Although Studio West and The Recording Arts Center (TRAC) has long been lauded by music insiders for its cowbell collection and cowbell expertise, we waited until today to make this known to the wider public. Here’s how the cowbell video came to be.
The NAMM Show (National Association of Music Makers)
Every January for the last decade, TRAC’s music production degree students—along with TRAC Director Peter Dyson and most of the staff—attend the NAMM Show in Anaheim to learn more about the music industry. The only Studio West team member who had never been to the NAMM Show was Peter’s wife, Amy. That changed in 2016, when Peter and Amy’s daughter Emma, a University of Southern California student and classical harpist, asked to attend the show. Emma, like nearly all teenagers, has a strong interest in medieval music, and was thinking of buying a lute. There being a surplus of Guitar Centers—but a curious lack of Lute Centers—in Los Angeles, Emma wanted to research lutes at NAMM, and Amy decided to accompany her.
Because Amy now does much of the marketing for the studio and school, Peter suggested that Amy attend some of NAMM’s marketing sessions. Peter has long championed the use of video for studio marketing, and thought the seminars might spark new ideas. He was right. As speaker after speaker emphasized the importance of innovative video, Amy vowed to come up with an idea. She was particularly inspired by the Dollar Shave Club video shown in one NAMM session.
The first video idea
Amy’s first idea was to focus on her son Alex—then seventeen—and a drummer like his dad Peter. Alex, along with scores of other high school and middle school students, participated in Studio West’s music production summer camp and after-school programs—collaborating, writing, and recording original music, both acoustic and electronic. Some kids just seem to belong at the studio, and it was Amy’s unbiased opinion that Alex would be an attractive representative of that group. She planned to stage an age progression video—recruiting a few blond boys of various ages, and ending with Alex at Studio West. But staging a group of tow-headed boys proved elusive, and before long Alex had graduated from high school and headed off to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Amy needed another idea.
The second video idea
It was a cowbell t-shirt in a Wendy’s near Mammoth, California that gave Amy the idea for the cowbell video. The t-shirt (featuring a Meinl 6 1/4” Hand Hammered Copper Cowbell and the words “More Cowbell”) made Amy realize that while Studio West had featured much of its state-of-the-art and vintage studio equipment and musical instruments, such as its grand piano and vintage drum collection, it had never focused on what it was most known for: its extensive cowbell collection. Amy knew this had to be remedied, and came up with a script. But she needed help producing the video, and called Analog Media Productions.
Analog Media Productions
Founded by TRAC graduates Brian Keim and Jonah Levine, as well as graphic artist Devon Phillips, Analog Media Productions is a full service media and branding agency. As two of TRAC’s hardest-working students, Brian and Jonah logged countless hours in all three Studio West studios, and learned audio engineering and video production from TRAC’s industry-professional instructors. As students, they also sat through cowbell lectures and recorded cowbell artists in many genres. No one was better equipped than Brian and Jonah to produce a cowbell video at Studio West.
Brian took the reins as producer, and immediately began planning the shoot, reserving Studio A to coincide with a visit from well-known English folk musician Dave Fishwick of the band Kick Up the Dust. Although he lives in England, Dave always comes to Studio West to record. In addition to Kick Up the Dust, Brian also cast Dave’s wife, Amanda, a classically-trained Australian cowbell musician.
Brian found many volunteers for the video cast and crew, including a large contingency from USC—fitting, since cowbell music was first brought to national attention by USC alum and cowbell great Gene Frenkle.
With most roles filled, Brian still needed to cast the spokesman—the most important part. This person needed the gravitas that the topic of cowbells demands. Brian put out a call for the role on Backstage, and after seeing the video reel of Joseph Martone, an LA-based actor with many Shakespeare roles under his belt, he knew he’d found the serious actor he needed.
Over two months, Brian, Jonah, and Devon meticulously planned the video shoot, which they decided to do mostly as one long take—a much more difficult task than cutting many scenes together. Finally the day came when they shot the video—with Brian directing, Jonah on camera, and Devon coordinating. After many hours, they had their wrap, and the video went into post-production. The result is a two minute video showcasing Studio West’s cowbell speciality, just in time for National More Cowbell Day. We hope you enjoy the video, and will consider Studio West for your cowbell needs.