privacy settings, rather than not join. We are not a cartel otherwise we would insist all people join. We clearly do not insist they do so. Its a choice not a lifestyle to be informed.

      Lastly moaning about any deservedly won awards winners(several new breakthrough people won last year!), Can I suggest you now put their (or your name(s)forward for any category in this years MPG Awards 2011? It is open to anyone including non MPG members, and always has been. http://www.mpgawards.co.uk/
      I look forward to your and ANYONE elses input. The invite is there rather than not there, to be clear, (regardless of being any MPG member), click on the above url and simply nominate your OWN list.;)
      You simply have to have names nominated first as with all awards competitions.

      It would be very rare to ever hear the MPG ever hark back to the past (not heard it yet) it is just so busy always looking to the future, as we ALL do(that includes yourself I presume)as working professionals.
      We all, as working engineers and producers have always been the more pioneering community within recorded music and we still remain so in many areas of today’s industry. Many new DIY bands and artists are doing much better working alongside studios and producers before they even have a deal over last 2 years.
      Most studios out there are very busy and surviving due to the work being brought in by many of todays’s producers and engineers being clients. (And thats not because some idiotic greedy % manager is offering studio staff/time and days for nothing as part of a 1-4 week budget deal)ie: new engineers not getting paid at all most days = disgusting lack of support.Devalued and important new young studio staff pitched onto inclusive studio deals at zero wage rates.

      Take a look at the top 100 best selling albums (world wide) at any point only 3 or 4 do not have producer credits, (the 3 or 4% belong to self produced veteran artists). So it seems still having a 97% vote of confidence elsewhere in the worldwide artist community seems to be a damn huge vote of confidence to me and others out there. Artists and bands know we will always work well with them to attain better recordings and records.

      Surely your role as a producer should be glad to hear that is the case?

      For me regardless of being an MPG member or not, it would not be respectful to criticise those who choose to be active members, as we do not criticise those who are not MPG members. It is a choice AND not a union type enforcement.

      It would also be a lost cause, generally, to criticise anything when doing nothing to contribute.
      It is (for me) a bit like slagging off artists, when not being involved (eg: record reviews). Its a waste of time to the wider public as a rule, individual fans make their own decisions on what might be best for them.

      To all else:
      If you are new and up and coming engineer producer I would join the MPG simply for informed, unbiased and accurate guidance and advice.

      Best
      E

  13. Good points well made, Ed! The response from the MPG guy above, which keeps saying you’ve “misunderstood” what you’ve read, just repeats the points from their website. It specifies precisely what is meant, and what is not meant, by “commercially released”. I don’t believe you’ve misunderstood – MPG members who think you’ve accused the MPG of elitism have misunderstood you!

    Sad.

    They should deal with this issue immediately. If the MPG should make sure only ONE part of their organisation is accurate, open, and allows for the modern industry, it is surely the part where people first choose to sign up (or not!)

    Jon

  14. Russ Hughes says:

    I’m sad to see the hostility to such a gracious and well considered response from Mick on behalf of the guild.

    They have listened, responded and even invited you to an ongoing dialogue. What more were you hoping for? An instant place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? George Martin’s phone number?

    Some of the responses here are just flaming based on ignorance, and I guess a healthy amount of chip-on-shoulder induced axe grinding.

    • I’d like to add firstly that I really appreciate the MPG’s honest and open comment on Ed’s blog.

      I love and welcome the idea of a round-table discussion on what makes a “proper” release and who should qualify for full memberships.

      I still feel, like Ed, that there are some issues around who can be welcomed to what feels somewhat like an inner sanctum. As a non-member, I still can’t view what the events are so that I may make a better informed decision as to whether I should spend my hard earned cash on membership.

      It’s not an easy, cut and dry issue this, but I do appreciate the MPG’s openness on this matter.
      xR

  15. Antony David says:

    It’s good to see an open discussion of an issue which can be understood as a symptom of the changes in our industry. We understand that digital technology and the Internet have changed everything; what we’re figuring out now is how to make a living from doing what we love. I’m with those who think we’re starting to get somewhere.

