Is your demo lacking the professional touch it needs? Then Dublin Studio Hub could be the online solution for you!
o there you are, sitting at the piano or your kitchen table or wherever you do your songwriting, and it suddenly hits you: this song you’ve written, it’s good. Really good, as in ‘potential No 1’ good. It’s a song that was made to have Adele belting it out at the opening of the next Olympics… or it’s a high-concept Lady Gaga-esque avant-pop/EDM fusion. Or it’s a heartwrenching indie-folk ballad that London Grammar could do wonders with. Whatever. It doesn’t matter, because you have no way of getting artists of that calibre to hear your demo… and even if you did, you suspect (rightly) that a Garageband recording of you singing and strumming while your next-door neighbour bashes out a rhythm on a pile of old cookery books somehow isn’t going to convince them.
You sigh, check the doors are locked and go to bed. If only there was somewhere on the internet where you could send your song, you think to yourself as you drift off into the land of nod, and they could work it up into a professional recording, made with world-class musicians in world-class studios. THEN you’d have a demo worth shouting about!
That’s where Dublin Studio Hub comes in. The brainchild of Irish producer Larry Hogan, Dublin Studio Hub is an online-based umbrella for some of the best recording studios, producers and session musicians in Ireland, who are making the time when they’re not working with A-list megastars available to the songwriter in the street… whether that street happens to be in Tipperary, Tucson or Tokyo.
“It’s a collection of people that have been running recording studios for many years, and Dublin Studio Hub is the online incarnation of that,” Larry explains. “The core activity is that clients worldwide send rough versions of songs to us, and through a network of studios and facilities here in Ireland we basically work it up to a fully recorded, radio-ready product, master it and send it back to them. But there’s lots of stuff that’s blossomed out of that as well. For instance. we represent the Irish Film Orchestra, and we have partnerships with the likes of Windmill Lane, which is kind of Ireland’s answer to Abbey Road. That’s got a beautiful big live room which we use for orchestral recordings.
“At the moment, we’re developing the songwriter page”
“At the moment,” he continues, “we’re developing the songwriter page, where very shortly there’ll be a blog and we’ll be getting into things like song development and critiquing. A lot of what happens when you’re working as a producer is you spend a lot of time sitting down with people working on arrangements of songs that are half-written, helping people understand what arrangements mean. So that’s another aspect we can help with.”
In fact, this latter ability is crucial. As Larry points out, “What we’re offering isn’t new – there’s a lot of people doing it, but a lot of them are doing it badly. There’s a lot of bedroom operations in this game.” The difference with Dublin Studio Hub, he says, is the calibre and experience of those involved… and it’s also this that’s meant they’ve so far never had to reject any potential clients.
“What we do is… we’re honest. A couple of times, we’ve been sent a song and it wasn’t really a song, it was in its complete infancy. There might have been a couple of nice ideas there, or a couple of nice riffs, but it wasn’t really what I’d call a complete song. So I had a good listen, and straight away got back to the writer and said, ‘Look, in my opinion this song isn’t ready yet to be recorded. It needs some work’. And then maybe we do some online collaboration with the writing, have a Skype session, have a look at the arrangements… because we do that, because we’re into the collaborating and songwriting side of it, we never really have to say ‘No thank you’ to anyone.”
Larry’s own life in music began in his early teens, touring with his father’s jazz band. A career as a session musician followed – Larry played and toured with The Band for several years, as well as being a full-time member of award-winning Irish folk/world music outfit Kila – and it wasn’t long before Larry had moved to the other side of the mixing desk. Other producers involved in Dublin Studio Hub include David Lord (whose production credits include Peter Gabriel, Tears For Fears, Echo & The Bunnymen and Jean Michel Jarre), Billy Farrell (The Corrs, Westlife, Brian Kennedy) and Peter Eades (Thin Lizzy, Clannad, Christy Moore), while as Larry is keen to point out, the standard of the session musicians available is also first-class.
“Someone can ring up and say ‘I need a saxophone player’ and we can say, ‘Well, would Van Morrison’s sax player be all right for you?’,” he laughs. “One of our bass players is in David Gray’s band, and a lot of our musicians tour with the likes of Riverdance, where the standard of musicianship is exceptional. But these are tough economic times, and even at that level, you might be working for a year and then you might not be, y’know? So it’s a win-win situation for all concerned, really: we can hook amateur or aspiring songwriters up with musicians and facilities they’d never have access to on their own, and at the same time, that means our artists keep working, keep earning a living.”
“You’re getting a real human being who cares about your songs”
As you might expect, such top-flight musicianship and world-class recording facilities don’t come cheap – even the basic acoustic demo recording package costs €500 (£392/$621 approx), and obviously the more services you use, the more you pay for. Larry’s the first to admit that there are cheaper options available – but as he says, “A lot of people will record your demo but when you really peel back the layers, you hear the same gear being used, the same sonics, the same voice being used in many cases. And that does satisify a percentage of the market that are looking for the budget end of what’s available, but we’re committed to being a premium service.”
Personal service is also important, he says. “What’s paramount for me is that I develop a relationship with our clients. I don’t ever want it to be a thing where we’re just doing it by numbers. That’s the whole ethos of Dublin Studio Hub: you’re not getting an online machine, you’re getting a real producer, a real human being who cares about your songs and their development. We’ll Skype you, email you, phone you… we’re actively involved in our clients’ songwriting careers and helping them in whatever way we can to achieve their aims.”
For more information on Dublin Studio Hub, visit their website… and watch this space for details of how you can win a Dublin Studio Hub recording package for free!