Nick Messitte a contributor to Forbes, took a closer look at the guys behind Pensado’s Place and caught up with their expanding platform. Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick are also two of the authors behind The Pensadao Papers: The Rise of Visionary Online Television Sensation, Pensado’s Place. Read an excerpt of the article below!
Since the last time we covered Herb and Dave, their platform has become much more than a lens; in orchestrating partnerships with brands, distribution platforms, and publishing companies, they’ve become a full fledged media company, procuring not only the wherewithal to penetrate a growing marketplace (we’ll touch on that later) but also the physical space to accomplish, as Herb put it to me, “pretty much anything a media company can do—of any size.”
Indeed, the Pensado Media Center, built in conjunction with Westlake Pro, offers the duo an in-house means of shooting high-definition productions, of securing bandwidth for streaming/broadcasting content across various platforms, as well as the ability to hold seminars and master classes, all while housing an art gallery and a library to boot—a place “where people in audio can come up, learn, read, put their feet up and so forth,” as Herb told me.
Now, this is just what’s happening in the Los Angeles area. Elsewhere, with the help of recognizable pro-audio brands like Audio-Technica, Avid, and iZotope, the duo have been able to pull off some eye-opening stunts, such as donating duffle-bags stuffed with quality studio gear to audience members in packed conventions (something I saw them do last year at Washington, DC’s Howard Theater).
And, with the help of Hal Leonard—alongside the production company Groove3—they’ve launched their own curricula: Pensado’s Strive, an umbrella of audio-related information which aims to be “a world-class library of educational materials,” offered both “in a subscription-based model” online, and in “traditional print and digital-print, which is something unique in the space of online audio/visual sites.” This is how it was explained to me by Hal Leonard’s Group Publisher, John Cerullo.
Here we pause for a moment, for if you’ve ever played an instrument in a school-based setting, the name Hal Leonard probably strikes a chord: their “Essential Elements” series is de rigueur in most music-education spheres, as is their “Guitar Method.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Hal Leonard isn’t just a publisher of one series of recognizable method books. They are also a dominant marketing/distribution hub supplying content throughout the entire music-education industry, one that is able to act as a one-stop shop for multiple institutions; they are in the enviable position of single-sourcing ostensibly competing brands to multiple outlets across multiple platforms (for instance, they handle Forbes’ own Bobby Owsinski’s seminal textbooks on engineering).
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Mike Ragogna: When did all this Pensado/Trawick bromance begin?
Herb Trawick: Oh God, about twenty-five years ago in the lobby of a studio when we were both aspiring kids from the south. Dave was from Atlanta by way of Florida, I was from Kentucky by way of Montreal. We came to L.A. to make our bones and ended up in the same studio lobby accidentally. We connected there and I had a chance about a month later when somebody called me for a referral–I had just met this white guy who worked on James Brown and I thought that was pretty cool. I hadn’t heard a note, but I referred him and he went over and did a job on a hip hop record and absolutely killed it and has been hot for thirty years and we’ve been friends for that long.
Mike Ragogna: You’ve released a book, The Pensado Papers that we’ll talk about, but first, how did the television show come about?
HT: Because of our friendship, we’ve always kept in touch. I was his first manager, but he and I have been amongst a small group of best friends for a long time. We were talking career stuff at the time, he was being managed by Roc Nation and Jay-Z, this was about five years ago. We were re-examining our careers and where we were going to go, we’d been blessed these last three years. In the middle of that, Dave had a brain incident that put him down for a little bit. He had a miraculous recovery and since we were talking careers, I tried to come up with something he could deal with from home, and deal with these prodigious, outsized talents that he has. By fate one of our friends worked at a digital network and heard about this idea I had for him to just stay at home. They sent an email and said, “We’d like to do this as a show.” They were putting out online television from this little broadcast studio. We only did it because in Dave’s case he didn’t necessarily want to spend the money to capture the contents of the idea that I had for him to stay at home, so I said, “Well, let me cut a deal, we’ll go over here, this will last maybe three months and we’ll be able to cut some content and we’ll be able to get it started and everybody will be happy and you won’t have to write a check.” Three months is now five years, two hundred episodes, a hundred and eighty seven countries, a hundred and fifty school around the globe and it’s just turned into an amazing ride, an example of digital media and a huge platform that continues to grow every day. It’s the most amazing thing that either one of us have dealt with in our career.
Dave Pensado: And let me just add, there were several things that I found interesting from an insider/outsider perspective. One was that when Herb and I started we were just trying to be entertaining, but from the very beginning Herb was like, “Man, if I’m going to be involved it’s got to be good TV.” So we patterned the show originally after Charlie Rose. Every day Herb would give me broadcaster lessons, so I’ve grown to really enjoy the process of sitting in front of cameras and disseminating and sharing information. I want to give my partner full credit for insisting from the beginning that everything be done right. The business part was perfect, the financial elements were perfect, and first and foremost it was going to be quality television. I think that kind of helped separate us a little bit from the rest of the pack. We weren’t trying to make an interesting YouTube video, we were going for NBC. I know that sounds arrogant, and I’m not saying we’ve reached that yet, but that was probably the foundation upon which the show grew. Plus the fact that my friends and Herb’s friends in the industry really helped us out. All the top names in audio, engineers and producers and artists, just saw a value in it that early on I didn’t see. It really helped us get this thing to where it is today.
Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick, two of the authors of The Pensado Papers, had a great discussion about both the book and the YouTube show “Pensado Place” with Mike Levine of Audiofanzine. Read the rest of the interview here!
Dave, what percentage of your work life is now taken up by the show?
Pensado: Well, I don’t look at it that way. It’s all so interwoven. When I’m in the studio, everything I do contributes to the show. When I’m doing the show, everything about the show contributes to my studio life…I would say probably 80% of the time, I’m physically in the studio, and 20% of the time I’m devoting towards the show…Herb does all the major work. Herb puts more time in for the show than I do for mixing. He’s the person that makes it look good, the person that makes it popular. All his ideas come from a point of giving the viewer value and education is very important to both of us…Herb has a team of people that execute. Herb is always trying to figure out a way to keep the show free. That’s important to us, and it’s getting more and more difficult.
Trawick: That’s for sure.
How many views do you get on a typical episode of Pensado’s Place?
Trawick: It changes, but our specific audience monthly is between 500,000 and 600,000 people. If we add in our affiliated sponsors and their audience reach — it starts to approach about a million.
The book chronicles many things including how the show has developed into the force it is now. What was your motivation for writing it?
Pensado: We did the book to kind of solidify and quantify and organize our own thoughts: “What the heck just happened?”…The book is not necessarily about the show, it’s about two different lives from two different places in the world and how our experiences and our past triumphs and our past failures led us to the point where we were able to create something that people seemed interested in.
Trawick: The book has tips and tricks that are technical, from our guests and from Dave. It’s a story of redemption. It’s career advice. It’s a comeback story, it’s a story about partnership. It’s a story about digital new media and how to take it on and go from two guys who don’t do this at all to two guys who have built something. We start our fifth year in January and the extent of things that have happened because we decided to take this on and be forward facing and forward leaning, is stunning, in terms of its scale and size.
The Pensado Papers takes readers behind the scenes on the journey that Dave Pensado has shared with his manager and best friend, Herb Trawick, all the way from death’s door to platinum records to Internet sensation. It features unique insights into the engineering regime of a recording genius, a creative philosophy that results in achievement and success, examples of Dave and Herb’s powerful and inspirational friendship, amazing teachings from guests on Pensado’s Place, and above all, fun! Here, Herb and Dave discuss the making of the book.
Last Saturday heralded the very first Pensado Awards show, a show designed to “acknowledge today’s emerging brand of music professionals.” Dave Pensado (a hugely recognized professional mixing engineer) and Herb Trawick, co-hosts of the popular youtube show Pensado’s Place created the event to “celebrate the uncelebrated”, or to acknowledge those in the music industry that go unthanked and unrecognized despite their skills. Nick Messite from Forbes wrote an impressive article about the event, which you can see an excerpt of below. Pensado and Trawick are also the authors of the upcoming publication, The Pensado Papers, coming from Hal Leonard this October. Read the rest of the article here!
How The Pensado Awards Leveled The Playing Field – And Spoke Truth To Power
Last Saturday night, in the ballroom of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, a few hundred people—some of them famous, others far more important than famous—gathered to acknowledge a truth in today’s music industry: the times, to misquote a modern day bard, have a-changed.
Yes, it’s a telling moment when Ron Fair (Chief Creative Officer/Executive Vice President Virgin Records/Capitol Music Group) steps to the podium and proudly proclaims, “This business belongs to the people who love it the most—to the kids not shackled by the old industry models.”
Such a statement—from such a key player—is a powerful validation to the as-of-yet nameless up-and-comers in the music industry; to employ a biblical simile, it’s tantamount to the lion lying down with the lamb.
The venue for this statement was the inaugural Pensado Awards, an event designed to put a public face on those who work behind the scenes in the music industry—men and women who toil in windowless caves for eighty hours a week, who make daily peace with the relative obscurity to which they’ve been relegated, who forego friends and family in favor of deadlines, tinnitus and carpal tunnel syndrome—and who do so, much of the time, to polish the products of pop superstars, many of them vapid and half-talented in nature (in my estimation; no mixing engineer has ever bashed his or her client to me, on or off the record).
But unlike the vast majority of award shows, this ceremony wasn’t about honoring insipid quasi-talents. Instead, the Pensado Awards attempted to give a hand up to the people in this business without whom there would be no business at all: the songwriters, engineers, producers, educators, entrepreneurs, assistants, interns and runners of today and tomorrow (Kendrick Lamar might have been robbed of his Grammy, but he got his Pensado Award).