    Those who present black and white solutions are going to be disappointed. What was once a fairly clearly codified industry – albeit one with plenty of defects – has become complex. We’re trying to work our way to a workable balance between conflicting interests and values: the freedom of the internet, the value and rights attached to intellectual property, the power of internet to promote and distribute music, what we are prepared to pay for live and recorded music. These balls in the air are not going to fall down into some tidy business model.

    Is the drudgy task of getting to grips with the politics and legislative issues related to this relevant or important? You bet it is, and we should be glad that there’s a representative body to do it. Do people involved in the recording industry from whatever direction have a right to be heard in this? Absolutely. So if you want to be, maybe consider joining the MPG or some organisation with a credible voice. Banging on in forums may provide some immediate release but it probably won’t change anything in itself.

    An overly romantic view isn’t helpful either. This is an industry that supports tens of thousands of people who mostly don’t choose it because of the money. We are right to be trying to figure out a way to make it work and those who give time and energy to that end deserve our support.

    • Thoughtful comment Anthony, thank you.

      I’m a little confused about the legislation and rights bit. While I really like the idea of a representative body, the MPG, certainly when it comes to the issue of sharing music, isn’t representing me as a musician or as a producer. In fact, it’s getting in the way of the way the new music industries work FOR the many.

      If the MPG seeks to protect producers, then I’d like to see it fight for and on behalf of the whole of producer-kind rather than seek to protect (what I see as an outdated model) just the big-studios, producers etc.

      I’m priveledged to have worked at an amazing studio, “Black Box” in France http://studioblackbox.fr proper old school, and while it’s an amazing learning environment and some would say a perfect place to record, it’s does not represent the entirity, or even a large minority of the recording industry.

      The recording industry is bedroom recording, project studios, 4-track on iPhones, loop-stations just as much as it is Abbey Road.

      A representative body for producers is great, if it’s representing all kinds of producers, not just those trying to maintain an outdated business model.

      Let’s be open about things. You can all see all the posts on my blog, I still can’t see the events on the MPG site. We still can’t make the decision as to whether we should part with our cash becasue we can’t see (online) the benefits of becoming a member.

      Anyway, here’s hoping we can get round a table and talk about it.
      ;)
      xR

  16. Rich – regarding your previous 2 comments:

    Firstly – MPG Events: there are currently 3 events listed on the Events page of the MPG website (http://www.mpg.org.uk/events) of which only one is a “members only” page. This is because it is for an event organised, not by the MPG, but by another industry organisation, Music Tank, and they are offering MPG members a discount on the entry charge. That’s why it’s a restricted page.

    If you’re finding it difficult to view the other 2 event pages, there must be a bug – please let me know and I’ll have it fixed. Otherwise, please re-post your findings here so that other readers might gain a more accurate impression of the MPG website. 95% of the site is un-restricted and available to anyone to view, and you can read about the benefits of MPG membership here:

    http://www.mpg.org.uk/about

    and here:

    http://www.mpg.org.uk/benefits

    Secondly the MPG does not represent studios or companies, only individuals, and there is no restriction to what you refer to as “big producers”. None of the MPG directors are suggesting or would seek to suggest that only those who work at Abbey Road Studios should be allowed membership. The MPG openly acknowledges that many creatively and commercially successful recordings are being made in bedroom studios (Ellie Goulding, Ladyhawke, Bombay Bicycle Club…).

    Thirdly, I’m just a little disappointed that Ed Waring, who triggered this conversation with his original blog, continues to find it difficult to get to his computer keyboard to post a reply. As soon as he does, we can discuss setting up a meeting and try to move things forward.

    Best regards,

    Mick Glossop

    • Hiya Mick,
      Thanks for your post.

      Cheers for the update as regards the events. Yes, that’s the only event currently that’s closed, though that’s not been the case in the past. For me, I’d love to be able to easily see what that event is offering, the discount on that event would just about justify the MPG membership fee alone. Even if I'm not not allowed to purchase through the MPG, it'd be lovely to view that. That's a minor point really in the grand scheme. Sorry to nit-pick.

