Moving with the times can be hard…

Hey, everyone needs to let off steam and there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and even a little rant now and again about other entertainers and how they work. But it doesn’t always mean you’re right…

Hi guys,
I read all your emails. and like your company. BUT…And this is a big BUT… How can you condone using a laptop on stage for backing tracks. This is sacrilege. People who use laptops on stage are just inferior Karaoke singers, and it is horrendously unprofessional. I have been an entertainer for over 50 yrs and still to this day, only use Mini Disc or CD’s. Sorry about this. But every professional entertainer who IS professional will tell you the same. Everyone I know would. Anyway my little rant over. Keep up the good work.

Hi Billy

Thanks for your email, it has certainly sparked interest and conversations about the subject (which is a good thing).

You did say you’ve been in the music business for 50 years and I think therein probably lies the key to the opinions you’ve formed.

Things have changed quite a bit since you came in to the business all those years ago. In fact things have changed in the last 5 years never mind the last 50 years.

Contrary to what you may think, CD’s are not used by professional entertainers today – they are used by amateurs. That’s why when you watch shows like Britain’s Got Talent, X factor and American Idol, you’ll see the amateur acts hand a CD to the sound man to play when they perform at their audition.

CD’s suffer from fingermarks, scratches, and skipping etc and are not a professional medium. I don’t know of any modern day professional artiste who would consider risking doing a gig with a CD player.

Minidisc used to be the format of choice for the professional entertainer…but that was 10 – 20 years ago.

Professionals nowadays realise that Minidisc is not only a very limited format (around 20 stereo songs on one Minidisc compared to thousands of songs on an mp3 hard disk or laptop computer) but Minidisc also suffers badly from mechanical failure and sticking whereas mp3 has no moving parts (mp3 is a computer file format).

All major recording studios now are digital and use computers to control their recording processes.

Even my friend who is a musical director in London’s West End uses an iPad to wirelessly control the music, click tracks and lights in the show (he used to use a laptop but has moved on to the iPad now). Technology has moved at a rapid pace for him and that’s just in the last year alone.

My guess is you’ve probably formed your opinion after seeing some amateur karaoke presenter with a laptop and a bunch of mp3+g files and assumed that because he was using a laptop that this means laptops are not a professional way of doing things…

That’s just not true.

I know when you’ve been in the business for so many years it’s difficult to change the mind set of a lifetime and it’s normal for entertainers to stick to what they’re comfortable with. I’ve been 37 years in the business myself so I know how difficult change can be for entertainers – we don’t like to venture too far out of our comfort zone, especially when we’re happy with our present way of working.

But the reality is that technology is moving forward at a rapid pace and the way we used to do things years ago is rarely the best way to do things today.

If you’re comfortable using CD’s and Minidiscs in your stage shows then, of course, by all means continue (that’s if you can still find companies who produce professional Minidisc decks – they’re getting harder and harder to find).

But you shouldn’t really be going around telling other acts that they are “horrendously unprofessional” and that they are nothing but an “inferior karaoke singer” just because they have embraced a more efficient, more modern, and better way of working their professional act than the methods you use.

We need to live and let live Billy!

Making a medley the WRONG way

There’s really only one way to produce a backing track medley of songs – the proper and professional way. One customer, Liam, tried it the easy way and only ended up with a lot of wasted time and poor results. Don’t make the same mistake…

Many thanks for producing my medley for me Kenny, ive wanted that as a medley for so long now, I had a go at linking the 2 songs on midifile but it didnt turn out very well

Hi Liam

Yes, that’s the problem with trying to just “glue” two backing tracks together.

Not only do you get glitches where the joins are, but you also find that the two tracks usually use different instrument sounds so no matter how hard you try, it will always sound like two songs have been stuck together.

What we do though is make structural re-arrangements to the songs in the medley so it sounds like there’s one band on stage with you and their playing all the songs in the medley all the way through.

That’s really what makes a medley flow well and sound right and it’s pretty impossible to achieve if you just try to glue a couple of songs together (as you’ve discovered)!

Volume variations of backing tracks

The question of adjusting the volume of backing tracks from various different companies is a common topic of conversation!

Hi Guys 
I have many mp3 backing tracks from different sources, and would like to know how to level the tracks so that i can play them on an mp3 player without having to keep adjusting the volume 

Hi Paul

This is a common problem when you have a mixture of backing tracks from different backing track companies.

Sadly, just as there are many professional backing track companies out there, there are twice as many amateur companies who like to pass themselves off as being professional backing track producers.

Not only do these cowboys give the backing track industry a bad name, they also use cheap recording and mastering equipment which, among other things, results in…you’ve guessed it… their backing tracks sounding very low in volume.

You can usually tell a cheaply made backing track because you’ll have to turn the volume on your mixer up higher when you play it.

A good quality backing track will sound much louder and will come through your speakers at a higher volume than the cheap tracks.

Unfortunately you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear so if some of your tracks were poorly made in the first place you’re never going to be able to make a poor quality track sound like a quality track, no matter what you do to it.


What you may be able to do is bring the volume of some of the poorer tracks up by “normalizing” them.

As long as the tracks are not too bad, normalizing them may just increase the volume of the poorly made track enough to make the difference in loudness between the poorly made tracks and the good tracks a little less noticeable.

I wrote a blog post about this last year which gives more information on how to normalize backing tracks: