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Adding crowd noise (applause, hoots, etc.) to live recorded demos -- ethical or not?


stepay

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So, just want to know everyone's opinion on this. On one hand, it seems about the same as cleaning up things via computers after a studio recording session, but on the other hand it seems deceitful. I'm on the fence on this one. I have software that would allow me to do this seemlessly.

 

Am I evil to the core if I do it?

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Unethical, in my view.

 

I am assuming you mean crowd noise not actually recorded to a seperate track from an ambience mic at the time of recording. I have no problem with setting an ambience (crowd) mic and mixing it in later - ie, as against only using what got into stage mics.

 

Seems like it would be an attempt to persuade the listener that the performance was met with a level of enthusiasm that was not in fact present. If in fact the performance was met with enthusiasm, and the recordist wanted to portray that, then they should record it.

 

If technical problems caused that to be lost, then perhaps replacing it with FX consistent with the live event might be passable. One could avoid any doubt by disclosing that this was done.

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Byrdman,

 

You can hear some applause and hoots and hollers in the background, but just what was picked up from our stage mics. For the most part, you can't tell there was an audience there, let alone the enthusiastic one that was there. We had no idea the sound guy was recording this for us, so really I have no complaints. I know other bands add stuff like this all the time to live recordings, but of course that doesn't make it right.

 

Any crowd noise I would add would be crowd noise recorded by someone else from another event entirely. Again, I'm on the fence here but am probably leaning toward NOT doing it.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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I do this all the time..... When sequencing live albums for various artists you often HAVE to fool with the audience levels to make the performance appear to be seamless. When you're getting rid of the drummers tasteless comment picked up between songs, and the crowd level changes, you just fly in the right stuff from somewhere else in the performance. No big deal to me.
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Originally posted by stepay:

Am I evil to the core if I do it?

Stupid TV Sitcoms do it all the time to remind us that something was supposed to be funny.

 

To be honest though, if a show has a laughtrack I'm gonna switch the channel the second I hear it! I can decide for myself if something is funny or not, and it's usually "not". Heh...

Les Mizzell

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I've never done it for myself, but I sweetened a show weekly for a few years that was broadcast every week with crowd noise, claps, laughs, etc. Pretty common thing to do really and it made the show more enjoyable. When I'd get the stems of the show, there were no house mics, so the crowd, which was just as important as anything in this live recording, felt and sounded out of balance with eveything else. Just doin' my job and billin' 8 hours.......
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Hey, Les -- does that mean you never watched "Seinfeld"? Yup, a laugh track.

 

Anyway, I put together a band at my radio station to perform the morning show's popular song parodies. We wound up selling out several shows over the years and recorded some for on-air use. Now we're talking about 2,500 rabid, drunken fans laughing, yelling, screaming, and singing along with every song. The recordings should have come out like "Frampton Comes Alive"! Unfortunately, even with an audience mike we just didn't capture the madness. So we "sweetened" the recordings using a variety of methods. We never felt we were deceiving anyone because the finished product approximated reality.

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I would think if you're approximating reality like Big sez, then it'd be okay. If you're making it sound like you played Wembley and you're in your basement, then not. OTOH, if it was clearly a joke, that's a different thing ("Stepay Plays Wembley" with appropriate joke cover for instance).

 

There are lots of famous live albums that had studio "clean up" done later. I'm not crazy about the idea myself, but if it was a technical issue (the guitar player got unplugged) then maybe that's okay.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Originally posted by Big Bird:

We never felt we were deceiving anyone because the finished product approximated reality.

That's exactly my situation. The crowd was really great, and in the final set, they were really getting into it, and some of the ladies were dancing with the stripper pole right in front of the stage. The live recordings as is don't really capture what the mood was. Need more time to think about this.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Goodness.

 

I guess you have to consider each instance on its own.

 

I like to watch music DVDs and I study them (translation: I watch them over and over).

 

I like to pick out instruments that I hear, but don't see anyone playing them on stage. Could they have musicians off-stage or behind the curtain playing? Or, more likely, did they sweeten the tracks in post?