      I think if there's one thing this blog has brought out though is that somehow, there is this perception, (possibly through the Full Membership qualifications listed at http://mpg.org.uk/register) that it’s an exclusive club. For right or wrong, some people feel this. I felt this when I first read the membership requirements, Ed felt it, and obviously other people feel similarly. In terms of how the MPG should be perceived, that needs to be addressed if the MPG are to be able to best represent a wider cross section of producers, professional, part-time, whoever.

      Policy wise, there’s concern on my part about the promotion of the idea that the use of the internet to share music is damaging to the business of music. That’s entirely contradictory to my experience with independent artists and producers who believe that the internet is one of the most powerful tools for us today. I hope we get some time to chew that over when we meet up.

      I totally commend peoples’ defence of the MPG in the comments above. Obviously the MPG is working for and on behalf (at least some fantastically vocal sections) of their members. Brilliant!

      As regards Ed’s contact, we have both already emailed you at communications@mpg.org.uk – sorry if that’s not got through to you as yet.

      On a personal note, I’d like to add that I feel very strongly that at heart, I’m sure we’re all fighting for the same things – for the good of music, for education in music and for and on behalf of all the arts of production, and for the good of recordings everywhere. I’m sure we all love Tape Op.

      Seriously looking forward to speaking with you in the near future. My phone number is on the emails and I’d love to hear from you.
      All the best
      Rich

      • Rich – I’ve just received both your emails, and look forward to meeting you sometime soon.

        I agree that we are probably all fighting for the same things, the most important of which, in my case, is the opportunity to continue making great records with either new or established artists.

        Mick

  17. edhombre says:

    It’s great to see all the discussion here and apologies for taking so long for getting back involved. It’s worth noting as well that this post is currently the weekly discussion point on the MPG website. I would like to also point out that continually and from the very earliest part of this discussion I gave every opportunity for it to continue offline and in private. My intention was always to enter into discussion, to help the MPG understand better how it can service all of it’s community. As I’ve stated before, fair play to the MPG to wishing and continuing to do it in public.

    In this comments on this thread there seems to be 2 distinct voices.

    1) Those who are not members of the MPG and so whose opinion is formed almost purely by what the MPG chooses to present as their public face.
    2) MPG members and representatives.

    It’s pretty easy to see who is who….Amongst the members of group 1 are music technology journalists, professional musicians, professional promoters and professional recording engineers. I urge MPG members who are reading to try and imagine how and why this group have formed the mainly negative opinions they have stated here. It is not because of some online campaign of disinformation. It is because of how the MPG presents itself to these people. MPG members seem to have a very different view!

    Some responses to points raised.

    Mick Glossop: “Recording artists often get the lion’s share of attention…” This is very true. This also means that they have been talking about and trying to interact with the changing landscape of the music industry for much longer…. It feels to me like a large part of the recording industry is still having conversations that we independent artists were dealing with 3 years ago. And slowly too… I constantly see discussions of filesharing, streaming, illegal downloads and p2p on engineering sites that STILL have no actual understanding of a) what these terms actually mean and b) what this actually means to the vast majority of recording artists trying make a living. We have been through these questions. To a certain extent we have discussed, agreed and moved on. If we do get to meet up one of the first things I’d like to talk about is the parts of the Digital Economy Bill which refer to filesharing and why I and every artist I know think this is deeply flawed.

    Mick Glossop: regarding your restatement of the criteria for full membership I’m just going to restate my position with a question. I still ask again what do you mean by commercially released? More and more ‘successful’ musicians are releasing directly to fans in both physical and digital formats. Limiting what makes a release genuine to the shops in which it is sold is like saying that art only becomes art when it is displayed in certain approved art galleries. My point about “In Rainbows” was that initial digital release would fail outside the stated criteria on your site… In my mind the cost of membership is enough of a barrier really. I guarantee you that you will not suddenly be leading an organisation of 15 yr old dubstep producers armed only with a cracked copy of Ableton Live and trying to represent their views to parliament. (Although that would be massively interesting actually… [grin])

    Mick Glossop: “We all want to keep the MPG moving forward, and the way to do this is to engage with new generations of creative and commercially successful producers.” Excellent and agreed! However… Firstly, I see no evidence of engagement on the MPG site. There is no forum, no meetups in your events diary, no visible method of members actually making that engagement. Secondly, I would hope that your definition of what is “commercially successful” is flexible. Judging it on “old music methods” charts etc are less and less relevant.

