If you have been following the music industry at all for the last several months, you are seeing the cutting edge of innovation, world wide, by an absolutely brilliant family of creative people. Drive In Concerts, Live Stream Events, Weekly Streaming Variety Shows. It has quite honestly been amazing to watch. As one of the founding partners of Hookworm Records, believe me we have had our finger on this pulse since the beginning. Times like these end entire industries that do not change, evolve, and continue to push forward. And change requires innovators, surfers really…. watching the Big Kahuna twist, roll, riptide and undertow. We know it’s coming. We know it’s huge. All we want is a chance…. to surf it.
One such innovator is Otto D’ Agnolo. A self made freelancer, Otto defines himself as a constantly working creative: be that writing, producing, recording, editing, directing, developing and performing. He is passionate about creating opportunities, both for himself and those that he is working with. I took the opportunity to talk to Otto about his newest project, The Recording Artist.
Interview with Otto D’Agnolo: The Recording Artist
Ryan B. Clark : Innovation in times like this is crucial. Entire industries fall. Live Music is GONE… at least for a while. The model is being forced to adapt. In many ways that is really exciting. What are you most excited about with this new endeavor, The Recording Artist?
Otto D’Agnolo : My answer in this context is myriad. Yes, sadly live music is gone for a while and the pandemic has altered things in ways we can not measure today.
One thing is for sure, every musician big and small became a begger on social media from their living room or kitchen for mere tips. Some of the greatest talents of our lifetime became scantily discernible from a average guitarist in Times Square with an open guitar case.
It broke my heart to see so many extremely talented human beings, and many friends, put out the tip jar and hope people appreciated them. To me, this is a completely unacceptable situation. You mention that “the model is being forced to adapt” and maybe that is true in the short term, but most performers forced to design an on-line expression of their art will quickly abandon it for the live stage as things open up. If people’s willingness to consume live music at home online becomes a market demand, a tragedy for those as a community of artists in despair that created it, then maybe on-line music services like The Recording Artist will benefit. But now we must speak of timing, (I did say “myriad”). The Recording Artist was born in 1999 as a project called “Pop Coup” which didn’t get much further than a static website mach-up and a VH1 pitch meeting. Then in 2012, a part of that concept became The Recording Artist which recorded over 35 bands in 45 weeks before closing down.
Then in 2018, I revived the concept and designed the new website and mobile app planning for a re-launch which was initially scheduled for March in 2020, but we all know what happened, COVID and the “stay at home” orders put an end to or re-launch. Now that things are loosening up in AZ we are able to get this project back on track.
Has the pandemic been a good thing for us or a bad thing? I really can’t tell yet. One thing is for sure, people enjoy music online and The Recording Artist is a music project/product like no other. Now to your point: “what am I most excited about?” – the fun! Tracking a band with an audience watching and chatting on the big screen in the studio at the same time is exhilarating to say the least. The inclusion of TV and film production techniques gives the process a whole new dimension. After 40 years of making record, THESE are recording sessions I can’t fall asleep in.
Ryan : A huge part of innovation is assessing need. Basic Supply and Demand. What services ended? What models failed? What new ones will rise. Covid simply put the entire entertainment industry on its head. So, in light of that, what need/ demand in this brave new world do you see The Recording Artist fulfilling?
Otto D’Agnolo : Covid allowed me time to finish preparing a project that was already in the pipeline. This in not a form of innovation created by an assessment of need or supply and demand. (I’m not that success oriented!)
This is something I always thought would be fun to do and fun to participate in so I’m making it.#WORD
I’m not convinced The Recording Artist serves a new need/ demand created by the the post-Covid environment we find ourselves in but I believe that the consumer on Main Street is now more comfortable consuming live music product online, to what market degree I have no measure.
Ryan : Membership Levels. Patreon Memberships. Crowd Funding. Public Active Participation. Arguably, the model is Access. And having that access be something unique that people are willing to pay for. I have read the different membership levels at The Recording Artist, but beyond just the basics…. why does access in the creative process, with a creative artist…. matter?
Otto D’Agnolo :. Great, great points! Ryan, I think you have a mind like mine. These are the questions that matter, but the answers are not attainable without jumping in unaware. There is a cost to creativity and as they say, the first one through the wall always gets bloody. I’ve never cared to be second.
Getting bloody is fine by me if I learn something.#Word squared
You asked: “why does access in the creative process, with a creative artist…matter?” My answer may be as resigned to industry fatigue as your question. My answer is:
I have no idea, except to say that nothing matters more to a fan than being a part, a part of anything cool, a part of anything exclusive, being there when the CHILD IS BORN. That’s what The Recording Artist offers, not a kitchen concert with a tip jar but a two hour struggle to make a musical masterpiece.
Ryan : As a full member, with the ability to promote bands, and actually lift up bands for consideration, what are a few of the bullet points, or high lights, you are looking for in the acts you choose to work with at The Recording Artist? Let’s take for example, The Real Fakes and The Bayou Bandits…. What makes them solid options out of the gate?
Otto D’Agnolo : Interestingly enough, as a 40+ year veteran of the music biz, this is the first project I’ve launched that perhaps puts the music in the second seat. What I’m looking for is GREAT TV, which is often really bad music! But my heart and my experience in the business CAN’T STAND less than incredible music! So I’m am stuck looking for bands that are both incredibly fun to watch AND awesome music talents! I’ve found a bunch!
The Real Fakes are first, Emby Alexander is second, The Bayou Bandits are third, Brian Chartrand is fourth and the list goes on! Listen, I am a bit of an eccentric individual and my mind can be an uncomfortable place to spend much time for a lot of people. But all of these things combined allow me to create a product that is so much more than music.
Not only will the webcast recordings feature unbelievable talent tracking new music with me in the studio, but the TV show version on Amazon Prime Video allows my monkey mind to run rampant all over these projects in retrospect.PHOENIX…… ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION !!!!!!
Ryan : Last one. Golden Question.
- ‘I am an artist’s artist.’
- ‘That’s not our sound.’
- ‘That’s not what we want to put out in the world, we have been working for years on this branding.’
- ‘I am not excited to work on something I don’t like.’
This sounds like drama, possibly probable, with most bands, and my guess is that you have thought of that. Care to comment?
Otto D’Agnolo : To my point above, I’m looking for great TV so in a way, I guess it would be better for me if the band threw a fit, broke my gear and walked on out of the session! That’s fun TV. But my heart and soul is in music, it’s what I’ve done forever. With that in mind, I think there can be plenty of TV drama in the simple setting of a band trying to record their music while a producer tries to improve it or fix it ALL IN FRONT OF A PAYING AUDIENCE.
Talk about pressure for everyone! And to be honest, pressure makes me feel alive. To do recordings behind the scenes and only letting fans hear it when it’s perfected is boring and easy and frankly dishonest.
Making a record in two hours in front of a viewing audience is as honest as it gets!
This will be a three part series on Valley Innovators that are wading into the trenches in these challenging times to propel our art, our industry, and our community forward. Together…. We Rise.
Curtis Grippe and SteMTV got next !