Ask Mike


Iím using a dual 2GHz G5 with Panther. Before I started installing my Pro Tools software and plug-ins, I had to update my OS to 10.3.1. Then I had to go through each plug-in to make sure I had the new Panther version. (What was I thinking?!) I got impatient, blew through a few without checking, and paid for it with a ton of crashes. Once I slowed down, read the manual, and did what Digidesign recommended, I was fine. Let that be a lesson to you.

Be sure to turn OS Xís software auto-update off. Apple is churning out new OS updates faster than most of the software companies can keep up with, and not really giving them enough time to get the new versions out there for us. It seems even Logic has trouble keeping up, and itís part of Apple. In short, donít update anything unless youíre absolutely certain that itís fully supported. For example, Pro Tools 6.2.2 works on OS X 10.3.1, but will not work on OS X 10.3.2, and PT 6.2.3 only works on 10.3.2. Youíve got to be careful. I sent Digidesign a list of questions, and Wendy Abowd there was gracious enough to help us all with some really good tips and give us a little peek behind the scenes.

Typically how much time does Apple give you with the beta version of a big software update like Panther before they release it to the public?

We have a strong development partner relationship with Apple. They work to ensure we are given the most possible advance notice of new releases that will impact our products, so that weíre able to offer customer support quickly. We have mutual customers, so it makes sense for us to work closely together to provide the best possible outcome.

The amount of advance notice on product changes varies from release to release depending on the extent of the development change (from new hardware to minor OS rev), the expected impact to our product and customers, and how extensive our support effort will need to be (from testing only, to minimal development with some testing, to extensive development with significant testing). We then get pre-release versions, and the opportunity to report bugs and problems, so that any necessary fixes can be included in their release as time permits. We often collaborate on diagnosing and fixing problems, too. Sometimes this process takes longer than either their or our development cycle can support, so there are times when the required changes need to be rolled into a subsequent release.

I have a dual 2GHz G5 with 4.5GB RAM running OSX 10.3.1. When will the update mentioned on your web site ó the one that will give me the increased track count ó be released?

Our upcoming Pro Tools 6.2.3 release will provide Pro Tools|HD systems with full track count support using FireWire or SCSI storage, with the single exception that track count is limited to 24 tracks (instead of 36) at 192 kHz sample rates with configurations using an expansion chassis.

Do you have any basic tips for keeping OS X Panther running smoothly with Pro Tools? (amount of RAM, repairing permissions, disk utility program, virus program, not running other programs at the same time, internet connection via Ethernet while working with Pro Tools, etc.)

We always advise our users to check our compatibility docs for the latest information on CPU and RAM requirements, as well as other maximum performance requirements, so I would certainly start there. The docs include information about supported hard drives and other components.

As for running other apps and internet simultaneously, we advise our users to keep their systems as streamlined as possible; more simultaneous processes require more RAM and CPU cycles. As you can imagine, there are an infinite number of possible configurations and applications, so it isnít possible for us to give specific advice for all the likely scenarios.

I intend to purchase a four-slot Magma chassis for my 1.33 GHz G4 laptop running OS X 10.2.7. Does Digidesign recommend updating to OS X 10.3.1? Should I use FireWire drives or put an ATTO 128 in that chassis for UWSCSI? Is that a safe configuration, PCI bandwidth, performance, etc.?

We are expecting to include support for the four-slot Magma card-bus chassis as part of the Pro Tools 6.2.3 release later this quarter. We are still evaluating performance with this configuration, so its inclusion and any possible limitations are still being determined. 6.2.3 requires OS X 10.3.2, so youíll need to update the laptop. And youíll need to use FireWire drives; use of an ATTO card in the Magma chassis is known to degrade performance, so it will not be a supported configuration.

Does Digidesign support their users having multiple computer rigs? (plug-in authorizations, etc.)

All Digidesign software has a single-user license agreement, which means one unit per computer. So, in the case of a facility with multiple Pro Tools systems, one copy of each piece of software should be purchased for each system. In the case of a single user such as yourself, we do support use of the single version of iLok Smart Key-protected software being used on different computers (with only one instance running at a time), and the iLok Smart Key supports this portability very well!