    Mick Glossop: “…this is an exciting time which we feel will provide new opportunities if we create new initiatives, partly by working directly with artists.” Agreed also! Artists are where the power is and more and more working directly with artists is where the money is and will be in the future. The future which I and many of my peers see for the music industry is much more fragmented, a world of cottage industries, of tiny communities. However, the role that good production and recording plays in that future is still massive. With that comment in mind…

    Evans: There seemed to be a little hint in some of your comments that you felt that you had to defend the actual role that producers perform. Not to me you don’t! I wouldn’t be half the artist or recordist I am without the time I have spent working with a ‘real’ producer. And what I mean by ‘real’ is someone who has the knowledge and skills to not only help me achieve my artistic vision but someone who can help me UNDERSTAND my artistic vision in the first place. It’s an intensely valuable role and absolutely key to cementing the value of a producer in the future. However, I do want to bring you up on something Evans… to support this argument you quote some stats about the top 100 selling albums. This has no impact or currency for the majority of artists. The charts and the acts in them are such a tiny tiny fraction of a percent of all the music in the world and are becoming ever more irrelevant. We are not in the world that was 20 years ago. The action (and sustainable income) for the vast majority of us is on the margins and under the radar. We are in currently a world where the equation

    SUCCESS=SUSTAINABLE

    is the most basic economic marker.

    Evans: “The MPG is the only organisation offering students and semi-pro’s any forms of pre-work support…” This sounds amazing… work placements and “placements offered” sound incredibly useful and exactly the kind of positive experience that I would hope an organisation like the MPG should offer. I can’t find them though. If I google for Music Producers Guild and either of those terms the only relevant result I find… is this blog page. Try it!

    Google search for: Music Producers Guild “Work Placements”
    Google search for: Music Producers Guild “Placements Offered”

    I can’t find anything about this on the MPG site at all! A very keen and talented young engineer I know spent 4 months trying to find a placement/internship in a studio in this country after finishing his music tech course. He ended up being offered just one in the end. In New York. Will his skills and enthusiasm stay there? If he had known that he could have accessed such opportunities easily would he have joined the MPG? To me this kinda shows why I wrote this blog in the first place. If you are not showing people what you are selling and giving them good reason to buy then you are failing at the first hurdle. If your public face instantly makes someone who is an ideal representative of what you state is your target audience uncomfortable and dis-interested then either there is something wrong with how you are presenting your message or there is something wrong with your definition of who your target audience is.

    Apologies for not covering every point made by both sides… This is an interesting discussion and one I had no idea would generate such attention. Keep it going! And given that the MPG are listening… what SHOULD they be doing?

    • edhombre says:

      And just to note… just today myself and Rich have been swapping emails with the MPG and are trying arrange a meeting in person to continue this discussion.

  18. I have been an MPG member for quite a few years. I have had some pro experience (in the 80’s!) but generally have produced demos for people and a few releases on various independent labels over the last 20 odd years. I am certainly not a name producer and do not consider the organisation elitist. However I do find that other people I know complain of it not being very obvious what joining entails and advantages that it brings. It’s also very London centric in many ways, but that is the way of many industries: especially the media.
    In some ways the business is becoming more home grown as it was in the 50’s when people had local hits and often sold records from the back of their cars before signing national deals.
    The difference being that there are now myriads of small time competitors all trying to get their stuff in the spotlight and the resulting 15 minutes gives more folks a thinner wedge of pie. This is great for the fan/customer now spoilt for choice but also the “pirate bays” of this world that try to justify not paying for things (as opposed to nicking them!) with cack handed philosophy.
    So meet the MPG and ask for : More events that are not “gearfests”
    More fun evenings like the AGM and Christmas quizzes
    more masterclasses/special viewings
    and acknowledgement that there’s many NOW type producers that may like to find out more about what an experienced (?old) one has to offer.

    • Tony Platt says:

      By way of a little perspective:

      I am one of the founding directors of the current incarnation of MPG

      I am also an active member of JAMES – a company partly owned and set up by MPG to interface between the industry and education. We are currently taking a tour around colleges with workshops, lectures and seminars delivered by experienced professionals.

