Facilitating fantasy in the studio

A charmingly candid description of producing custom recordings for “aspiring ‘aritsts’” from songwriter and sometimes producer Marty Funderburk at his new blog The Mundane Matters. Funderburk manages to be both humble and humorous about the downmarket realities of producing southern gospel’s “adequate” amateur talent. Money quote:

Some are genuinely talented, humble, God-fearing people whose church insisted that they record an album. It’s fun to help them get accomplish that dream. But, unfortunately there are more of the other kind… I’m but a facilitator of fantasy. Oh, I don’t “blow smoke.” I don’t tell them how wonderful they are. I use phrases like, “That was absolutely ADEQUATE! You go, girl! Let’s move on…” But, in the end, no matter how wrenching the session has been, they look me in the eye and ask, “So, what do you think my chances are?” God has provided me with a great answer to that question. I tell them I don’t know. I would have to see them perform in front of an audience. Some of the best singers don’t have the ability to connect with an audience. And I remind them that people “vote” at the record table. There are a lot of average singers with sustainable careers in our industry. A lot of bad music gets heavy rotation on the radio. So it ain’t necessarily about talent. That shuts ‘em up.

Read the whole thing, and help welcome Funderburk to the world of blogging.

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  1. quartet-man wrote:

    Now THAT’S some good reading. :)

  2. thom wrote:

    sounds like the first time our old family group was in the studio with legendary producer Jimmy Tarbutton…all he could say was “that’ll do” or “ok, moving right along” !

  3. dd wrote:

    been there….lol! there’s nothing more humbling than being in a studio, and hearing only your untalented voice pierce through the soundproofing and into the vocal producers ears and him to say…listening…listening… and we’re moving on…lol. Just makes me wanna try harder…

  4. RNGfreckles wrote:

    Well, at least he’s honest! We need more people like that in this world.

    Glad to have you around, Marty.

  5. thom wrote:

    i can think of several “record labels” that are not much more than “recording companies.” that feed on peoples fantasies. In fact, there is a rather large industry built on little more than feeding peoples dreams.

    comments please -

  6. Aaay Nonemus wrote:

    You mean to tell me that there are people in the southern gospel music recording industry that are merely recording to make a buck and that the labels these “i just know God means for us to be out there full-time” groups are striving to get on mean nothing?

    What’s this world coming to?

  7. thom wrote:

    anybody with $5000 can make a cd and get it put on a compilation disc,. at least that used to be the going rate. it may be more than that now.

  8. KB wrote:

    I spent two hours fixing one vocal line in a three-minute song this past week, after two days worth of recording. It was a custom project for a friend that I did as a favor, and it will never be something in the market place, but still…..

  9. Marty Funderburk wrote:

    To clarify further…I only help people record albums. The division of the company I work for neither signs artists to record deals nor offers radio promotion. We’re not in the business of discovering talent or promising them careers.

  10. jb wrote:

    Marty: Are you relation to Danny Funderburk? If so, we have had him in our home when he was with the Cathedrals and also when he was solo. My family and Danny have played alot of golf together. Enjoyed your blog.

  11. Joe Lane wrote:

    The groups that he is talking about will read this and say “thats not me he’s talking about. We are talented” . These “recording services” are the reason SG is so full of sub-par singers. The company fills their head with dreams of number one charts. They are no better than the merchants at the temple that Jesus ran off.

  12. thom wrote:

    Marty - I know you aren’t one of those companies and i didn’t mean to imply that your were. You are on the up and up and a great writer, too!

  13. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Joe, that’s a pretty poor comparison.

    I know of a situation where a songwriter used to send three songs to a recording studio once a month or so. The studio spent about an hour each making him a demo for $150. The songs are awful, but this songwriter put his demos on the internet and billed himself as one of the top 5 songwriters in the USA.

    Now the songwriter is dead, so his estate keeps finding old songs he never had recorded, and THEY keep the same deal going.

    At what point has the studio done anything that’s comparable to the money changers in the bible, who were denying everyone the right to worship God in the temple unless they used temple money at a high exchange rate? All the studio is doing is offering a service, passing no judgment on the quality, and making no promises.

    This is what Marty appears to be doing as well. He has clearly state above that the company he works for offers no distribution services or radio promotion. They will make a custom CD for you. That’s it.

    The one gripe I might have with Marty is that he’s billing himself as a producer while admittedly offering no real producer input. Groups that have no shot at glory don’t need a producer to tell them, “Moving right along.” The engineer can do that. But that’s part of the game. These groups want to put a name on the product so it will carry an air of legitimacy.

    Just like that songwriter I mentioned. His website mentions the guy’s name who sings on his demos, because he used to sing with a full time group…and before he died, he expected people to pay $11.97 a pop for a CD of his demo recordings, even though this artist who was making some money on the side doing studio work never made those recordings with the intention of them being sold to the public. Who’s scamming who in this case?

  14. Leebob wrote:

    Our producer has a way of bringing us abck to earth when we have something “good”. Occassionaly he will go back and play one of the first recordings we did….OUCH!!!!!! It does cause us to strive for our best. Unfortunately there are a large number of groups out there who are thinking of themselves a little more highly than they should. It is always a good, no a GREAT, practice to have a neutral, non-partisan, honest ear to keep you honest with yourself and, most importantly, the potential listener. Let’s save a little pain shall we!

  15. Marty Funderburk wrote:

    David - I’m actually an extremely “hands-on” producer. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility with the singers I’m privileged to worth with. For many, this is their only chance to ever record and album. I always remind them that their project will outlive them. That’s why I don’t just let bad parts or pitches go by. I spend as much time as possible correcting everything I can. However, I’m bound by time constraints and budgets…and the singer’s ability to grasp and perform the changes I’m suggesting. I do everything I do “as unto The Lord.” I couldn’t sleep at night if I slighted anyone. When I finally say, “let’s move on” it’s because we HAVE to move on or we won’t have time to finish the album. That’s a difficult call to make, but people have planes to catch and jobs to return to - they don’t live in Nashville. Perhaps I wasn’t clear before, but please, make no mistake about it - I am conscientious to a fault.

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