Iíve always been slow to embrace new operating systems and technology, but I feel itís time to dive in. If you guys feel itís helpful, Iíll continue to pass along my tips about OS X, but I do need your input here. What do you want to know about? What are your problems with OS X?’,’Part three of the OS X and music software saga begins with Digidesign Pro Tools and its hardware. Usually I donít use the newest versions of software or OS, but this time I dove right in. All of the major artists use Pro Tools and the best TDM plug-ins, so it was time to incorporate this into my working environment.


Hello all!

Hello All!

Sorry about missing a couple months of the column. Iíve been buried in rehearsals for Madonnaís Reinvention tour. Working with her is great, but the hours are really long, and I just didnít have time for much of anything besides working and occasionally sleeping. Over the next few columns Iíll be writing about some of the problems and solutions Iíve encountered preparing for this tour.

The first step was transferring my Digital Performer projects to Pro Tools and Logic for Stuart Price, Madonnaís MD, to re-invent several of the old songs for this tour. Stuart has done remixes for Madonna, P. Diddy, and many other top people and he did a really great job on some new arrangements for this tour. We decided on 44.1kHz/16-bit audio, mainly because in an arena the sonic difference between 44.1 and higher sample rates is negligible, plus itís easier on the hard drives and CPUs at 44.1/16. Stuart works mainly in Logic and Pro Tools, so I needed to transfer my files in a format that he could use in the studio for his remixes. Sean Spueler, the monitor engineer responsible for Madonnaís vocal sound, also worked with Stuart in the studio and he preferred Pro Tools. So I saved my DP projects as OMF 2.0 files, and saved a Standard MIDI File as well for tempo and marker information. When I opened the OMF file in Pro Tools I ran into a few snags. I hope these tips are of some help to you.

Youíll need to buy Digitranslator 2.0, and incorporate it into Pro Tools. If you need to convert the sample rate, thereís an option for that in the dialog window that comes up when the OMF file is opened in Pro Tools. Just set the desired rate and bit depth, and use the tweak head (slowest but best) setting. Be sure to enable clip-based gain as well, otherwise your volume automation wonít load properly. You have to manually reset all your pan positions (or at least I never figured out how to get pan information to come up as Iíd programmed it in DP). Anybody know how to get all of the automation to work?

If you have more than one songís audio on the hard drive, Pro Tools has a hard time locating the correct audio files, so after opening the OMF file I had to manually find and relink the audio instead of using the automatic find and relink command. It took a little extra time but it always worked well. I would also use the reference existing audio command instead of making copies of all of the audio, unless I was doing a sample rate conversion. Hit commit links, OK, and youíre there. Then, Iíd import the Standard midi File to the session for the tempo and markers. Iíd save the session and take it to the studio on a FireWire drive, usually Glyph 103 removable 180 GB drives.

Stuart and Sean would do the edits in Pro Tools and Logic and then give me the finished audio to import into DP. When youíre working with 25 songs itís important to keep the audio organized properly. Always put the audio files for each song into their own folder for each song (project). Youíll run into trouble later if audio is spread all over the place. I would do backups on three or four different drives each day ó you canít be too careful. I would save a completely new version of the show every couple of hours so that I could go back if I needed to. I also saved just because at every opportunity. That saved my butt more than a few times. I bought two new Apple G5s for this tour and made the jump to Panther 10.3.3. I still used my older 466MHz G4 running 9.2.2 with DP 3.02 until I was sure about the G5s, and Iím taking the G4 on the road as a third backup system. I had one G5 that was just plain defective and had to be sent back. That really shook my confidence in the G5 at first, but between MOTU tech support and Sweetwater Soundís help, we got it under control. There is one major problem every person that owns more than one OS X Bluetooth-equipped computer should know about. Even if you have Bluetooth turned off in the network preferences, if itís on in the Bluetooth icon on the upper right of the desktop youíll be heading for trouble. In general, unless youíre doing non-music work, keep AirPort and Bluetooth turned completely off. Once I turned mine off the crashes stopped. Apple is aware of this issue and is working on a fix thatíll probably be out by the time you read this.