      It is called a Guild not out of exclusivity but simply because, at the time, Companies House would not allow us to use Group and using Association would have given us an acronym identical to another music association.

      I have not produced any albums for major labels for quite some time now – almost all my work has been with developing artists and the budgets have been challenging to say the least!

      Therefore I consistently use studio at the budget end of the spectrum and mix almost all the time in a small studio set up with a colleague – because the budget wont give me time to use full format studios.

      I am a fierce protagonist for dumping the old model of the business and coming up with new ideas but am determined not to throw the baby out with the bathwater – there are some worthwhile things about the old model.

      I began conversations with quite a number young engineers and producers whilst they were finding their feet and these conversations have developed in many cases into friendships and working relationships.

      I have consistently tried, with limited success, to encourage young music makers to join MPG and most importantly get involved. Those who have are valuable contributors but sadly many just want to join and receive without being prepared to help.

      “Inclusive” is a word that crops up frequently in the dialogue of the board.

      I am not unusual!

      My fellow directors all put in hours of their time and make huge efforts towards making MPG a valuable and relevant organisation but we would be very very happy to have some help!

      So you see – in spite of the uncalled for vitriol from some of the contributors here (I wonder what axe they have to grind?) – I am no different from any of the rest of you – just a bit older and slightly slower at typing! (and I use too many !!)

      • Hello and welcome Tony.
        Firstly may I say thanks for posting, your time is much appreciated.

        Secondly, love your work. Back in Black is indeed a definitive reference track at our studio. During any mix session, it gets played at least twice in terms of how a “Real” record sounds.

        Thirdly, I met you at the JAMES event at Leeds Metropolitan University last August/September and I cite that day as a very valuable day in my career. The Steve Lawson talk that day, which can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix4BHHWTdqA was instrumental in the successes I’ve had in the past twelve months. Some of the workshops too were fantastic.

        As regards the JAMES event and inclusiveness, it’s vital that you and the board are striving for that. I also think it’s interesting that the way I discovered that event was happening was through Steve Lawson on twitter http://twitter.com/solobasssteve – I am one of hundreds of recordists working, studying and living in Leeds and I believe that if we could have more people hear about such a great event as that at Leeds Met, then that would feel like a healthier reciprocal relationship between MPG/JAMES and the emerging producer communities.

        So, moving forward. I sincerely hope that as and when we meet to discuss Ed’s post and also the responses that have followed that there’s something we can be involved with that somehow helps further facilitate the engagement of young producers that I felt at the JAMES event.

        Again thanks for your post. Hope we can speak about this in the very near future.
        Best
        Rich

  19. Tim London says:

    This discussion seems to be about two things: a poorly designed website that fails to excite and inspire more internet savvy visitors. And the tension between those who can’t wait for this state of flux in the music business to be over and those who acknowledge it exists and that the old ways are far from over.

    I’ve visited many websites that lie or present an opaque face to anyone who isn’t part of its target viewer. Others (like Hope & Social) can seem almost like the slightly spooky Young Christian organisations who evangelize with big open faces outside revival festivals, almost begging you to ‘ask me anything! Anything!’ The Guild aren’t a publicly funded body so I don’t think they owe anyone a more open internet presence, or even a more elegant one, beyond their members. I think it’s probably doing its job if people like me feel dissuaded from digging deeper or joining.

    As far as old fashioned producers being ‘in the way’ of the advancing new, home based music business, I’d say the two will sit side-by-side for years yet. As far as I am aware, there has been no authoritative assessment of the new music economy – toting up Tunecore sales hardly counts, for instance, so to compare the two in any way apart from how the music is consumed (which is better? Why is it better not to pay attention to the various charts? Why is it better to spend hours trawling blogs and trying to decide how much a piece of music is worth? What’s more honest about deciding that a piece of music is worth whatever when you might change your mind and come to hate it later – can we get our money back? etc)… to compare the two is fairly pointless.

    So the Guild represents their people TO people and organisations that aren’t really relevant to the purely online, low quantity seller. Even though it does more, it’s mainly there because there is still a clear and massive turnover in mainstream music, principally enabled by a few very wealthy companies and its members need to be organised to be noticed and to wield any power.

