David Blacker is a musician who admits “I don’t have a ton of credits but I’ve always made my own music, and I’ve always made my way as a hustling musician and produced my own projects.” He is also one of the founders of a virtual musician’s hub or online shopping mall of sorts, called AirGigs.
Conceived in the early part of the millennium and made a reality circa 2012, AirGigs is a website through which musicians can find other musicians or sound engineers, producers, vocalists, beat makers, mastering engineers, album artwork and more. So how did this all come about?
Blacker says that it was a combination of things, sort of a perfect storm with a blend of new technology and opportunity.
“I was always technical,” he says, “and as a sound engineer, I always got into lots of different technical stuff. So I was into all of the emerging technologies that were online … the vehicle of the internet was just sort of blossoming and the connections between music and technology were really growing at that time.”
He’s a guitarist, and says “there’s a company called TrueFire, which I actually released a few score sheets for. They’re a big guitar platform for learning guitar. I started there in the early 2000s. They had a marketplace for audio lessons where anyone could sign up and post a lesson. I like a lot of obscure blues and jazz and I was posting things, like, learn to play in the style of T-Bone Walker or someone like that, and I would post a little audio segment and people were really digging them and downloading them and I was making royalties off of these downloads.”
TrueFire was getting bigger, “and I started doing videos with them,” he said. “That really opened my eyes in the early 2000s to the possibilities of building products and services as a musical entrepreneur. So I started going more and more in that direction. I got involved in some music-based web projects as a producer, trying to help another platform and that was the live bookings. That started in the early 2000s, and I kind of did a whole study of it as I was helping to bring that project to life, and in doing that I connected with a bunch of web developers and technical people.
“Right around that time, the financial crash happened and musicians were out of work. We were seeing technology emerge and we were saying this was a great time for this virtual studio idea, so it was kind of all of those things packed into one.”
In addition to being a musician, he owned recording studios in New York. “Basically we started AirGigs because, around 2011, gear was becoming a lot more accessible. People were building these great home studios and all my friends and people that I was working with already had Pro Tools and home studio set-ups. So we were already working this way, but there wasn’t really a vehicle or real verified platform where people could get reviews from clients and set themselves up in a way that was more than just saying, ‘Hey, I do this.’ This would be more of a central focal point for it, so to speak.
“There are people from 180 countries on our platform. They create a general profile and then a service package. So if I’m a drummer I might create a service package that includes one full take against your song with a couple of revisions or retakes. That’s an actual package that someone can directly order for a price. Then if they need extra work once the order is in place, they can modify it, extend the delivery date. They create service packages and a starting place.”
In today’s COVID-19 climate, many musicians who depend on live performances and recordings as well as merchandise sales for their income are suffering great losses. But there is a flip side to that coin, as some use time away from the stage to create and revisit recordings of their material. AirGigs is the perfect remedy and creation tool for those adhering to “Stay at home” policies.
“Suddenly people who weren’t interested in remote production are becoming interested in remote production out of necessity,” said Blacker. “People are adapting very quickly in all these different ways, which is fascinating for us to watch, because we’ve been focused in this area and have been sort of ignored in some ways, because people had been focused on touring and live shows, which is great … as a musician that’s awesome, but this area has become very much in focus now.”
He says AirGigs users range “from companies to filmmakers to songwriters to music creators, publishing houses and DJs. It kind of ranges from people who are creating songs that they are pitching to other artists, or just doing things they’re not releasing. There are all kinds of creative projects that are going on and it can be on any level. It could be a YouTube creator who is creating for their own series. It could be a television producer. It’s really wide open.
“Basically, we are a bridge that’s providing just some really great talent. There are some of Nashville’s greatest session musicians on the site, and from New York and L.A. … it opens that door for music creators who are really looking to launch something that sounds next level, because maybe they don’t have access to that kind of talent in their local scene, and then other people are using the site in different ways.”
According to Blacker, “There’s Dave Roe, who toured with Johnny Cash for the last seven years of his career, and Michael Cleveland, who just won Best Bluegrass Album at the Grammys for that in 2020 … There are a lot of well-known industry veterans on the platform. Maybe not household names or stars, but there are a lot of great players.”
Blacker knows that the current pandemic has affected those who are registered users, so he and his associates have devised a plan to try and lessen the economic strife of those who make music their profession: a live stream highlighting their talents, which is set to air in the near future.
“What we’re trying to do as a kind of giveback is, launch a live streaming series featuring these great session musicians and vocalists and give them 100 percent of the proceeds from that. So that’s a new initiative that we’re trying to kick off the ground to try and help any way that we can at this time. … We just spent the last couple of weeks getting through the kinks in the process and we’re hoping to launch it by hopefully this week or maybe next.”
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.