The processor setting in the Energy Saver control panel should be set to highest, and sleep should be disabled. And again, no cracked programs or plug-ins! Digital Performer 4.12 works great with the dual-2GHz G5s, and instead of using external UWSCSI drives Iím using the additional internal ATA bus for audio and so far itís been very dependable. For audio Iím using four MOTU HD192s and two 1296s. I also have a laptop running virtual synths like Trilogy for some bass parts Iím playing live. The only issue Iíve run into is third party plug-ins and their compatibility with AU and VST Wrapper. More on that next month.


In time?

Hi Mike. I have a quick question about triggering MIDI sequences or using programmed rifs in live formats. It seems that many of the musicians I play with tend to either slow down or speed up during the song. When you use pre-programmed effects, what keeps the pros (like yourself) from speeding up or slowing down or just not starting in the right tempo and impacting the song in the middle? Is there a rhythm track that only the musicians hear? Thanks.


Musicians that don’t play in time??? IMPOSSIBLE!! Seriously, what we do with Madonna, Mariah and the other acts I work for varies a bit, but the concept is the same. Most audio interfaces, synths or samplers have several outputs, I usually assign 2 of those outputs for click tracks. One out will have click going all the time for musicians like the drummer or percussionist that want to hear the click all the time. The other output I program a click that comes in and out as needed, like on the count offs, intros, breakdowns, etc.. for the rest of the band. In general I use a side stick type of sound for the click, that seems to work well. However on tours like U2 once the song gets going they prefer something with more feel like a shaker loop. The key to this is that the click can’t be heard by the audience, so it’s important to be using “in ear monitors” or headphones. If the only person on stage that can wear headphones is the drummer, then he (or she) will have to keep everyone in time.

On Tour

Mike, Can you give us a little insight into what a typical travel day on tour is like?



Well there are a few different scenarios here, depending on the budget and tour routing. Most tours that are playing several weeks in the USA or Europe will use tour busses. The busses have 8 to 14 bunks with 2 lounges with TVís and all the amenities of homeî. Unfortunately on some tours what typically will happen is the crew will live on the bus a couple days of each week depending on the routing and number of shows instead of getting hotel rooms. Showering in a funky arena is always a drag. Most bands get a hotel room, even if itís only for a few hours.

Just a few bus etiquette tips. When youíre in close quarters like that for hours and hours a little basic courtesy is absolutely required. For example, no wives, girlfriends, or friends should dive into the beer and pizza before everyone that is working has had some. Please use deodorant, and never take a crap on the bus. Clean up behind yourself, and if youíre the last one off the bus be sure to lock the door on the bus. No smoking unless everyone on the bus agrees. Typically one of the 2 lounges is designated as a smoking lounge. I donít condone recreational drug use, but if you choose to do that, be aware that if you travel across borders youíll be putting the entire bus in jeopardy, so make really sure all drugs are gone well before any border crossing. I know that sounds like basic common sense, but youíd be surprised how many people just donít get it.

Medium range budget tours will fly the band commercial, and keep the crew on busses. Flying commercial these days is really an exercise in frustration. A typical 2-hour flight will turn into an 8 or 10-hour travel day. You put your bags outside your door at least 2 hours before lobby call. Then itís off to the airport, which is usually at least an hour away, then if you have a tour manager that has their stuff together, youíll be given your tickets and boarding pass, then itís off to the security check. Since 9/11 the airline employees and screeners donít take any crap at all, so no matter how long the delay is, no matter how many times youíre searched, be cool, otherwise youíll be kicked off the plane. Again, a little common sense, donít wear your big metal belt with steel toed shoes, and no corkscrews, Swiss army knives, or tools of any kind in your carry on.

Once you arrive, if youíre on a tour that has a good road manager, heíll typically arrange to pick up the luggage and get a truck to transport the luggage to the hotel. Thereíll be a bus out front for the touring party. If youíre lucky youíll get your bags within a couple hours after arriving at the hotel. Travel days are definitely tough at times, pretty glamorous, eh?

I was on one tour where a couple of the band members liked to buy realistic looking toy guns, that almost always was a real hassle for our road manager. Again, common sense guys really goes along away.

Also, the airlines are really clamping down on overweight luggage. Keep each of your 2 suitcases under 50 pounds. I was on a flight from Italy to China on the Mariah tour, and the airline enforced the overweight bag rule. It ended up costing us over $12,000 in excess baggage charges. Mariah paid for that, but from then on we were responsible for our own excess baggage cost.

On the bigger budget tours like Madonna the band and crew will fly in a charter plane. This is the way to travel! Basically itís an open bar with wings, big fun! It also cuts way back on the length of a travel day because you donít have to go through the long check in and security lines. There is a quick security check, but nothing like the commercial airlines. If the weather is bad though, youíre just as late as you would be on a commercial flight.

Be sure and keep copies of your passport in each piece of luggage in case you lose yours. One background singer I was on tour with recently lost her passport 3 times! Our tour manager went through all kinds of crap getting her a new one.

TLC had a really nice tour bus for each of the 3 pop stars and their peopleî, but normally the pop star flies in a small Gulf Stream jet or charter of some kind.

I love being on tour, but it really is not as glamorous as people think. Travel days are actually tougher for me than show days.

G5 on tour

Mike, Any more insight about how your G5ís are working out for you on tour?



Iíve added 2 dual 2GHz G5ís to my road rig, and have had more than my share of crashes and freezes. The most disturbing thing about it to me has been that I canít seem to find any definitive cause that I can use to consistently reproduce the crashes. I have 2 identical G5ís; one is working great, and the other one is a bit of a nightmare. It crashes so severly sometimes that it wonít even generate a crash log or a kernel panic log that I could send to Apple to try and debug, thatís just a bit scary on a live show when that happens! I still have a G4 as my primary system, with the 2 G5ís as back ups.

Iíve been digging into the Apple forums, and emailing other users, software and hardware companies, and have come up with a few tips that may be of help to the rest of you in Keyboard landî. Thanks to Michiel and Arno from Bagga Bownzî, the best unsigned band in the world, for their help with this column.

One of my issues seems to occur when I update audio drivers or software. Emagic has a solution/suggestion for this issue. When starting Logic (or the AudioMidi Setup) the computer crashes with a kernel panic. The problem only occurs sometimes and is hard to sort out. The problem can occur after an OS X update, after installing new audio drivers or changing the audio hardware. The old drivers are still present in the system cache. Please only perform the following steps if you have the necessary experience. In case of doubt please contact your apple dealer.

Try to solve the problem by deleting the files /System/Library/Extensions.kextcache and /System/Library/Extensions.mkext. Therefore you need to be logged in the as administrator. The commands to delete the files are:

sudo rm /System/Library/Extensions.kextcache

sudo rm /System/Library/Extensions.mkext


After deleting and restarting fresh copies of the files will be created by the system.” Thanks to the Emagic on line forum for that.

In the past when I had a problem with intermittent crashes or freezes in OS 9 RAM was usually the culprit. This is the official Apple stand on RAM for G5ís. “When purchasing DDR SDRAM for use in Macintosh computers, make sure the memory vendor conforms to the JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) specification. Check with your memory vendor to ensure that the DDR SDRAM supports the correct timing modes and that the Serial Presence Detect (SPD) feature has been programmed properly, as described in the JEDEC specification.” In short donít scrimp on RAM, be sure to only use RAM that Apple recommends.

This is another procedure that I ran across that is supposed to help with crashes that happen intermittently. Basically, youíre repairing permissions from the boot CD, and zapping the PRAM with this procedure.

Boot up with the install G5 CD (hold down c on boot).

. Open disk utilities

. repair permissions

. repair HD

. Quit utilities

. Quit installer CD

Immediately hold down Alt+Command (Apple symbol)+O+F to open firmware

Screen goes white and after releasing keys gives you a command line. Type the following: reset-NVRAM (exactly as shown with upper-case) then enter (return key) reset-all (exactly as shown) then enter (return key) immediately hold down Alt+Command+P+R before the reboot chimes. Hold these keys down for 3 chimes in total and then let go.

This usually helps with the freezes and crashes, but if they return repeat the process above again. Repair disk permissions whenever possible, thisíll help avoid issues like this as well.

The PCI bus in the G5 is still a work in progressî, although no one will really own up to it officially. Supposedly the 3GHz dual G5ís will have a fix that will finally deliver the promises weíve been expecting from the much faster PCI bus. MOTU has a new 424 card that addresses that, and other hardware companies are quickly updating their PCI cards as well.

The plug in format always has been a bit contentious, and I think itís probably going to get worst before it gets better. For example, Pluggo will no longer load when hosted by VST Wrapper. VST Wrapper and PSPAudioware plug ins are a complete mess with DP and OSX, but works fine with Logic. PSP Audioware just sent me an AU version that works great with DP 4.12. DP doesnít have plug in latency compensation, but does intend to add it soon. The AU plug in spec is a work in progress, so Iíd go very slow about adding third party AU plug ins.

Iím sure over time the software companies will catch up with Apple. Iím not coming down on Apple or any software company, but itís very frustrating to spend a lot of money on a very powerful computer and run into roadblocks with software, OS and some hardware. Creating music is hard enough without crashes and unpredictable behavior from my computer. OSX with the G5 is a very powerful combination that is still finding itís way, so expect some issues, but Iím excited by the future power this will bring to our music production capabilities. OK, now Iíll get off my soapbox!

Again, if any of you out there have come across any tips to help us with this transition to OSX please email me and Iíll post them in this column.

3 computers

Mike, I noticed you have 3 computers on tour with Madonna this time. How do you synchronize them?



Let me begin by describing the correct way to do this, then Iíll explain my way. Iím using a G4 as the primary system, with 2 G5ís running as back ups. IIím sure Iíve said this a hundred times in this column, but the best back up is a stable primary system. No bells and whistles, NO hacked plug ins, and for that matter no third party plug ins that have not been thoroughly tested, and even then they must be absolutely necessary for me to incorporate them into my rig.

To accomplish this the correct way, I would set up my G4 to transmit sync to my G5ís by using Midi Machine Control. My MOTU MTPAV would act as the master connected to my G4. The MTPAV would then generate either LTC or MTC to the G5ís, which have MOTU Micro Express MIDI interfaces. Set the G5ís to sync to either LTC or MTC. Iíve tested this a lot, and even if I crash on the A system, or unplug the MTPAV form the A system, the MTPAV will continue to generate sync.

The key to keeping the systems in perfect sync is to make certain that the MTPAV is the word clock master. To accomplish this, you would either need to go word clock out to the first HD192 (in my system) then thru to each HD192, or get a Word clock distribution device like the Aardvark Sync DA 1 in 6 out word clock distribution amplifier. I would recommend the distribution amplifier approach because when a crash occurs on any of the computers itíll interrupt the flow of word clock and the systems after the crashed system would stop if the word clock were being sent through to the next system.

The audio from my interfaces goes to a custom built 72 in 24 out switcher. I have a very cool box with A, B and C switches on it that I use to manually switch between systems. I also have the ability to let the switcher look for time code on a specific input from each system. If code stops on system A, and there is code on system B within 5 milliseconds the switcher will automatically switch to system B. Sounds like the perfect solution, right? Well, this is where we come to my way of doing this. Kids donít try this at home without proper supervision.

The crashes Iíve encountered with my G4 with DP (VERY RARELY) usually result in a type 2 error when I push play. The program just goes away, and I have to restart the G4. This isnít a big deal really; I just switch to the B system and keep the show going. When a G5 crashes with my system, 80 times out of 100 the audio playback will hang or freeze, which means that code will still be present so the switcher wonít automatically switch. So much for the cool automatic switching scenario in the real world of touring.

Also, on the tours I do the computer is almost like a member of the band. I have to start many of the songs immediately without the preroll that MMC generation requires. Also, there are times when the pop star comes in 4 bars early, or late and I have to catch up to where they are very quickly and punch in. It doesínt happen a lot thankfully, but I need to have the option to do this.

The 3 systems need to be in sync as much as possible in my world, but I donít want a central synchronizer because if that dies then the whole show stops. So what I do as inelegant and Stone Age as it may sound, is I have a JL Cooper CS10 that I use to stop and start all 3 rigs via MIDI. Sometimes they all start together and are very close to being in perfect sync, but sometimes they go their own way. I have a Russian Dragon (no longer made unfortunately) that I send a click to from my A and B systems to confirm that Iím at least within 30 Ms or so of being in sync. The thought process here is that if a system dies the oh crap factor will dictate that itíll take me a second or 2 to realize what is happening and switch to the backup system anyway, so on the rare occasions I have to do this the drummer adjusts very quickly and all is well.

When I start the computers and one is a bit behind or ahead Iíll stop the computers that are not being heard and punch in manually to get them as close as possible. I know, that sounds crazy! How did you ever get a gig in this business??!! Well, as Iíve said before the best backup is a solid primary system. If you have that, then you shouldínt have to use a backup, but it needs to be there, and needs to be independent so that if any one thing goes down the show wonít stop. When I start my computers IIím generating time code for video and lights also, so if my system stops the entire show comes to a screeching halt. Obviously that canít EVER happen.

Again, in a studio or in any application where sample accurate phase locked sync is required, my touring scenario will not work. The MMC solution would be my choice in the studio or in situations where Iím doing a TV show and I can add a few seconds of preroll to have all systems in sync. As in any musical applications, rules are meant to be broken. The correct way to play, or use a computer in a live show doesínt really matter. Do whatever you have to do to get the job done is my motto.




Youíve been going to NAMM for years. Anything new and exciting Iíve just got to have this year?



NAMM is sensory overload, plain and simple. There are too many people who somehow never got the memo that the í80s are over congregated in a noisy, fluorescently-lit convention hall. I mean, really, how many spandex-clad bimbos and Mˆtley Cr¸e wannabes can we fit into one building? Why are they there? Drum solos, bass solos, and bimbos ó oh my! Please, make it stop! Isnít NAMM supposed to be about vendors and buyers, manufacturers and people that actually do this for a living, working together to develop better products?

The one thing that I did take away with me from NAMM this year was that the software and hardware companies actually seem to be trying to live up to the promises made with their existing products. Thankfully, there werenít too many new products; they seem to be fixing and consolidating what they have. Great! About time! Now if they could just avoid screwing us with ìupgradesî that cause havoc with our systems if we dare to have the newest versions of each program without the ìproperî OS.

I love OS X, but there are still too many things being rammed down its throat. Please guys, take a step back. Letís get what we have straight, okay? One plug-in that doesnít follow the ìrulesî can bring down my entire rig. Itís criminal. Stop it! Maybe thatís why I still use 9.2.2 on my primary rig on tour, and Tiger is about to be released. Yikes!

To sum up, my NAMM resolutions this year ó which I will keep ó are: 1.) I will not buy anything major until I have utilized what I have to its fullest. 2.) I will not buy anything new until what I have actually works. 3.) I will learn to play again!

Okay, maybe thatís a stretch. -Mike


Hi Mike,

The limitations of my studio make it necessary for my computer to be a pretty good distance from my USB MOTU MIDI Time Piece AV, and using USB extension cables has been problematic.

Any suggestions? -John


USB 1 is a bit weird that way. I emailed MOTU and they said this: “MOTU interfaces are spec’d for a standard USB cable (5 meters, or about 16 feet). You can’t use a longer USB cable without consequences. While we do not recommend this, some people have successfully used USB repeater cables. This type of USB cable has active electronics that boost the USB signal for maximum reliability and performance over extended distances.”

Hope that helps! -Mike

Musical director

I enjoy reading your articles very much. Among other things, I’m the musical director for a ten-piece funk band. We’ve experimented with backing tracks with mixed results. I see you’re on the EWF Live album from ’96, and I was curious if there was programming on that tour. You guys seemed so tight I would be a little disappointed if it was pre-recorded. However, I’d love to know to what extent it was.



