In The Mix: Tom Kenny at IPR

The IPR community and select local industry professionals were recently treated to a talk from Tom Kenny, editor of the esteemed Mix magazine.  Joining Tom in discussion was moderator Scott Legere, who opened the event with an honest admission that not only does he read each installment cover to cover, but has actually saved them all as a sort of ongoing time capsule.  Not many publications are likely to inspire this level of admiration, yet it came as little surprise to those in attendance, nearly all of whom could easily relate to the practice of revisiting useful articles months, or even years later, and concurred with Legere’s statement that Mix “let me into the world of what audio meant…and helped me discover the art and science behind all this.”

Tom Kenny IPR 9-11-09-2

Ever since joining the San Francisco based Mix magazine team in 1988, Kenny has had a front row view on events which have defined and redefined professional audio and music production over the last two decades.  He pointed out that “In ’88 big studios ruled; artists routinely camped out for 5 or 6 months at a time working on songs in the studio.  Now, the process has changed – access to technology has dramatically changed the production process.”  Concurrent with this shift have been the new directions taken by the front cover “stars” of the publication, the studios themselves.  Kenny added, “Technology changes the shape of production, production changes the shape of facilities.”

One factor which has greatly expanded Mix’s mission statement since its inception has been increased coverage of sound for picture.  In 1991 Kenny was assigned to write an article detailing the audio involved in The Doors movie and travelled to Skywalker Sound to get the scoop.  After a first attempt, a brief interview with the dialogue editor which “missed the real story,” Kenny returned for a much more in depth examination of the ways in which music and audio were being used to develop and enhance the action onscreen.  Once the issue was released it triggered an influx of calls from movie studios eager to receive similiar coverage on the audio aspects of  their own upcoming blockbusters.  Today, sound for picture might more accurately be described as “sound and picture,” as opportunities to join visuals with quality sound continue to expand into lucrative sectors including video games and internet content.  Kenny continued, “Anyone who laments the decline of CD sales is missing the point – there is more audio out there than ever before” and urged post production students in the audience to remember that ” as an audio person, you are first and foremost telling a story.”

Tom Kenny’s discussion on critcal components of finding success in the fast paced and ever changing music industry returned repeatedly to a single topic: quality.  When asked by moderator Scott Legere to offer opinions on what tactics are actually working in the modern marketplace, Kenny stated that “What works is finding talent; product that is of quality eventually rises to the top…be careful of chasing the flavor of the month, that’s not  a career.”  Also of high importance when considering potential paths to success: distribution.  As new techniques for cutting through the clutter of mediocrity emerge, the winners will be those who understand how to get heard and how to distribute to fans on their terms.  “The internet allows you to know your fanbase in ways that were previously unimaginable,” Kenny continued, “You can in fact make a fine living with quality product that people will come back to.”

Tom Kenny IPR 9-11-09-8

The event culminated with IPR’ co-founder Lance Sabin awarding an honorary degree to our guest.  Upon his exit, Kenny left the audience with an encouraging confirmation of their chosen career path in music, “If you are here because you can’t live without it, you are in the right industry.”

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