 

I've made live recordings of my band to use as demos to get us jobs. I've taken the 2-track audio and added other instruments to fill out the recording. For instance I've added an organ part when I was playing only Rhodes in performance. Is this unethical? Did it sound better? Did we get more jobs because of it?

 

I think you can ask those questions of just about any form of magic used in post production.

 

As I said, I kinda think this should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

 

If it came down to an argument about ethics or enjoying a beer this afternoon... well, I think you'd know which one *I* would choose. ;)

 

http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en-commons/thumb/8/85/180px-Beer.jpg

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Big Bird:

Stepay, what do you plan on doing with the finished product?

Big Bird,

 

Well, I'm going to take 4-5 live clips and put them on a CD with our 4 studio recordings for a total of 8-9 songs. The plan then is to use them to get new gigs with (venues we haven't played in). I could JUST use the studio recordings, but a couple of the live recordings came out so well that I'd like to use them too, and I would identify them as live recordings, but to be able to hear cheers from the audience and whistles and so on makes it easier for the listener to determine which songs are live and which are not (though I will clearly identify them).

 

I can honestly see both sides of this issue -- hence my question to the board.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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To me, it depends on how tastefully and musically it is done. To my knowledge, most "live" recordings are doctored up in a way or another, even to the extent of fixing performance mistakes; other times, two or more performances are glued together... what the listener is hearing is almost always a different experience from actually being at the concert - and that's fine with me, since the media and the environment are different anyway.

 

There's a Tribal Tech track called "Nite Club", that's full of crowd noise, clapping, whistling etc.. I believe they were added later, but they don't bother me, and I don't feel cheated; to me, it's a fun way to convey the spirit of that tune.

 

On a few Weather Report albums, there is a 'fake' crowd applauding and screaming... on the other hand, most of the "Night Passage" album and half of "Domino Theory" are recorded live; there's no mention of this in the liner notes, and all the crowd noises have been edited *out*... I think nobody could tell they're live recordings just by listening. :freak::)

 

So no, I don't think it's cheating. It could be considered another musical tool (although it could be abused like any other tool).

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When I watch a TV sitcom and I hear canned laughter, it really cheapens it for me.

 

In the example you give, the listener is probably not aware that he is being deceived. Ignorance is ... bliss?

 

I wouldn't do it.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Oh man I appreciate the reponses, but so far about half support and half don't! I wish there were a clear cut answer. So many good points on both sides. Marino, your response seems very reasonable to me. Decisions, decisions.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Originally posted by stepay:

some of the ladies were dancing with the stripper pole right in front of the stage.

In addition to adding applause, you should insert a photo of a professional model (appropriately dressed) making love to a stripper pole. You'd just be approximating reality. :D

 

Seriously, though. Is it unethical to add applause not generated at the time of recording? There is certainly an argument for taking the high road and just saying "no".

 

In the post-Milli Vanilli age, though, the line has already been crossed. You can pay a lot of money to see a "live" concert and see "parts of the show have been prerecorded" on your ticket stub. It's like what "Quiz Show" (or maybe "War of the Worlds") did to broadcast media; we've lost our innocence and won't blindly assume everything we hear is the truth, just because it is broadcast.

 

When I think "ethics", I think "can I sleep at night if I do this?". If you think your conscience would be troubled by adding applause, then don't do it. Even if someone else is telling you it's ok, it may not be ok for you.

 

From the consumer's point of view, what does the recording "as is" sound like? Is it distracting or laughable to hear the weak bleed-through signal from the applause, or not? Does it detract from the music, or not? If you were listening to a live recording of your favorite band and it sounded like what you have, would you have wished that they would have added applause so you could better enjoy the recording?

 

Would you feel better if you added a disclaimer to your sweetened recording? Just the honest truth:

 

The enthusiasm of the audience on the night of this performance was not adequately captured by the recording equipment. In order to give you, the listener, a better experience of the concert as it was, some additional crowd noise has been added in the studio.

 

Or whatever suits your tastes. Maybe brevity and ambiguity works better: "Some elements of this recording were added in the studio".

