Plenty of bands have made history through live recordings. Jimi Hendrix is remembered for his howling live version of Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. Bob Dylan’s conversion to electric guitar was captured live, along with the famous "Judas" cry from the audience. The Beatles recorded their last public gig on a rooftop - and have been copied and parodied by countless others ever since.
As well as spontaneous moments of genius, whole albums have been recorded live, bringing their creators lasting fame. Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged introduced them to an army of new fans. Johnny Cash recorded At Folsom Prison in front of cheering inmates. And Talking Heads’ live LP Stop Making Sense contains some of the best versions of their grooving songs.
Alongside lasting fame, there are plenty of other reasons why emerging artists today should consider recording live.
Turn up the authenticity
There’s nothing more real than a single take of a track. In an era of digital manipulation, a live recording demonstrates a musician’s true talent and sets them apart from those who need electronic assistance. There’s nothing wrong with after-effects, but if you’ve got the skills, show them off.
Fans and followers respond more to live shows. It boosts their feelings of attachment to an artist, due to the heightened intimacy of the sound. They are also more likely to come to a gig, since live recordings are a guarantee of a good show.
Increase speed, create content
Today bands need to constantly feed the social media beast with content to keep fans engaged. It can be exhausting trying to create music while constantly planning your next post. Why not do both at the same time?
By recording live directly to a mobile device, musicians can create and share in real time, giving fans more of what they want, while reducing the work of social media content production.
How to record live
When the Beatles played on the roof of their studio in London in 1969, they had to wrap pantyhose to the microphones to block the wind. Today you can get high quality sound out of affordable equipment without using women’s underwear.
The first requirement is a decent microphone. But it’s not a good idea to plug directly into your laptop’s 3.5mm jack input, as it seriously diminishes the sound quality. Instead, it’s advisable to use a digital converter or audio interface.
Audio interfaces contain inputs for XLR microphone cables and instrument ¼ inch jacks, and have outputs for USB and lightning connectors. This allows you to plug in a mic or guitar, connect to your laptop or smartphone, and record brilliant sounds. As long as you play brilliantly, that’s it.
Interfaces can also act as pre-amps, meaning you don’t need to use a loud amplifier to capture the sound of your electric guitar or other instrument. You can get some great advice on what mics and interfaces to use on this webinar.
Record to win - OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
By recording live, you bottle your musical magic for digital eternity. You also qualify to enter a competition to win studio time and a haul of free equipment - Shure’s mobile recording contest OFF THE BEATEN TRACK.
The main prize is a trip to L.A. for a professional recording session at Capitol Studios. Second and third places win thousands of dollars worth of Shure gear. And the 20 top shortlisted bands have a chance to win equipment as well.
Shure’s judges are looking for mobile recordings from unusual locations. To enter, you need a video of your performance. But cameras often don’t capture quality sound, so it’s advisable to make a simultaneous audio recording and combine the two.
Registration for OFF THE BEATEN TRACK closes on March 22. You’ll then need at least 50 fans to vote for your track to be in consideration, the more votes the better. Shortlisted artists will then get a box of Shure MOTIV gear to record another track.
Recording live is now easy and affordable, results in more shareable content and lets you enter amazing competitions. So what are you waiting for? Hit that big red button now.