There’s plenty to be said for the Do It Yourself approach to making music. Eschew the labels, take control of your own marketing and booking, then distribute your music online. It’s an ideal approach, but not as easy as it sounds.
Berlin based collective A Headful Of Bees have bandied around a different approach. The collective is made up of writers, musicians and other artists. This week they are pooling their energies around singer/songwriter Eric Eckhart and his latest album, in an approach dubbed Do It Together. The concept came together when Eckhart and other Beeheaders were speaking at different conferences over the last few years.
“All these great ideas were floating around but no one was really doing them,” says Eckhart. “There are really so few people who are doing it well, or successfully, and even fewer people who are doing all of them. So I thought it would be really cool to take all of these ideas that no one really seemed to be doing and do something.
“I thought the business model for independent musicians is crap. The way we work is unsustainable where when we want to record an album we have to take a loan or ask our fans for funding. I’m not a big fan of that.”
He suggests the path leads to musicians playing gigs to pay off debt and a need to sell CDs, rather than playing because they want to.
“I didn’t become a musician to do things I have to do,” he laughs. “It was the opposite reason. to do things I want to do.”
The basic concept of the recording was to pool volunteer resources to record the album. Volunteer musicians and sound engineers, recording space, artists, right down to marketing and publicity.
“Nobody is being paid,” Eckhart says. “There’s no money changing hands.” But here comes the paradox.
“I didn’t want people to do it for free,” he continues. “So every conversation I had with organisations or companies or musicians was also about, ‘now what can I do for you?’ I’m a web designer so maybe there’s something I can do for you there, or something the collective can do. We’re going to do some workshops here at Supemarkt. We’re looking for ways to make it an equal exchange.”
Another primary aim was to engage the audience in different ways. There was a publicity campaign made of people using their iPhones and different methods to send in a clip of them saying Do It Together. The entire recording and mixing process is open to the public and available online. Eckhart encourages everyone and anyone to come by Supermarkt near the Voltastraße stop on the U8, have a coffee and watch the recording, get involved with the workshops and, if you’re keen, lend a hand.
Supermarkt, being an old supermarket, has a wide-open space for the musicians to record in. Instead of dulling the room, the recording makes use of the eccentricities. There will be background noise of the street, the coffee machine and people moving around. It’s not a sonically sterile recording room.
The drums have been set up in the old Fleischerei in the basement to reduce the sound on surrounding residents. Eckhart wanted to record the band together instead of layering to a click track, and so a video feed from the basement is projected onto the back wall of the main room. The drummer can’t see the other musicians, but the rest of the band can play with him. It’s not quite the technology that brought Tupac to Coachella, but it’s functional.
Despite the attention on the alternative approach to making the record, Eckhart’s focus is still on recording a strong album, even if it was unknown what to do with the CDs at the end since selling them isn’t part of the concept.
“The idea is to make a really good album,” Eckhart says. “I still want the end product to be a really great album. I don’t want it to sound like an album we recorded at a bar. But I also know there will be something of a live feel to it, you can hear the background noise and the coffee machine.”
Eckhart and his band will be recording at Supermarkt, Brunnerstr. 64, until Thursday, 10uhr until 22uhr each day. Mixing and workshops will also be open to the public.
More information, sounds, streams and the program can be found on the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/142453502565392/
or Eric’s site: http://www.do-it-together.com/
Article written by Jason Kenny