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How a Phoenix Music Producer Created a New Kind of Livestream Experience

Otto D'Agnolo in the producer's chair.EXPAND
Otto D'Agnolo in the producer's chair.
Natalie Rockwell

Every Wednesday night, Otto D’Agnolo hosts a band in his recording studio.

“It’s very easy to get bands interested when you give them free studio time,” he says.

But it's more than that. D'Agnolo's project, The Recording Artist, is tailor-made for pandemic times. With more and more artists working from home and recording in their own basements, D'Agnolo saw an opportunity to give bands a safe space to record while also letting a livestreaming audience in on the process of music-making.

“I thought, ‘People want to be here and they want to participate, and the bands don’t need to be working from home, so why don’t we give bands free studio time and then charge fans to watch them make a record and interact with them?’” D'Agnolo says.

Thus, The Recording Artist was born. (Actually, D'Angelo had the idea about eight years ago, but he didn't commit to it. Then COVID-19 made it seem more viable.)

D'Agnolo has had a long career on both sides of the mic. As we noted in a 2018 profile, he's been a guitarist in multiple bands and a sound engineer. He's an award-winning producer who's worked with artists like Waylon Jennings, Jordin Sparks, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, and he's a novelist to boot (the title of his book is The Music Business Is Burning Down, Thank God.)

Now, he's turned his attention to The Recording Artist.

The platform has two levels of membership. The free level allows members to watch the live show every Wednesday night; the A&R Staff level serves as a way to interact with the show on a deeper level, letting members approve the bands that are featured. Once approved, a band will send in three songs that members choose from, and the most popularly voted-on song is the song that the audience gets to see recorded in real time. (Cost for the A&R Staff level is $7 per month or $50 per year.)

The Recording Artist is also the subject of a new Amazon Prime series; the first episode is available now.

Psych-pop band The Psychedelephants recorded their song “Contestant” live with D’Agnolo.

“Going in there and being open to any spontaneous decision-making or something new you never would have thought of — it just becomes a co-collaboration process,” says guitarist and singer Paul Balazs. He adds that the challenge of having a two-hour time limit on the recording process made the experience more fun.

“These are one or two takes through, this is two hours of recording, and you’ve got to trust yourself and roll with the punches,” he says.

Most of the artists that have been featured on the platform fall into the indie rock and pop genres, but D’Agnolo says he sees a more diverse selection of artists in The Recording Artist’s future.

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“Right now, the style of music is fairly narrow because we want the members to enjoy the music,” he says. “But we’re learning that the music is less relevant to our audience and they’re more interested in the process.”

Balazs says that D’Agnolo’s educational approach to the show is something new and refreshing in the Phoenix music scene, and that “he’s good at it. I think it’s just natural for him.”

But D’Agnolo isn’t done yet, and he sees tons of growth in the future of The Recording Artist.

“This can grow and we can take this recording session anywhere in the world,” he says.

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