By Kristine Cannon
Music venues may be closed, but one Scottsdale engineer and producer is providing a new, virtual outlet for local musicians and fans to, in a way, get their live music fix.
It’s called TheRecordingArtist.com. Every Wednesday, Otto D’Agnolo invites bands into his studio, MIA Studio, to record one of their tracks—all the while livestreaming the interactive experience for fans and followers.
“All of it is just absolutely fun to me. That’s really what I get out of it—that and providing this opportunity for bands to watch the impact it has for them to be produced,” D’Agnolo says.
Here’s how it works:
TheRecordingArtist.com offers two membership tiers: $3.99 a month for the basic memberships, which allows members to watch the recording sessions and the mixdown sessions the following day; and $6.99 a month for the A&R (artist and repertoire) membership, which allows them to choose the bands invited to the studio and the song they record, as well as chat live during the recording session.
So far, D’Agnolo says, they have about 60 subscribing members and another 50 or 60 who were brought on as beta testers—for more than 100 members who watch and participate intermittently.
“The fact that (bands) have two hours to get done, they love the pressure that has been put on a creative process to move it forward,” D’Agnolo says. “They have to commit, and they feel that it really gives them something that feels a little bit more alive, like a concert, like a live show. It has the energy of that, but it has, tucked in, polish of a record.”
Bands get two hours to set up and soundcheck prior to the live session, which includes a basic track performance followed by some overdubs.
Bands are also treated to dinner from one of TheRecordingArtist.com’s sponsors, Il Bosco Pizza.
While members must pay to watch, bands are invited in to participate and record for free.
“I think they’re just happy to have somebody who can help them be better,” D’Agnolo says.
With more than 30 years of experience in the music business, D’Agnolo is an award-winning recording engineer and music producer who has worked on projects for the likes of Kenny Rogers and former Glendale resident Jordin Sparks.
With TheRecordingArtist.com, D’Agnolo has worked with 15 bands so far, including popular Phoenix indie-rockers Vinyl Station and fellow Valley rockers Paper Foxes.
“Initially, I was skeptical,” Paper Foxes singer and guitarist CJ Jacobson said of TheRecordingArtist.com. “It seemed like a very short amount of time to try to record anything; but after hearing about the experience from some friends, it sounded like fun.”
Paper Foxes recorded two songs during a session, and Jacobson described the band’s time working with D’Agnolo as “fun and loose.”
“We had a great experience,” Jacobson says. “It felt like he pushed us in ways we never expected. The time crunch and crowd interaction made the entire experience very exciting and had a similar energy to performing a live show.”
D’Agnolo adds, “They knocked it out of the park.”
According to D’Agnolo, what members enjoy most about TheRecordingArtist.com is not so much the music but the process.
“We happen to be making music, but it’s about the process and the personalities. And when they watch it, they get it. They go, ‘I don’t care what the music is. That’s not my music, but I love the show,’” he said.
That’s why, when it comes to choosing bands for the show, D’Agnolo looks for not only energetic music but also—and more importantly—interesting personalities.
“I want people who like to look fun, whether it’s the costumes or their personalities or the way they work,” he says. “(Members) don’t care what the music is, because it’s more about the process and the personalities for them.”
The membership website launched in June, but it was a concept D’Agnolo initially introduced years ago.
“In 2014, when I finally launched the website, we did it for one year,” D’Agnolo says, adding that they worked with 35 bands over 42 weeks.
“Everyone was telling me, ‘Oh, this subscription service will never work,’” he continues. “Everybody said, ‘Nobody watches music on their computer,’ but now everything’s changed.”
TheRecordingArtist.com’s demographic is two very different groups—women older than 30 and recording students in the their 20s.
“It’s been incredible to see how interactive they are, how ingrained they are,” D’Agnolo says.
D’Agnolo offers a 25% discount to recording students.
“Just talk to your instructor and have them reach out to us, because we give them a special link to a special page,” he says.
As D’Agnolo continues to grow TheRecordingArtist.com—his goal is to reach 1,500 to 2,000 members and start traveling to bands out of state—the Scottsdale resident recently premiered the first episode of his Amazon Prime TV series, “The Recording Artist,” on September 14.
He plans to release one new episode a month.
“We’re already shooting the second episode now,” says D’Agnolo, an Amazon Prime content provider who handles all the shooting, editing, post-production and closed captioning.
“Besides doing all that, I’m booking all the bands. I’m recording all the sessions. I’m mixing all the sessions. I’m shooting video for the rehearsals. I’m doing all the interviews with the bands. It’s a full-time job,” he says.
D’Agnolo is also in the midst of working on two country albums, one for San Diego-based musician Jay Tighe and the other for Arizona City singer Josh Scott.
So, needless to say, D’Agnolo is one busy man.
“There’s nothing I like more than editing video and making music,” he says. “So, I’m really spending 100% of my life doing stuff I love.”
For each new subscribing member between now and the end of the year, TheRecordingArtist.com will donate $1 to local charities benefiting music education.