    Personally I don’t need them to represent me and I don’t see why anyone who isn’t a student or looking to apprentice themselves would need them, unless they are working with the majors or bigger indies as a producer for hire.

    What would be great, though, would be an organisation that can represent small fry like me to the major media org’s, like the BBC and Ch4 etc. But that’s another (probably impossible) story.

  20. Hiya Tim,
    Cheers for your words.

    I think that the state of flux we’re in in the whole of the music industries will go on for some time. We may never reach a new status quo in which things seem static, stable and predictable, and the music industries are all the more healthy for it. It’s a leveller playing field. The “old ways” as you put them are far from over indeed. Though those apprenticeships you mention Tim are seriously hard come by these days and in many ways that’s a shame, that was a great way of learning.

    What’s important to me is that there’s this huge wealth of experience about how great and classic records (I still think of albums and I call ’em records) have been made and that wealth of knowledge needs to feed into the minds and practices of emerging producers. If we lose that knowledge, the practices of working with people to achieve their vision of a record as opposed to popping some mics up in a bad sounding room and ending up with no-one being happy with the end result, then we lose something. Culture is the poorer for this, music is the poorer. A lose – lose.

    The tension you describe isn’t, for me about bad web-design, it’s because I care that the MPG should be interacting with the outside world if it is to a) sustain itself b) share those experiences I’ve spoken about above and c) be relevant in what is doubtlessly a changing environment.

    For me, there’s no particular judgement about how a person consumes music (or experiences it) though I have a personal issue with Celebrity with a capital C (you know the stuf, red-top magazines, Jordan&Peter, Murdoch’s filth pedalling and the like… I digress) and how I believe that is a negative force in society. I do believe however that there is a growing movement of people who want less of the spoon-fed and more stuff they connect with directly… which brings me on to the band, my band, Ed’s band; “Hope and Social”.

    The Christian thing, well as an atheist that riles somewhat. It’s not what I stand for. On the positive side, the openness thing, yes, feel free to ask me anything. Absolutely we’re about connecting with people. I believe in people, that people are generally good. I like talking with new people I meet on the whole and while there are some very objectionable people in the world, bigots, homophobes, racists, the pope, I stand by the openness we as a band project. It leads to great things for us and to quote a lyric, “you’re proof enough that people are some good”.

    Good ol’ people eh?
    ;)
    xR

  21. Tim London says:

    Didn’t mean to rile you! It was just a comparison of two websites that seem to reflect two mindsets.

    It’s always good to choose your battles and my point was/is arguing the Guild into a more open presentation is like painting go-faster stripes on a shopping trolley. They are what they are and will only change if their members want it to happen, if it is beneficial to them.

    I agree, though, that it would be great to read tips and stories from experienced producers and engineers and if there was a place on their website for that to happen it would be a positive outcome for all of us. This wouldn’t change their reason for existing or all of what you see as their fundamental flaws, but might help them to feel engaged and visitors to feel more included.

    Whether what is essentially an organisation set up to represent business to business can ever be any more is doubtful.

  22. Sean Kenny says:

    Hi guys

    Regardless of the various arguments. The website is really poor uninspiring when it should be exactly the opposite

    That said, I’m still gonna rejoin when I can persuade a few former clients to finally get round to sending me a copy of the albums I’ve done. The most annoying thing is when you work on a project where the client spends a truck load of money on a artiste (in one particular case I engineered, 6 figures) and then drops it. Serious project=Yes! Does it qualify=No!

    The membership criteria is definitely wonky

    Regards

    Sean

  23. Nat Clarkson says:

    Its fair to say there seems to be a lot of disenfranchised creatives out there. I understand how you feel and was in a place similar to this some years ago (in my early twenties).

    I’m not hear to talk about whose right and whose wrong but just to add my thoughts being a current Full MPG member.

    I’m Nat and originally joined the MPG in 2003, I was 25 years old. My background is that I was signed to a number of Independent Drum and Bass labels under my pseudonym ‘NJC’ and was in no way connected to any majors at that point. Oh, and I’m also based in Suffolk in the East of England.

