This is part two of Larry's revealing interview with Joel Haas, Comedy Director at XM Satellite Radio (read part one, How to Get Airplay on XM Radio Comedy). Joel shares his tips for getting the best quality comedy recording, and talks more about his new comedy distribution company, Hahaas Comedy.
You have personally recorded live comedy shows for names such as Gabriel Iglesias, Bobby Slayton, Mike Birbiglia, Louis C.K., Frank Caliendo, Kevin Nealon, Adam Ferrara and Jake Johannsen. What have you learned over the years in recording live shows that you can pass along as advice to others?
If you’re a recording engineer, get as much experience as you can. Record every show, big or small, paid or unpaid. I’ve managed to do a lifetime worth of recording and producing in just a few years time. I still learn new things every time I turn on my computer and mix a show! Today I can remix a recording from just a few months ago and get better sound. I’ve been growing this way for the last 4 or 5 years. It’s been a rather amazing journey and I have to thank XM for all the doors they have opened and the opportunities they have afforded me. With that said, I’ve earned everything I have today based on hard work, commitment, vision and focusing on a career instead of a family. My Mom’s not so happy with some of these decisions. She wants grand kids. Any single ladies out there? If any comedian would like advice or some direction with recording or producing, I’m an email or phone call away. I’ll give advice to anyone if it helps better the comedy world! I believe in comedy karma.
How far will you travel to record a live show?
I can record shows in any venue in the USA. I have plenty of top notch equipment for any size room, venue or theater. I usually use 8 crowd mics when I record in a club but I’ve got a stash of over 25 different mics. I’m based in Washington, DC but I’ve traveled all over the US to record and produce shows. I’ve manage to get an incredible amount of expensive and delicate equipment onto planes all by myself. I ache for days but the recordings last forever.
What is the ideal equipment you need to capture a live comedy performance?
There are plenty of adequate levels of equipment somebody could use if they are a recording engineer. As far as comedians recording their own shows, there is no perfect solution. If a headliner has at least one body to help them at all their shows, they could put together an ideal recording solution for a few grand that would capture quality sound.
I’ve been trying to put together a good sounding hand held recorder and lapel mic combination so I can send equipment to artists and they can very easily record their own shows. Hahaas would produce and distribute them at no charge. Unfortunately lapel mics always get a lot of excess noise from body movement. I have just recently found a reasonable solution but I’m still in testing mode.
Again I should stress that mixing and producing that audio can be just as important as the recordings. This is where many engineers are lacking. Besides all the shows I’ve mixed and produced outside of XM, this has been a big part of what I’ve done at XM for over 7 years.
Tell us a little about your company, Hahaas?
Hahaas is a stand-up comedy production and distribution company. We produce and distribute stand-up comedy recordings digitally and pay artists 66% of all income. These recordings are for sale at iTunes, CD Baby and other digital retail outlets. Since there are no physical CD’s to produce and our recordings live in the digital world, our costs are minimal. This allows Hahaas to pay artists more money than anyone else in the comedy industry...66% of all income from sale #1. We’re talking about $4.20 per sale from any $9.99 download on iTunes and $6.00 from sales on CD Baby. If you are big name artists will selling power, I’m more than happy to pay you even more.
I know a lot of artists are afraid to sign away the rights to their material and they should be! There are a lot of shady things going on in this business with the explosion of the internet and the digital world. Always read any contract or agreement you sign. Once you’ve signed away your rights, somebody other than you can sell, market and exploit your likeness and your work for free the rest of their existence. Hahaas is the exact opposite of this! Hahaas won't hold comedians to any long term deals and they don't have to sign away any rights. You do have to sign over rights but comics can walk away at any time, without any penalty, and all rights revert back to the artist. Hahaas will immediately work to remove their material from all sites selling it.
I’m willing to state on record that I am an awful businessman because I will rip up any artist contract at anytime. I will always do what any Hahaas artist wants me to do. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve that will benefit artists in new ways.
And you work with existing recordings, right - not just new or upcoming recordings?
Yes, comedians provide Hahaas with original recordings, old or new, in any format: CD, DAT, Minidisc, Pro Tools session, WAV files, DVD, Reel To Reel, etc. Hahaas handles all aspects of production and distribution: mixing, mastering, editing & producing, UPC & ISRC codes and digital distribution...all for free!
Hahaas will produce and distribute any number of shows or sets from any comedian if the master recordings sound good and are funny. We can have them in the digital pipeline and earning money in about 14 days on CD Baby. iTunes and other digital sites will take 4-8 weeks. Hahaas has all the benefits of a record label but without all the overhead expenses. We’re going to put that money in the artist’s pocket.
By the way, when Hahaas releases CD’s that an artist has released in the past, we always sweeten the sound and make any necessary editing. Send us that one track show and we’ll produce a fully tracked, edited and remixed show. We can make just about any recording sound better and the crowds sound bigger.
Is there any downside to the comedian?
Several…if you’re allergic to money, a bigger fan base and no risk contracts. Record label people may not like Hahaas or Hahaas artists because our business model is very different than theirs. I can’t say it enough; Hahaas is all about the comedians. I’m nothing without their support and trust and hopefully I can lead us all to the Promised Land… (AKA the Grammy’s and the bank!)
How can comedians learn more?
Visit www.hahaas.com to see what we’re all about. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or for more detailed information and an artist agreement.
If you made it this far, thank for spending the time to read my babble. As you can tell, I’m quite passionate about this comedy shit. Now visit Hahaas, buy a download and actually support a comic.
Thank for your time, Joel.
Thank you Larry Weaver for reaching out and helping me spread the word of Hahaas.