 

Now, is it more ethical to put this text where it can actually be seen and read, or in that tiny, tiny font they use for the legal that almost requires a magnifying glass to read? ;)

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Originally posted by marino:

There's a Tribal Tech track called "Nite Club", that's full of crowd noise, clapping, whistling etc.. I believe they were added later, but they don't bother me, and I don't feel cheated; to me, it's a fun way to convey the spirit of that tune.

Wow! That just triggered a flashback of when I was 11 and we played a watered-down version of RTF's "Spain". On the sheet music is clearly written instruction to cheer, whistle, clap and so forth at the appropriate time. It's really an integral part of the song and wouldn't sound right without it.

 

Of course, this doesn't help Stepay at all. :o

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Originally posted by stepay:

The plan then is to use them to get new gigs with (venues we haven't played in).

Good advice in general: know your audience.

 

Put yourself in the venues' shoes. You've listened to thousands of band promo demos. You can pretty accurately tell if they've added canned cheers to a live track. How do you feel when you hear one of these sweetened demos?

 

The check's in the mail. The dog ate my homework. I didn't know the speed limit was 55 mph here. "Will work for food."

 

Who's foolin' who?

 

OTOH, leave out the sweetener and the venue guy has probably heard enough live recordings that didn't use an ambient mic to realize that the crowd really was rockin' that night, it just didn't get recorded.

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I agree with Marino's take. (More on that in a moment.) OTOH, in your particular case I think RicBassGuy is right: The venue guy's just going to be listening to how good you sound (and whether your music is appropriate). He's likely not going to be concerned about crowd reaction. Heck, you'll be lucky if he listens at all! And the idea that he'll audition 8-9 songs is probably a bit over-optimistic. So I wouldn't sweat it. If the live recordings "came out so well" just go with them as is. Why risk sweetening with fake crowd and have him discover it?

 

Back to the whole idea of what is and isn't okay to do to enhance "live" performances: Given the choice between the band sounding great with the aid of tricks or sounding lousy without them, gimme the tricks. Perfect example: I saw the Cult about 15 years ago. They're doing their big hit "Firewoman." Lead singer Billy Duffy's voice is particularly raw this night -- and, honestly, he's not much of a singer even on his best day. They get to the chorus and suddenly you here these perfect harmonies ... "Fire ... er .. er ..." It was so obviously canned. But I didn't mind at all -- it sounded GREAT! So whether it's done live or "fixed" in the studio, the final product is the bottom line for me. As Marino said, as long as it's not abused (Milli Vanilli) it's okay.

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more importantly the club owner or agent will not want to listen to 9 songs [how many CDs does he/she get each week]...

 

take out the highlights or a verse and chorus of each song,fade between the songs and release the 9 songs as one track

 

or alternatively 9 tracks [faded in and out] with only verse and chorus that has only small or no gap before and after each song so they can play automatically after each other as if one recording but can be accessed individually if needed.

 

in this way audience noise is not a big deal,as he is only getting snippets of each song and he can concentrate on deciding if your style will suit his establishment.

 

In this way he may actually listen to every song and not give up after the first.Therefore i think in this case adding the audience is not necessary.

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Just do it, I won't tell. My gosh it is not such a big thing. I mean it is a live recording for goodness sake. Make it sound live, spice it up. People eat that stuff up. Don't be a wimp have some balls, and go for it.

 

now about that beer.

Jimmy

 

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho

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I assume that most recordings have been somehow sweetened.

 

Besides, if a "club owner or agent" liked what he or she heard in your demo, and if he or she still had any unanswered questions, then the owner/agent could have you (and your band) to audition in person.

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Originally posted by stepay:

Originally posted by Big Bird:

We never felt we were deceiving anyone because the finished product approximated reality.

That's exactly my situation. The crowd was really great, and in the final set, they were really getting into it, and some of the ladies were dancing with the stripper pole right in front of the stage. The live recordings as is don't really capture what the mood was. Need more time to think about this.
IMNSHO, if you are accurately reflecting the vibe of the real crowd that was there, there's nothing wrong with a bit of technical help. Sure, it would be better if you had a good track of the crowd noise, but if you don't, make it sound right.

 

It would be different if you had played to crickets, and you made it sound like the Beatles arriving in America. But that's clearly not your intention here. Use the tools, man, that's what they're there for.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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