    I’ve never been presented with any elitism or snobbery from any part of the MPG membership or representatives. It was having access to the membership that helped me at a younger age understand my role in the recording industry and has introduced me to a number of useful resources, networking events and social gatherings including the MPG producer awards that I attended last year for the first time.

    There will always be haters and people who find fault with things they don’t necessarily understand. In any case behaving like kamikaze warriors taking out your frustrations on legitimate associations and sneering at the membership criteria is somewhat naive and very cynical.

    I’m still not signed to a major and all the music I produce is released independently.

    The MPG work for me, and I’m pleased to be a member. I’m also a member of APRS, AIM and BPI who all equally look out for the interests of they’re members.

    I would advise those with preconceived ideas about how the music industry works and treats those in the independent sector to maybe consider doing more research before airing your opinions.

    No offence intended and hope this adds some diversity to the argument.

  24. One more point that should be recognised/remembered: The MPG is the organisation that bats heavily for the rights of all producers via agreements, political lobbying, and gradual profile raising, albeit via a website that could be improved.
    Sometimes arguments produce more than discussions!

  25. edhombre says:

    Just to let everyone that myself and Rich are meeting with Mick Glossop and some other MPG representatives this afternoon in big London. Looking forward to it! If anyone fancies a beer in the evening then let us know…i

  26. […] with his first post “Sod’s Law“, and Ed Waring posted this much commented on Open Letter to The Music Producers Guild […]

  27. […] following were EMI and Sony are Not “The Music Industry”, Ed’s controversial Open Letter to The Music Producers Guild and Tim’s So, you’re thinking of starting a music venue?. I posted 437 items on […]

  28. Charlie Cruickshank PERMALINK
    01/10/2015 4:14 pm
    Wow! I totally agree with this.
    Some very true and informative accounts from you who all count !!!
    I have literally just been sending emails to the Executive Director of MPG Mick Glossip who kindly replied to my email.
    I feel dissapointed after only a couple of months of keeping an eye on the events calendar whilst trying to hold down a job and promote my own productiion services that my membership holds little value for me.
    The way the memberships are promoted on their home page makes it sound like they are all inclusive to all members. However in reality networking most events of any REAL PURPOSE are Exclusive only to full members.
    To qualify for this.. well we all know the specifics!
    My point is that every single member of the MPG is important. From beginners just starting out to the Mark Ronson’s of this world… After all amongst these newbies may well be the next Mark Ronson of this world!
    As such I feel that basic and associate members should be included in key events and such and get rid of the elitism attitude so that it helps one and all together.
    It is not an ideal world we live in but what on earth are we paying our membership for if we can walk in to a lot of these events we are allowed to attend alongside non paying members of the public?
    These are not meant to slander the MPG in any way whatso ever because I feel it is right that producers are represented and their work celebrated. These are more key points with the aim of getting every basic or associate members voice heard as financial and artistic contributors. I have made this clear to the director as a matter of fact and most of us in the same position seem to concur.
    I hope this is put forward to all of the board for the good of the members who contribute and to the future and growth of what is hopefully a fair organisational approach.
    We all work hard to promote and market ourselves and need support especially those of us just starting out on the ladder but how are we meant to “Get out there” and develop by being shut out from key networking events?
    So please… “All inclusive” not “Exclusive”.

    • thehuxcapacitor says:

      Cheers for engaging Charlie,

      Glad to hear that this post has some resonance with you still, though sad to hear that you’re feeling somewhat excluded from some of the MPG’s activities.

      When Ed and I went to meet some MPG peeps in London, it was a mixed experience. During our conversation, one of the MPGers actually said that they actively didn’t want to engage in conversations with *less-experienced* engineers. It was at that time that we pretty much both lost interest. However, a lot of time has passed, and I had heard, (mainly through the ever-lovely @mikehillier) that things have improved a lot since this blog-post was first published, but I’m pretty detached from what the MPG are up to these days. It feels like something very much apart from what I do, and the community of engineers, musicians, recordists and artists that I’m interested in do.

      That said, I wish all MPG members… and all recordists well. Perhaps you’re the one to form a new all-inclusive Guild/Community?
      ;)
      xR

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