I was with Earth, Wind & Fire from 1987 through 1997 or so, at first playing keys behind a curtain and doing keyboard tech duties. Then in 1993 they put me on stage. When I first joined them, I was using a Roland MC500, later an Atari computer (1040ST), then finally a Mac IIci running Performer. There were not a whole lot of extra parts being played from the computer on those shows. What was there was mainly enhancement. If the computer died, the show would definitely still go on.

Typically on a song like “Let’s Groove” we’d double the bass part with a synth bass part, put the 747 jet sound and other effects in the computer, have some percussion loops from the original recording, and double the background singers. On songs like “Reasons”, the computer would drop out after the second chorus, and we’d be off the click from there on. We never used any lead vocal tracks, just backgrounds. So, to answer your question, the show was definitely not pre-recorded. The key to making extra tracks really work is having a great drummer like Sonny Emory that can play well with a click.

Honestly, there are only a few bands out there that don’t do this to some extent, but nowadays there are definitely not as many bands just playing back everything like there were a few years ago.

Thanks for the kind words!



Hi Mike!

I heard through the grapevine that youíre no longer working with Madonna, what happened? Thatís gottaí hurt! I guess now you can write that tell all book about Madonna and retire right?



Hi Mark,

After working with Madonna for 16 years it was time for a change. Long story short, Stuart Price, (Madonnaís musical director; producer; and co-writer for most of her new CD) felt that he would prefer to run the part of the show I used to be responsible for. He uses Logic for his work, and will be mixing the live band and computer tracks from on stage through Logic (for the plug-ins) then send a stereo pair of that mix to his DJ rig, then to a filter box, then a compressor, then that stereo pair to FOH to mix with the vocals on certain songs. He makes it work, but I felt it was an accident waiting to happen. Thereís more to the story than that, but thatís about all I can get into here. Iím trying to stay off the road more for my personal life anyway. Iím still very busy working with Mariah, Jlo and a few other singers, so Iím fine. Thanks for asking!

As far as the book goes, when you work for a ìpop starî like Madonna you have to sign a contract and a ìnon disclosureî agreement. The contract spells out your compensation, how you travel, and when youíll be paid. The contract also typically has several other things that might surprise you. For example, on most big tours, they can fire you at anytime for absolutely no reason whatsoever. If that happens on tour all theyíre obligated to do is get you home. Some tours will give you a two-week severance pay, but thatís rare. If the pop star decides to cancel the tour for any reason, youíre equally screwed.

There are about 5 paragraphs dedicated to spelling out that they own your likeness and music provided for the tour in the entire universe and on any format existing now or in the future. If thereís a live recording of the show for commercial use, or a movie from the tour the contract will spell out what or if youíre paid for that. Madonna always paid us for things like that; many other artists donít, so look for that in your contract. Thatís one of the few things that are negotiable. Most big tours will take pretty good care of you, but they go to great lengths to protect the pop star in the contract.

You also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. That basically says that you canít talk to anyone about what is going on with the tour, or anything about the pop starís personal life. If you go to the publicist and get permission, you can generally talk to trade magazines like Keyboard as long as you leave out the pop starsí personal business. It also spells out VERY clearly what will happen to you if you violate the pop starsí privacy in any way even into the future, so I wonít be writing that tell all book after all. Itís amazing to me that CIA agents can retire and write books detailing really sensitive top-secret information and get rich. Donít they have to sign an agreement thatís tougher than the one a musician has to sign?

I can however write a book about a fictional pop star, perhaps one that is a combination of all the pop stars Iíve worked for, (YIKES thatís scary!) as long as Iím very careful. I have a few ideas about a traveling musician that likes to rob expensive jewelry stores in each town, and an FBI agent that figures out what the musician is up to but canít prove it. Or, maybe itís the pop star with the criminal historyÖ you get the idea.

I really did enjoy working for Madonna for so long, and have nothing but love and respect for everyone in her camp. I can honestly say though that I donít miss the grueling schedule she puts everyone through, but do wish her and everyone still working for her the best.


Mike McKnight

Mike McKnight Sounds Inc.

34145 Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite #302
Dana Point, CA 92629