Click here for an exclusive MP3 DJ mix from Open Air featuring some of their music.
Openair was formed more than three years ago, when Dan McKie and I met in a studio where I was engineering Dan's DJ mixes. I had been producing for around a decade and got the opportunity for remix work and singles releases. At that point, we decided to create Openair and embark on creating our own sound.
We set up a simple programming suite on a reasonably tight budget in a pretty small space. It was based on a PC running Steinberg Cubase SX2 and active monitors. It was small, but we produced releases and remixes for Ministry of Sound, Positiva, Hed Kandi, Loaded and others. As time passed, it became obvious that a larger setup was necessary for more production tools and a more comfortable and creative environment. That brought Openair to its larger, current setup, which is based on both Mac and PC platforms in an acoustically treated space using Auralex materials.
As I now use the room for tuition (production classes) and mastering, as well as productions for Openair and solo projects, it's important to keep both PC and Mac platforms with multiscreen TFT display systems for compatibility with any project.
At what point did you start taking on other projects such as remixing, mastering, tuition, etc.?
From the onset. Our first projects were “on-spec” remixes, which quickly led to the production of our singles and commissioned remixes. Although extra duties such as tuition and mastering were there from the beginning, they have now fully developed into an integral part of our regular studio activities.
How did you get hired for these projects?
Initially, we aggressively sought out work and contacts using the Internet. As things progressed and our profile grew, requests started to come in of their own accord. Our work now comes from a healthy mixture of commissioned work from marketing e-mail blasts and blogs on MySpace (www.myspace.com/virtualopenair) and our own site, www.virtualopenair.com.
What are the key factors for nabbing these other jobs: connections, quality of the work, hustling, ads?
Once an artist has releases and remixes in the marketplace, they act as their own advertisements, but self-belief is hugely important. Confidence in our projects and sound pushes us to reach out to new contacts. But the standard of work has to be consistent, too.
Once you upgraded the studio, did more clients see you as a more professional outfit?
I think the days of having a huge studio to impress clients have gone. It's so much more about the content that is released. Most artists we work with are very like-minded and are used to working in small, but well-equipped digital environments. Our upgrades have always been for practical reasons. If we need a piece of kit to get the job done, we'll get it. It's nice to have a good studio for a healthy, creative atmosphere.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear?
In the past, we used extensive high-end hardware, but now we have streamlined to a digital configuration. We lean heavily on a dual-processor Mac G5 with two fully loaded Universal Audio UAD-1 cards and a TC Electronic PowerCore MKII running a Virtual Access Virus and Sony Oxford plug-ins, as well as the Mackie Control C4. Our trusty Dynaudio active monitors are a little expensive for the novice, but worth the investment. Some of the more affordable gear we use is the M-Audio Oxygen and O2 keyboards, and the Evolution X-Session DJ controller for live work. We couldn't perform live without Ableton Live, and we're currently testing the Red Sound SoundBite Micro, which syncs our decks and CDs to Live via MIDI clock. It was bulletproof for us at the Vegas Music Conference.
How do you balance working on Openair music and these other projects?
We handle each project as it comes in. If something has a beckoning deadline, we'll prioritize it, but we usually queue up the jobs.
Please explain the production lessons you give.
They are mainly one-on-one private production lessons that spread by word of mouth. Every new client has contacted us due to results gained from other students. The fees are usually set on a strict hourly rate, but I also do packages and prebooked eight-week courses for generous discounts. Some of my recent tuition has taken the form of mentoring for National UK radio stations and local government-funded projects. You can find an example at www.soundscope.org.uk.
What do people most often want to learn?
Programming and producing house beats and good bass technique and programming. This is due to these techniques being the foundation of most electronic music styles. Another popular request is sidechaining, or ducking. This is really in vogue right now, and you hear it on a huge amount of current dance records.
How did you become a source for mastering?
The mastering developed due to requests from other producers after we successfully completed our own masters. Over time, it matured into a healthy part of the studio's income. Although I am qualified in music technology, most of my mastering and production technique has been built up with hands-on experience. If you want to take on mastering as a source of income, start with your own projects and move from there. Courses and reading are helpful, but I can't stress enough how important firsthand experience is.
What are the most financially rewarding ventures?
Remixes, producing other artists, mastering and tuition. Some other large-income projects have been multisingle deals with labels overseas and publishing income from licensing music for videogames, TV, etc. Outside the studio, we make good income from our ongoing live shows around the globe.
For a continuous Openair mix, go toremixmag.com.