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Embracing the Digital Wave: How Technology Revolutionized the Music Industry

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Guitarist and producer John March explains how he seamlessly collaborates with clients across Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, and Colorado.

John March in the studio.

In this era of unprecedented change, the music business has undergone a profound transformation. The pandemic hit us hard, forcing musicians and performers to confront the closure of venues and the cancellation of tours. We were all left with no choice but to adapt, seeking alternative avenues to express our creativity and sustain our livelihoods. As someone who has always straddled the worlds of music and technology, I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of versatility in navigating these challenging times.

My journey began as a guitarist, honing my skills in the 1970’s and 80’s music scenes of New York and Los Angeles. Yet, I realized very early on the importance of developing additional expertise to supplement my passion for music. Inspired and in part educated about the ways things are by my father, a freelance filmmaker and TV director for 30 years, I understood the ups and downs of a creative freelance career. 

In my early twenties, I had the incredible opportunity to delve into the technical realm as a freelance Synclavier programmer. This marked the start of a career that saw me working in renowned studios like the now-defunct Record Plant in New York City and my own room at the esteemed Westlake Audio in Los Angeles. Over the years, I honed my craft as a producer, recording engineer, sound designer, music mixer and a serious user of various digital audio workstations. Eventually, I even had the privilege of owning a few of my own studios. Concurrently, I continued to pursue my musical journey, studying and performing as a professional guitarist. By embracing both the technical and creative aspects of the industry, I gained a deeper understanding of my role as a guitarist and developed simultaneously an ability to mix records, TV and film soundtracks. Mixing became a multisensory kinesthetic experience that allowed me to find the delicate balance and interaction between musicians, connecting me with countless talented artists along the way.

Then, the pandemic struck, and everything changed for all of us. As a guitarist, my options were limited initially. I turned to recording short clips of myself playing and sharing them on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. As luck would have it, Zoom began enhancing its audio interface, improving the quality for music-related applications. This opened doors for teaching and remote collaborations. Livestreaming became a mainstream phenomenon, and platforms like OBS played a crucial role in connecting musicians with remote audiences. Virtual concerts became the norm, with artists streaming performances from their bedrooms, soundstages, or repurposed recording studios and clubs. We all had to find new ways to pursue our passions.

I started combining Zoom with TeamViewer, allowing me not only to see and hear my collaborators but also to potentially remotely control Protools during sessions, as long as the internet connection was robust. Soon, developers began creating remote recording utilities, providing audio applications that simulated the experience of being in the same space together, enabling high-fidelity listening and real-time interaction.

During this period, a pioneering software app called Audio Movers emerged as one of the early players in the remote tech utility realm. Although I did not seem to adapt to its functionalities, another game-changing tool called Sessionwire came to the forefront.

Sessionwire has been my go-to software and utility for several years now. This isn’t an advertisement; I genuinely believe in its effectiveness and want to highlight the impact it had on my work. With Sessionwire, I’ve seamlessly collaborated with clients across Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, and Colorado. Its flawless performance worked so well that in fact, I was able to move to Spain and continue working with my clients around the world with no interruption.

Sessionwire

Over the past few years, I’ve been working as a Producer/Arranger/Mixer on an ambitious collaborative jazz project with pianist Bob Schlesinger from Colorado. This endeavor involved recording two full albums’ worth of material and producing a series of videos featuring guest artists like Guitarist Mike Stern, Bassist Eddie Gomez, Drummer Billy Drummond, NYC Drummer Karl Latham, LA Bassist Kevin Axt, and LA Drummer Steve Hass. The process resembled the intricate recording approaches of Steely Dan and Miles Davis’s groundbreaking album “Bitches Brew.” Naturally, remote recording sessions played a significant role in this endeavor. When working with Bob in Colorado, Sessionwire became the linchpin, facilitating mix session reviews and keyboard overdubs seamlessly. Without Sessionwire, it’s doubtful I would have been able to realize this project, considering the geographical distances and the limitations imposed by the pandemic. The accurate audio quality and ease of communication and installation were paramount. The ability to quickly modify charts and exchange them in real-time made it feel like we were in the same studio, collaborating effortlessly. Moreover, the option to mix live with clients through Protools was invaluable. (These projects are slated for release soon, and they truly showcase the extraordinary results we achieved.)

The team behind Sessionwire consists of immensely talented individuals who not only prioritize product development but also deeply care about the community of users. Kevin and Brendan have been unwavering in their generosity, support and assistance, ensuring that my integration with the application and my recording studio went smoothly. Whenever I faced an issue or needed help, they were there, finding quick and effective solutions. As a professional who relies on these tools daily, their exceptional customer service and support are of immense value.

The music business is in a constant state of flux, with the methods of content creation and dissemination constantly evolving at breakneck speeds. Adapting to these changes and embracing new processes is not only essential for survival but I also believe crucial for artistic growth. I firmly believe that technology is advancing in ways that can foster connectivity and collaborative creation. Collaboration lies at the heart of any powerful creative project, and as we move forward, discovering innovative new ways to connect and support one another becomes increasingly vital. Tools like Sessionwire enable us to transcend physical distances and facilitate human connection. They represent the best kind of application of new technology and the internet, empowering us to navigate the challenges of an ever-evolving artistic and technical landscape. By supporting each other during these transformative times, we can forge new paths and cultivate a stronger creative community which benefits all of us. These are definitely interesting times we are living in and every tool I can find that helps me to connect better with my fellow artists and community and create beautiful music, I will try to embrace wholeheartedly. I have no idea what the future holds but I’m looking forward to seeing the possibilities as they emerge. 


More with John March at: Zenguitarguy.com


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